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 hatch...as long as I can find some in one of the lower nests... me + high places on ladders=bad.