Monday, January 17, 2011

Bird Review Part Vll Parenting Tree Swallows and Fledglings

The Tree Swallows in the south field were busy making their second nest, as the lilacs were blooming . . .  spilling their delicious fragrance about the gardens. I defended their first nest from the House Wren, but the swallows finally gave it up to the wren. Note . . . I was not able to allow the wren to complete it's nest on top of the Tree Swallows, as he would then have tormented and perhaps killed the other swallows and Bluebirds.

This Tree Swallow and I had an understanding. She seemed to appreciate my efforts and felt safe around me. Perhaps I am only projecting this, but she did seem to look upon me with a gentle tolerance.

She certainly never dive-bombed me or encouraged her mate to do so. 

There was a sweet acceptance about her. She was a beautiful bird . . . then something happened to her.

I suddenly began seeing another female swallow feeding her babies. Tree Swallows are a unique breed of bird. Fathers are active in raising the young and sometimes more than one male may help in feeding a brood. A female, who does not have a brood of her own, will become stepmother to one that has lost its mother. Truthfully I am not certain if this is a male or female, but she/he became very hostile towards me, when taking over the care of the babies in this nextbox. Her appearance is quite different from the other Tree Swallow that had built the nest and cared for her tiny young. Note the shape of her head . . . I do not think it is only feathers held in a different way. Sometimes birds die and perhaps the swallow that had known and trusted me fell prey to some animal or had a fatal accident. 

I did recognize the other bird I thought to be the male, but he seemed changed towards me. 

I cannot imagine the crimes she is assigning to me to cause my former friend to glare upon me this way! 

When she was not around . . .  all was calm . . . I was able to enjoy observing the babies with their father in peace.

The young Tree Swallows seem to enjoy the regurgitated insects their father offers. Swallows fly  high sweeping the sky of insects throughout the day . . . many biting ones too. I am thankful for their efforts and can enjoy the gardens more, while they reside here. 

It seems there is another baby bird vying for attention!

The father drums on the housetop encouraging the young to take flight. The baby on top quickly flies out and immediately takes to flying along side his parents. I do feel for the other baby, who appears to be getting a bit squeezed!

This last baby swallow does join his family a few minutes after this photograph was taken. It is joyous watching them all fly above me . . . then the entire family flies away. I do miss their presence in the sky above the gardens. July tends to be when they depart and gather with other Tree Swallows on a nearby dairy farm. They will soon fly southeast towards the North and South Shores and Cape Cod. Come September, if I visit the cape, I see thousands of Tree Swallows flying over the dunes and cottages. One year, after walking down the beach for awhile, I saw many thousands flying in a giant cone shape . . . flying . . . spiraling . . . round and round. The vortex shape reached up into the sky for hundreds of feet. It was a marvel I had never seen before . . . nor since. I thought it might be some ritual they do before heading further south . . . a kind of 'pep rally' to excite and encourage all a safe journey. I wish them all a safe return this spring! Next post we will revisit the Baltimore Orioles to see what is happening with their brood. 
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