“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 20, 2010

A month ago a pair of barn swallows built their nest in the roof rafters of the stable. It didn’t take them very long – two days to bind mud with pieces of straw to create a home that resembles an over sized coffee mug. It was fun to watch as they would swoop into the stable and quickly bank towards the rafter, add a ball of mud and be gone within a few seconds.

Within a few more days, the “mom” was on the nest.

Late this week the swallows were acting differently. Instead of ignoring us and the animals, they’d swoop at us. They would charge at me from out of nowhere, coming so close to my head that the air from their wings lifted my hair. It was amazing how close they would get to me – maybe a few inches- before miraculously changing direction, just barely missing me. Their attacks were non stop while I went about my “barn” chores. Days later, it still is going on without any lack of intensity!

Looking up at the nest in the rafters I saw the reason – an open beak pointing upwards waiting for food. Now there are three sets of hungry beaks. I hesitate to get out a ladder and climb up to take a closer look, as I really don’t want to upset them. I also am not as nimble as I used to be and am not sure if I can still duck and bob fast enough to escape what I would expect to be an even more aggressive attack being so close to the nest. So I will just keep an eye on the nest from the ground.

Across the way in the martin house, the martins too have young. The martins are not so protective towards us. I can be right under them watching them and they just do their thing, flying to the opening of the plastic gourd and pushing their head in to feed their young. For a few day a big black crow would show up a few hundred yards away and land on the compost pile, and the martins and swallows would dive on it until it flew off, which worked as it has not been seen back lately. Crows will prey on eggs and hatchlings, and perhaps that’s what was on this big old crow’s mind. Or maybe he/she was picking for worms to take back to a nest of young crows. Other than that, the martins seem content that they are safe.

And we have other nesting birds here. In the back corner of the field two bluebirds are nesting in a bird box that I made to attract them. They come to it every year – three years now. And in the front yard we have a common sparrow nesting in another “bluebird box” I had made – this is the fourth year that this sparrow has come back to it. And I am certain that there are many more birds settled and raising young in the trees, bushes, and hedges here.

I am wondering that being our first pair of nesting barn swallows, if they will come back next year. I’d be ok with it, and if their young returned with them. They are fun to watch and they catch so many flies and mosquitoes that being swooped at for a few weeks is not such a bad price. And anyway, their acrobatic attacks take all the boredom out of cleaning stalls, turning it into a one sided game of tag, where I am always “It”!

And I’m so cool with all that!

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