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Friday, May 15, 2009

ornithology.....it's for the birds!

Although it hasn't felt much like it lately, I am going to go out on the proverbial limb and say that spring has officially arrived. Oh, I know the calendar said that it was spring weeks ago, but someone forgot to tell the weather makers of this new development. The reason that I know that spring has finally come to pass, is that my barn swallows have returned! OK, I know that they are not cliff swallows, and this is by no means Capistrano, but I am very excited nonetheless.
This is the same young pair that nested in the sheep barn last year, and after a dismal kickoff to their parenting career, they were able to raise 4 beautiful little fledglings last season.
They are off to a much more productive, and thus far successful, start on nest construction this year. I am still amazed at the ability that these tiny little birds have to seek out a suitable surface upon which to affix their nesting materials, making hundreds of trips to gather beakfuls of mud, mixing it with the proper amounts of straw and dry matter, and then attaching it all to a vertical surface upon which it not only stays, but houses a nest full of wiggling chicks.
This was taken after the first day's work.

Back and forth.
...and back and forth.

After the first day of nest building we got some very heavy rain...like over 3 inches, so, like any normal construction worker would do, the swallows took a couple of days off. Today they resumed their efforts and are nearing completion of their new abode.
I am not sure if I will be able to get photos of the chicks this year since this nest is much closer to the ceiling than last year's......and there's that whole thing about me on ladders...it just generally ends badly.
Either way we will be following their progress.

Another feathered friend that recently captured my attention while I was walking in the pasture was this Killdeer. I love Killdeer because they remind me of the Sandpipers that I used to see scurrying along the seashore when I was a child.....obviously not here in Iowa, I was born on the east coast....not a lot of coastline here in the Midwest...unless the Mississippi counts, which I am pretty sure it doesn't. I digress.

Killdeer "build" their nests on the ground, and I say "build" because basically they scratch out a little hollow in the ground and, well, there you go, voila, a nest! I am not too sure about the basis for the logic of placing a nest with fragile eggs on the ground in the middle of a horse pasture, but they do it every year and there are always more Killdeer around, so apparently some are surviving.

One of the Killdeer's clever ploys for distracting predators away from their nests is to flail about pretending to be injured, screeching all the while, hoping to lure any intruder with bad intentions toward them and away from their nest. The problem with this strategy is that you can pretty much tell exactly where the nest is, because the closer you get to the nest the more convincing the display, and the closer the bird will come to you. This little guy/girl (they look very similar) got closer to me with each step I took until I could have almost reached down and picked him up. As much as I wanted to see the nest, I didn't have the heart to look any farther for it, I wanted to let him think that his valiant display payed off. Did I mention that their eyes are red?

Charles Bronson wanted you to know that he has some awesome skills too.
He can crow.
Loudly.At 4:30 in the morning...outside my bedroom window.
"Wasn't me!"

6 comments:

tbsomeday said...

what a GREAT post!
you are an awesome photographer...i love your back and forth with the barn swallows, lol
such beautiful pictures of everything
your grass makes me want to eat it--so lush and green
loved this blog--very informative and entertaining.

clink said...

Again ..... I am in awe. Amazing and beautiful and wonderful.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Such great high-speed shots of the swallows! My camera could never do that.

Jenny Holden said...

Love the photos! If you fancy coming over to take some of the beavers you know where we are! The killdeer is beautiful. Can't believe how late your swallows are, it takes a long time to get up to you!

Ginny said...

Barn swallows are great, I could watch them for hours. Love your pictures of all the critters.

Nancy K. said...

Why is it that your blog never moves to the top of my blog roll when you post? THAT's why I never see your new posts!

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