Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tree Swallows

Tree Swallows have had a wonderful breeding season so far this year. I have active swallow nests in four nest boxes in this 11 acre field. Tree Swallows had a minor set-back early in the season when they arrived to find most of the boxes full of bluebirds. One pair of swallows so pestered the bluebirds that I set a new box just for their use. The swallows circled my head as I attached the box to the post and were inside their new home before I could get 25 feet away. This response satisfied my need for instant gratification that I’m told typifies our current society. The nestling shown above with its head stuck out of the box seems to be anticipating some gratification of its own.

Just what it was looking for, a mouth full of bugs. The other young swallows had already left the nest and this guy left within an hour of this photo being taken. I don’t think he had much incentive to leave since I saw him get fed about 5 times in just a couple minutes.

The nest shows the aftermath of rearing a successful brood. One egg didn’t hatch, but the rest of the clutch made out just fine.

At one point I crossed that invisible barrier and the parent birds decided I needed to be warned back. The attacks took on a routine sequence. First was a high circle.

The circle would tighten.

A brief hovering maneuver.

Prepare to dive.

The dive.

Finally, the fly by. I know in my mind that I won’t be hit, but it’s hard not to flinch when you feel the breeze created by the swooping bird. In situations like this I always recall a story told by the late C. Brooke Worth about his youthful adventures banding nestling Ospreys. He was also sure the adults wouldn’t hit him, until an adult Osprey put a gash in his head and almost knocked him from the nest tree. I’m sure a Tree Swallow strike wouldn’t hurt as much as one from an Osprey, but their speed of approach makes you believe they could leave a hole right through your head.

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