The Homestone

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Swallow tales

Our rough counts have numbered 300 swallows at any one time. We've always encouraged them nesting around the house and out buildings and we welcome their arrival like Capistrano. Cleaning up after the birds is just part of the deal. Before they arrive, David builds ledges so they have secure footholds for their nests. Barn and cliff swallows live side by side. Not always the most relaxed of neighbours ~ the barn swallows are generally on guard as the cliff swallows are ruthless in their take overs. The 'cliffs' will move in on a nearly finished barn swallow nest and carry on building it up to the conical shaped nest that is a cliff swallows trademark.
It is a happy co-existence though; this one between the swallows and the humans. We try to look out for them without interfering and we delight in their day to day lives.
They eat huge volumes of mosquitoes. For this we are most grateful. Living as we do surrounded by boreal forest, bordered by hay fields and a sizable creek ~ mosquitoes thrive. And we grow them big up here. Our hundreds of swallows are always working ~ feasting on every new hatch that appears on the meadow and making the area around the house quite comfortable in the thick of mosquito season.
We have two little ones right now very nearly out of the nest who had a bit of an early shove when their entire nest came crashing down yesterday. We placed them back under where their nest had been and where their mom is feeding and tending to them.
It gets cold and wet here through the night and so last night we set up a wee bucket on it's side and stuffed it with straw. We gently tucked the baby swallows into the straw and there they survived the night.
Today they ventured just a few feet from their guest house but an hour ago we found them tucked up, side by each, back on their straw. And mama is still keeping a close eye on them.
Our whole community of swallows often gather together along the fence line and gather in the nearby trees. David planted a spruce tree just outside the kitchen a few years ago that we call our Christmas tree. In winter we hang a little string of solar powered lights and enjoy the tree on snow white nights. Throughout the summer it is used by the humming birds and blackbirds but rarely by swallows. This morning, quite suddenly, the little spruce tree was thick with swallows. A beautiful sight. The young ones appear to be attending flight school on the tree. .


franci said...

Yesterday we found a baby swallow on the sidewalk near Lowes. We brought it home and it is in relatively good shape. Since swallows eat bugs we are not sure what to feed the baby. We love it. Could you tell us what to feed the baby? Last night we fed it crused cat food and crushed seeds mixed with water. Thank you so much for your help.


Nicola said...

Hi Franci
It's tempting to try to intervene but the baby swallows best chance at survival will be taking it back to where you found it, so it's mother can find it.
In regard to feeding ~ how are you at netting mosquitos?? That would be the best nutrition for the little one. Still, probably best to return it to a safe spot close to where you found it. Best of luck to you and your wee feathered friend. Nicola