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Passions in Poetry

Martin and Martha Swallow - with pictures - Updated 7/10

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Ron
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0 posted 07-05-2004 01:03 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

A month ago yesterday, I posted a picture in Sharon's Wildlife thread of two birds who had built their nest on the handle of my raised garage door. At the time, I thought they might be swallows, and have since identified them more accurately as barn swallows (Hirundo rustica).

The barn swallow is resident on all continents except Australia and is easily distinguished from other swallows by it's deeply forked tail and rust colored breast. This bird's aerial maneuvering is breathtaking. They can effortlessly make sharp turns while flying at high speed, enabling them to catch flies and other insects on the wing and in great numbers. My pair of barn swallows, Martin and Martha, seem to pretty much eat anything that flies and is smaller than they are. When not on or near the nest, they perch on a bright orange extension cord draped across the rafters, and I watched in fascination one day as Martha darted her head in one quick swoop to capture a huge horse fly that had wandered too close. He never knew what hit him, though I could hear the loud crunch from ten feet away.

Mostly, though, they circle my front yard, often at heights ranging from a few feet above the ground to maybe twelve feet, feeding on critters I can't even see. One of my biggest complaints about living in the country has always been bugs, especially wasps (which are endemic around here) and mosquitoes (which often seem to be as large as the wasps). It's hard to believe two birds could make enough of a difference to notice, but the flying bug population around here is demonstrably smaller this summer.

Of course, it's not really just two birds. A nest, naturally, hints at eggs, which quickly become hatchlings. I didn't know it at the time I took the picture in Sharon's thread, but there were three eggs in the nest. One of the hatchlings didn't make it past its third day, and I found it on the garage floor, the victim of falling or being pushed from the nest. It was no bigger than your thumb, with translucent skin and no evidence yet of solid bones. That still left two mouths to feed, however, and Martin and Martha are typically in the air from before dawn to after dusk, each taking turns feeding their young. Barn swallows feed their hatchlings insects compressed into a pellet, which is transported to the nest in the parent's throat. Up to 400 feedings a day may be administered to the hatchlings, which equates to nearly 8,000 insects. It's little wonder the bug population is down this year.

In the past two weeks, those two little thumb-sized critters have grown enough to completely overflow the nest. They try to hunker down, but there always seems to be a butt or a head sticking above the rim of the nest. And when momma or poppa approach the nest, the hunkering becomes a melee of open beaks and flittering little wings. I haven't been marking a calendar, and my experience is obviously limited, but I'm guessing my hatchlings will become fledgling within a matter of a few more days. After their first flight, from what I've researched, they'll stick to the nest for about eleven more days before leaving it permanently.



When I first discovered my newest neighbors, I was a bit fascinated, but not terribly enthusiastic. Their choice of locations meant I couldn't close my garage door for an extended period, and I sure wasn't crazy about the way Martin and Martha dive-bombed me anytime I had the temerity to walk into my own garage. By the third day after the eggs hatched, I discovered a new downside when I saw a tiny little butt stick itself out of the nest and splat the remnants of its insect dinner on my garage floor. I can tell you none of my kids were ever so easily potty trained! So, now I'm hosing out my garage every other day, too.



Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I've now spent enough time in the garage that Martin and Martha no longer treat me like an unwelcome in-law. As long as I'm sitting, not standing, they'll even perch within three or four feet of my chair and pretty much ignore anything I do. They go a bit spastic when I fire up the riding mower, but that's short lived and, apparently, quickly forgiven. They're interesting to watch, I love the lighter bug population, so figured I could live with four to six weeks of inconvenience. Besides which, what choice did I have?

Today, however, I discovered the true depth of my problems.

First, in researching much of what I've written above, I learned that my immediate inconvenience has just been doubled. Barn swallows typically produce, not one, but TWO broods a summer. Sometimes, though rarely, even three. Shortly after these two fledglings leave the nest, Martin and Martha will start the process all over again. Interestingly, the first brood will usually stick around and help gather food for the second brood. I guess that means I'll soon have four barn swallows flying in and out of the garage. Better come up with more names pretty soon, I suppose.

