May 28, 2009

Barn Swallow Swirl

A fog was pressed against the lake, and I do enjoy that eerieness, but there was enough sunlight near the dam waterfall to reflect the white and bronze breasts of the birds on the water as they skimmed for insects. I didn't know what type of birds they were, but I was fascinated by their dancing flight-- almost like a quadrille-- and their shiny midnight-blue backs.

I racked my brain for the very little I knew about aerial creatures, and somewhere deep in the recesses I remembered that Swallows enjoy an insecty meal, so I looked it up after I returned home (and ate dinner, washed up, got the kids to bed, etc.,) and sure enough:

"The preferred habitat of the Barn Swallow is open country with low vegetation, such as pasture, meadows and farmland, preferably with nearby water . . . The presence of accessible open structures such as barns, stables, or culverts to provide nesting sites, and exposed locations such as wires, roof ridges or bare branches for perching, are also important in the bird's selection of its breeding range.[5]"-- Wikipedia

Sounds like my neighborhood. Here are some other interesting tidbits I Wikied up:
"In North America at least, Barn Swallows frequently engage in a mutualist relationship with Ospreys. Barn Swallows will build their nest below an Osprey nest, receiving protection from other birds of prey which are repelled by the exclusively fish-eating Ospreys. The Ospreys are alerted to the presence of these predators by the alarm calls of the swallows.[23]

Elsewhere, its long journeys have been well-observed, and a swallow tattoo is popular amongst nautical men as a symbol of a safe return; the tradition was that a mariner had a tattoo of this fellow wanderer after sailing 5,000 nautical miles (9,260 km, 5,755 statute miles). A second swallow would be added after 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 km, 11,510 statute miles) at sea.[49]

In the past, the tolerance for this beneficial insectivore was reinforced by superstitions regarding damage to the Barn Swallow's nest. Such an act might lead to cows giving bloody milk, or no milk at all, or to hens ceasing to lay.[6] This may be a factor in the longevity of swallows' nests. Survival, with suitable annual refurbishment, for 10–15 years is regular, and one nest was reported to have been occupied for 48 years.[6]"

So, welcome back Swallows! And, nice to meet you at last.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So, you know me and birds; right? Well I like to view them outside in their natural habitat rather indoors in a cage! While walking Frankie I've discovered a few new birds in our area too and I always forget my camera - using your words dagnabit! Some birds remind me of a childhood book I've read in school - Dogs are pretty amazing and what they offer their humans. I love it! Love, Mom