Monday, May 17, 2010

The Swallows have returned.

Our Barn Swallows have returned from their winter homes in the southern hemisphere and they have been feverishly repairing and remodeling old nests, or constructing new ones. Many of the older pairs reuse the same nest each year-after a few modifications, of course. It always amazes me to see the engineering marvel of these little nests, constructed with pellets of mud, carried by both parents-one beak-full at a time, and then affixed to a vertical surface where it stays-sometimes for many years.
Each layer of mud is allowed to dry for the appropriate amount of time-as determined by the nesting pair. Occasionally a young pair needs a bit of practice in order to get the proper timing down. One year we had a young pair that constructed nest after nest, only to have the fruits of their labor slide off of the beam, down to the floor. They finally were able to build a working nest, but I can't remember if they actually were able to raise a brood or not.
Most of these birds have been coming back for several years...I am not sure why they would want to fly several thousand miles to spend each summer with me, but they do, and have become quite accustomed to my activity in the sheep barn so they allow me to get very close to them.
Now that nest construction is complete, each pair of my feathery friends will lay 4-5 eggs which will hatch out in about 14-17 days, the babies will leave the nest about 20 days after hatching.
I am completely biased when it comes to Barn Swallows, I generally don't tolerate birds nesting in the barns, most are so messy and contaminate the animal feed with their droppings, but I make a big exception for the Swallows-any bird that has a diet comprised of 99% insects is okey dokey with me! Also, I am wildly impressed by the fact that they can find their way to the same little barn on the Eastern edge of Iowa every year, probably traveling from somewhere in Central or South America, and most of us can't find our way around the next town even with a GPS.....OK, maybe that's just me.
Of course I will try to post some pictures once the babies long as I can find some in one of the lower nests... me + high places on ladders=bad.


Bethany said...

Beautiful pictures!

tbsomeday said...

beautiful pictures!
i remember last years barn swallow to know these could be the very same ones :)

Christine said...

I have a pair that next under my carport every year. They've hatched their babies already and really don't want me anywhere near the carport right now.

Michelle said...

What great shots you've captured! I love the barn swallows, too, and the violet-green swallows we get. Don't know how they nest, though.

angelandspot said...

I love barn swallows also. I haven't been able to convince any of them to nest in our barn but they do fly over here quite often snatching up tons of insects. They used to nest in the barn at a boarding stable back when I lived in the city and had to board my horse and I loved watching the babies grow up and leave the nest each spring.

Kelly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly said...

Thanks for your hospitality on Sunday. Loved your sheep, they are lovely, and what a friendly bunch you have there. I can tell that every animal on your place is well loved.
I really loved meeting our new ram, Nantucket, and rest assured, he will be happy and healthy once he gets to his new home with us.
Loved the blog post and pictures of the swallows, they are some of my favorites too.

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