Second, I also discovered that my immediate problems have been extended beyond the immediate. Barn swallows mate for life and have this nasty habit of returning to the same nest year after year after year. More, their yearlings always nest within twenty miles of where they hatched, and often in the SAME building. I found one article where a farmer said his barn averaged between fifty to eighty nests every year. Oh, my.

And to think, all of this is just because I failed to close the garage door for a couple of days?

[This message has been edited by Ron (07-10-2004 12:54 PM).]

Denise
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1 posted 07-05-2004 01:17 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

I guess you can just pretty much kiss your garage goodbye, Ron! Or maybe you can relocate the nest (and close the garage door!) when this current brood flies the coop and before the next eggs are layed? Any trees nearby that they might like?

Sunshine
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2 posted 07-05-2004 01:57 PM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine

No trees for "barn" swallows.  They like the "indoors" of said barns, garages, sheds, covered patios, etc.  Perhaps you could put up a small gazebo?  

We had the same "swooping" problem with our first year robins who nested this year on our back porch.  We were near run out of our backyard during the first hatching...but by the time they began sitting on their second brood, we were once again allowed in our back yard.

In fact, it's been a pretty good "bird year".  Even the mourning doves are having a good year in our backyard, and we've even seen evidence of orioles this year - not usually seen in town, and lucky to see them out in the country.

Another anomoly of recent has been the sightings of several small chicken hawks.  One has decided our neighborhood is good for something, so I figure not only is the insect population down, but so are the mice, etc.

The pictures were wonderful, Ron!  Thank you so much for sharing
Midnitesun
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3 posted 07-05-2004 02:05 PM       View Profile for Midnitesun   Email Midnitesun   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Midnitesun

LOL, as we have a nest in the horse barn, right in the middle of the aisleway. Yep, three babies that poop over the edge. I just have to remember not to stand in that spot too long. The parents get angry when I use the telescoping cleaner/duster for cobweb removal from the rafters, but I stay away from the nest area. I, too, am hoping they choose a differernt spot for the next brood, but have been told they will probably stay where they are. Our aisleway is already dirt and wood shavings, so no problems about the debris. And since the chickens and cats do their business there too, little birdie poop doesn't matter.  As for your garage, I'd just put a large plant container with dirt under the nest, then no cleanup is needed. Then try to move the nest to a different location right after they fledge.
Thanks for posting those great photos!
Poet deVine
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4 posted 07-05-2004 03:32 PM       View Profile for Poet deVine   Email Poet deVine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Poet deVine

How cute! I suggest you just build another garage for yourself. Isn't it worth it to have a live in bug-zapping family?

Martie
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5 posted 07-05-2004 03:51 PM       View Profile for Martie   Email Martie   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Martie's Home Page   View IP for Martie

A wonderful shared experience, Ron...and photos...thank you!
serenity blaze
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6 posted 07-05-2004 04:13 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

mmm hmmm. So that's where you've been! Hanging out with the swallows.



and this seems to happen to you with creatures of all kinds.

sigh. What can we say? You're just the greatest host in the world, and I promise I'll try not to poop on yer floor, barn or otherwise.

This was delightful, Ron.

and btw? I used to have a user name on another site where I shared the last name of Martin and Martha, but with the adjustment of an added "ess"--

ta da!

Meet "Shirley Swallows"!



(er...yer not gonna let me name the kids, are ya?)

Nan
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7 posted 07-05-2004 04:29 PM       View Profile for Nan   Email Nan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Nan's Home Page   View IP for Nan

Sniggling here... You know I'm very psyched about your new tenants.  And you know I'll love every minute of their magical melee about your yard...

Um... Can we maybe name the hatchlings after poets???... I'll help...
Aenimal
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8 posted 07-05-2004 10:16 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

Nice pics Ron, hopefully you can figure this out before your overrun, love nature but have seen some horrible instances involving squirrels and ducks taking over.

K, personally I'd prefer the company of Shirley with the added "ess"
Mysteria
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9 posted 07-06-2004 02:33 AM       View Profile for Mysteria   Email Mysteria   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Mysteria

Oh I loved this!  I just adore birds, and have feeders right by my window.  I can now even leave the window open and they are not afraid of me or my cat.

