Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Barn Swallows fledge

Towards the end of June I noticed a nest that had been built above my garden tractor on one of the rafters of the old drive shed. The droppings from that nest indicated it had been well used. - the nest not the tractor. I went out to mow the lawns and when I returned a couple of hours later- there were these tiny white shells on the ground.

(I must recommend looking up when you park your car or tractor during bird nesting time... there was quite a mess on the hood of my tractor that morning.)

It didn't take long for the babies to fledge. That post and one later on June 26 was the last I mentioned of the little ones and there was a pretty dreadful photograph of one baby poking its little yellow beak over the edge of the nest. It amazes me how quickly they grow and outgrow their nest.

A week later - or maybe ten days, I walked into the drive shed only to be bombarded by what seemed like a hundred little swallows determined to chase me out. When I managed to stand still and look up - here is what I saw.

Two remaining fledglings getting ready to leave the nest. The rest I assume, with their parents, were urging these two to get on with it.

Here are the other two who had already braved the big wide world and flown to this nearby beam, then attacked me. Mum or dad is in the background.

A few days later, the whole family disappeared. I would see them around, flashing in and out of the trees along the road allowance as they sought insects on the fly, but they never came back to the drive shed. This is the second year in a row that barn swallows have nested here.

It's supposed to be good luck, but neighbours who have had them attempting to build on porches over exterior lights have been most discouraging to the mating couple. So I guess they figured my place was the next best option.

What a lot of fun this has been watching these babies develop so quickly. Actually the tree swallows are the same. A mating pair, in and out of a nest box, chasing away suspected intruders (including my poor bluebirds for whom the boxes were erected in the first place, but you can't fight mother nature) and then suddenly there are eggs. Seven of the 13 boxes had nests. One tree swallow pair decided to move in next door to the bluebirds. One pair of bluebirds built a nest only to be chased away by swallows who constructed their own feather-lined shallow container on top of the elaborate grassy structure created by the pair of optimists. But there were at least three baby bluebirds from the relocated nest.

While I got photographs of many of the tree-swallow eggs - I didn't capture the babies - every time I approached the nest boxes the adults would swarm me. One time another group of fledglings attacked and I had to put up my hand to keep them from hitting my head... not something I would relish trying to remove a bird from my hair.

So now they are all gone, though I occasionally see swallows around. If they haven't begun migration yet they will soon. I've seen the starlings and other blackbirds swarming. Fall is approaching.

Aren't we lucky to have the changing seasons and all they bring with them here in Canada?


  1. I loved this. And barn swallows (and tree swallows) have become all the more important with the bat population collapse (white nose syndrome). They help to control high flying insect populations and with fewer bats perhaps the swallow population will respond and grow. Thanks for writing this Barbara. I like it!

  2. My thanks to you Bill - for stopping by and for your kind words. Speaking of bats - my two that have lived here despite white nose syndrome, didn't show up this year - I was so sad - but a few nights ago I saw one - I do hope a few are strong enough to with stand this awful situation... poor creatures and yes the swallows are busy.

  3. I'm appreciating the changing seasons, too, Barbara! I don't mind the Barn Swallows at all (I think they're beautiful), but they do tend to wake up my husband every morning, so I think he's all right with their return to the south. :) Hope you're well!

  4. Thanks for stopping by Emily... I have a flock of house sparrows who have lived at this wee church forever I think, and some days I, like your husband, would prefer that they had their conversations elsewhere. For those of you who don't know Emily, she write a beautiful blog - Landing on Cloudy Water - click on her name above to read about her tour of Europe with her students. She is a writer living in Minnesota - and like Wild Bill - very gifted.