Friday, March 19, 2010

They're Baaack!

Excerpt of painting/collage by Jackie Niemi, © 2009

We were away for a couple of weeks and returned home to spring in full bloom!  So many blossoms had emerged.  The garden is full of color and new leaf.  

Another sign that spring is here is that the swallows have returned.  They suddenly appeared one sunny day this week, joyfully swirling and swooping high overhead, chirping their gladness as they flew.  The tree swallows are the ones that nest on our property, but I’ve seen other swallows in the area, such as barn and cliff swallows. 

The returning flock has already discovered the birdhouses that have housed many batches of chicks over the years.  Like newlywed human couples, pairs start finding each other and then “look for real estate,” already defending good prospects from starlings, robins, and other swallows.  One of the prospective “buyers” will sit on the perch and peek into the hole entrance, with its partner situated on top of the house or nearby.  They “talk it over” and assess the location and siting.  Are there plenty of bugs to eat, do we have to go far to get them, are we sheltered from weather and predators?  
The complete pairing off process hasn’t happened yet, and usually takes a couple of weeks.  When romance is in the air, their chirps turn to gurgles and coos when they communicate with each other.  Then they will begin to gather nest materials and move in to raise this year's brood of chicks.  
We have been fortunate over many springs to witness this cycle again and again.  We have seen the little ones fledge and take their first flight.  The field next to our house has been commonly used by all the youngsters in the neighborhood for flight training.  The newbies are easily identified by their slightly chubby appearance and slower, jerkier movements.  All the while adults fly among them, coaching and egging them on.  

It is a joy to have them back!

Posted by jackie. 

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