Monday, July 17, 2006


This is a blue mama
Observers of life know how great it is to be wrong. It means we've encountered evidence that has brought us to our senses, opened our eyes, helped us to know the world more deeply.

So it is with great joy, I report we were totally wrong.

About ten days ago we noticed several young, dark tree swallows flying around the yard and nest box. We checked our Sibley's and the Cornell Bird site. We googled tree swallow juvenile images. We were convinced that these young swallows, which definitely were not adult blue, had to be the fledglings out of nest. What else could they be? How excited we were. Our first nest box with a successful fledge.
This one wants to be fed all day long
Then last Monday, we watched both parents flying in and out of the nest all day. They were busy, as we blogged last week, removing detritus from nest. But we noticed that upon their return there came loud and persistent chirping cries from nest box. We assumed that the babies had returned to the box, and had somehow regressed. They were demanding food from sun-up to sundown. Why weren't they out there flying, getting their own food? What could have gone wrong with them?
One of the parents stops by every few minutes
Well, nothing except that babies had not tested their wings yet. They hadn't left the nest box at all, and are only now making their little presence known in very obvious and vocal ways. They are small and noticeably immature. One baby is definitely an alpha. S/he never leaves the nest box opening, sitting there all day waiting to be fed. That little face only retreats when something scary comes its way, like me or Roger, or the hawk that made a dash for it last Friday. We know there's another baby in the box (maybe even more than one other). It chirps madly when the mother comes by and feeds the one sitting in the opening. Every few fly-bys the mother does go into the nestbox, and we assume that she is feeding the other baby in there.
Who is this on top of the box?
What confused us was the presence of dark, immature looking tree swallows. We now think they must be year-old females (although we could easily be wrong about that). We noticed that one likes to hang around the nest box, sitting on top of it, and once even perched on the opening staring straight eye-to-eye with the baby. It looked so much like "aunting behavior," a kind of practice at being mom.

So, we didn't miss the babies testing their new wings. They did not grow so large so quickly that they were expert flyers right out of the box. They have not ventured out yet. We're certain that will come soon. We plan to be ready to photograph it and anticipate that it will be beautiful. And we don't think we'll be wrong about that.

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