As for your birds, oh my they are lovely.  We don't have those here that I aware of.  Could you not make a wooden platform in the rafters and sit the nest on it against a wall?  Below you could put a "butt bin" and that will solve that!  They are fascinating to watch and like you said, better than a bug zapper right? As for naming the new family members, my suggestion would be Doodle and Dandy.  If there are three there's always Yankie.  

Thank you for sharing this it was educational and wonderfully amusing Ron.
PhaerieChild
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10 posted 07-06-2004 05:24 AM       View Profile for PhaerieChild   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for PhaerieChild

This is absolutely adorable, though I can see the problems inherent with having them there. I don't know how well they will take to the moving of the nest but I think they will forgive you. They might dive bomb you a couple of times first, just to show their displeasure. Love the photos of them.
Kit McCallum
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11 posted 07-06-2004 06:30 AM       View Profile for Kit McCallum   Email Kit McCallum   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Kit McCallum

Ron, this is just "one" of the reasons I think you’re wonderful!  

What a great story and pictures!

Wayne said to ask you if you’ve noticed Martin and Martha following behind and swooping down around you while you cut the lawn?  The barn swallows at our old place used to follow him along swooping around when he mowed the grass because it was like a big buffet of insects getting disturbed as he rolled along, lol ... a veritable feast!  

Our robin’s in the fake deerhead out back were great entertainment for us while raising their first brood, and I truly missed them when the first 3 babies flew the coop.  They all stayed close though and we’d see them and their new babies out and about the yard.  I didn’t have to miss them being right out back for long though.  Momma was back sitting on the same nest on the deerhead within about 2 weeks time, and she and Poppa now have 3 “new” eager little mouths to feed.  They’re getting big, and will be on their way soon too.  I did hear that if she started her first batch early enough in the season, it's normal to have two, but it’s even possible she could be back for a third brood yet!  Oh my ... busy, busy!  

Thanks for the smiles this morning, I loved this!
Sunshine
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12 posted 07-06-2004 06:58 AM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine

Speaking of bug eaters...we were out on the back porch again last night and I noticed another "something" swooping around, and then joined by another one or two "swoopers"...after some careful eyeballing in the dark, I determined it/they might be bats.

One of the guys said, "Nah..." until other eyes caught the swooping action...

and I was validated.  We have mosquito-eating bats!

WooHoo!
Ron
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13 posted 07-10-2004 12:55 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Birds sure grow fast!

This picture was taken only five days after the ones above, and my little hatchlings have fully metamorphed into real birds, albeit still tiny ones.

It's just moments after dawn, and Timothy and Titia (fair is fair ) are front and center, their heads bowed and still slightly scrunched within neck ruffles, which is how they sleep each night. If you look closely to the right of Titia, you should be able to spy just the top of Thomas's head, belying my earlier post that there were only two birds in the nest. In point of fact, what you won't see in this picture is any discernible part of Terry, the fourth hatchling in the nest. Barn swallows apparently don't mess around with small broods, and I honestly don't know how they all manage to fit in a nest you could easily cup in one hand. But they do.

Martha has become increasingly comfortable with my presence. I can now walk around the garage while she perches nearby, and only if I come closer than a few feet of the nest (as I did for this picture) will she remind me I'm not really part of the family. The little ones, on the other hand, show absolutely no fear of me at all, no matter how close I get. Martin stops in a few times a day, and returns home for the night, but isn't around nearly as much as he was immediately after the eggs hatched. Typical husband, I guess.

I hope to get some pictures when they start flying, something I expect any day.
Nan
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14 posted 07-10-2004 01:19 PM       View Profile for Nan   Email Nan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Nan's Home Page   View IP for Nan

This is just wonderful. I love these pics... I wish I could get a photo of Zemler hanging from the edge of my garage door, but I think he's moved on.  I guess we made too much racket for him.  I have lots of baby bunnies, though...
Poet deVine
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15 posted 07-10-2004 02:19 PM       View Profile for Poet deVine   Email Poet deVine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Poet deVine

We have lots of baby lizards on the front deck but they look more like crickets now..and they blend into the color of the wood so taking a picture of them would be useless. I'll just catch one and send it to you Ron.
Mysteria
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16 posted 07-10-2004 02:52 PM       View Profile for Mysteria   Email Mysteria   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Mysteria

Cute little things, amazing they don't fall off of that nest isn't it?  I wish we had them here, but if we did, they would probably go, "cheep, cheep, eh!"   I found this plan for you to build them a nesting platform, to get the next lot off  the garage door - http://birding.about.com/cs/buildhouses/a/robinshelf.htm
Ron
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17 posted 07-10-2004 11:01 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Coincidentally, moments after making my last post, I walked out to the garage and discovered an empty nest. My birds have learned to fly.

