Itâ€™s been such a busy spring for us that we hardly noticed the Barn Swallow nest atop a less used outdoor light at the back of the house. Yes, I heard the adult chatter now and then, and I noticed a bit of nest material one day. But, all of a sudden I saw the mess on the deckâ€”a large enough mess to confirm that there was both a nest, and young. And, sure enough, a few days later I looked up and saw the gaping mouths of 3 youngsters as they begged mom (or pop) to feed them, â€œnow!â€ I love a baby birdâ€™s wide gape, marked by the soft yellow corners, serving as definite â€œrunwayâ€ markings to guide the parents as they fill these hungry mouths. Many birds also have markings on the tongue and the roof of the mouth that serve the same function. It certainly seems to work.
Yesterday was the day that the Barn Swallow children fledged. Swallows need to be fully ready to fly when they leave the nest. Thereâ€™s really not much branching for them. And so, they ended up on the other side of our house, in the joists and rafters of our roofed, unenclosed porch. Iâ€™m glad they did. I had the privilege of watching them as they eyed anything that moved as potential food. They are quite attuned to any movement, since they catch their food on the wing. And, they havenâ€™t had flight and food catching simulation practice on mini bird computers. Their eye/wing/beak coordination has to work well almost immediately. As I set with my laptop, I had the privilege of watching them beg from their parents a few more times. And then, finally one, then the other (there were only two within my view) took off for the wild blue. These little guys are likely catching their own mosquitoes and other flying insects already.
I do love to watch baby birds, and Iâ€™m sorry that I missed out on so much of these swallowsâ€™ first days. It always amazes me how fast they grow, how much food they demand (and require), and how rapidly they move out into the real world. Not all can be taught. Much of it is not learned behavior, but instinctive and, once they leave the nest, that instinctive behavior becomes the lifeline that keeps them alive as they learn. I frequently think of how remarkable it all is: this hatching egg, new life, gaping mouth, many feedings, new feathers, wing stretches, and, suddenly, first flights!
Amazing world we live in! May you marvel at the continuation of life as you watch young birds out and about for their first time, and as you enjoy the march of the seasons.