Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Barn swallow babies

Over the past couple of weeks, our barn swallow babies have learned to fly and have discovered the big world out there.

Having barn swallows around is a bit like expanding one's pet population by a dozen or two. Each morning we wake up to very clear demands to open the barn doors. When we do, a number of parents fly out and others fly in. The flights continue until dark.

Our "barn" is a drive shed which houses our mowers, garden tools, my husband's stone carving studio (off limits to the birds) and a two-car garage. Usually the swallows build their nests and lay their eggs up high near the top of barn, well away from the garage part of the building, which has a very low ceiling.

But some summers, the swallow "condos" up top get filled up fast by several nesting pairs, leaving the pair that's lowest on the totem pole to nest in the garage. This makes taking the car in and out a bit of an adventure after the babies hatch and Mom and Dad get very protective.

With a long lens and flash, I was able to take pictures of the garage swallow babies at feeding-time without upsetting them too much.

The swallow parents are tireless when feeding the little guys, and they're great fun to watch as they buzz and swoop by the nest to encourage the babies to try their wings. The little ones grow to flying stage astonishingly quickly.

We enjoy our swallow flock, but we're always relieved when we can walk by the barn without being buzzed by fly-bys - and when we can finally clean up the bird droppings.