As best I could tell, they were absent all day. About nine o'clock, with maybe an hour of daylight remaining, I found all four again squeezed into their tiny nest. They looked tired. But very, very satisfied with themselves.
Kit McCallum
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18 posted 07-11-2004 08:37 AM       View Profile for Kit McCallum   Email Kit McCallum   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Kit McCallum

Awwwwwwwwww ... Ron, that close-up picture above with them all squished in, is priceless!

So the swallows returned to the nest after their first day of flight?  That's cool!  I thought once they were gone, that would be it?

It looks like our babies learned to fly on the same day!  I spent most of my day yesterday watching our robins. Two left the nest yesterday, but we've got one hold-out, lol. I'll post some pictures later on.
Sunshine
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19 posted 07-11-2004 09:01 AM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine

You make such a great Uncle Rwallow...

And I like the fact that Titia finally has
someone named after her...
Marge Tindal
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20 posted 07-11-2004 09:40 AM       View Profile for Marge Tindal   Email Marge Tindal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Marge Tindal's Home Page   View IP for Marge Tindal


Ron~
These are just wonderful photos~
It is just pure pleasure to be able to feather-touch nature~

In case you might have missed the Corner Pub Wren Crew that hatched in the planter hanging beside my front door ... here's a link to their coming about flight~

Florida Flight School Success -

http://piptalk.com/pip/Forum39/HTML/003056.html

Thanks for sharing ... what FEATHERED FUN !
*Huglets*
~*Marge*~



~*When the heart grieves over what it has lost,
the spirit rejoices over what it has left.
- Sufi epigram <))><

noles1@totcon.com

garysgirl
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21 posted 07-15-2004 01:12 AM       View Profile for garysgirl   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit garysgirl's Home Page   View IP for garysgirl

Awwwwwww, Ron, this is adorable!!
I love birds. Have they all left now?
Titia Geertman
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22 posted 07-15-2004 09:04 PM       View Profile for Titia Geertman   Email Titia Geertman   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Titia Geertman's Home Page   View IP for Titia Geertman


WOW I'm the godmother of a swallow, I'm very honored Ron, thank you!

We have a lot of swallows around here, but for the last 30 years there are about 50 to 75% less birds, due to the fact that farms aren't farms as they used to be, they've become too clean all around, producing not enough food for the birds.
Our neighbour across the street used to have about 40 nests (could be more, never counted them) hanging under the overflow of his roof, but then in the '90 storms, the two barns collapsed and with them the swallows dissapeared for a long time. But recently we see more of them coming back each year.

There are two kinds, the 'house'swallow, who will build his nest outside, against the house and the barn swallow (we call it the farmer's swallow) who will build their nest mostly inside the barns. You can tell the difference by their colors and forked tail.

In my early days (long time ago ) I used to raise the fallen swallows and sometimes I even succeeded to set them free again.

I now have to settle for a bumblebee's nest in my garden, wich is very interesting I must say. I once dug out a wasp's nest and it looks like a big several layer high parking place, I still have it and will take a pic someday to show you.

You've made lovely photo's Ron and I'm going to keep them on the wall of my room.

When Swallows building their nest in your home, it means happiness and I'd say they couldn't have choosen a better place.

Titia


Like scattered leaves...my words will flow
Mysteria
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23 posted 07-25-2004 02:15 AM       View Profile for Mysteria   Email Mysteria   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Mysteria

Are they still in that nest? (Last we heard they had flown the coop so to speak.)  

Will these birds be back to use this spot for their nest?  
Midnitesun
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24 posted 07-25-2004 02:26 AM       View Profile for Midnitesun   Email Midnitesun   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Midnitesun

Ditto, to what Titia said: swallows=happiness.
 
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