Monday, July 29, 2013

Successful Swallows

Now that we have no cats, the birds at Whitelees are free to nest in the garden without being predated by our pets.

There have been swallow nests in our tool shed for years.  One nest is near the door next to a rafter and the other is balanced on a florescent light fixture.  The poor swallows that survived long enough to build them, were never successful at raising any chicks.  The workbench in the tool shed made a far too convenient hunting platform for our cats.

This year a pair of swallows decided to risk things and try one of the nests again. I saw the swallows darting in and out of the tool shed and I wondered if they were brave enough to try again.  Putting my hand up there, I felt eggs.

There isn't enough room for me to stick my head up there and look in, but I can put my smartphone up there and snap away.    Using this method, I was able to monitor the progress of the swallows without disturbing them too much.  In the end there were three eggs in this nest.
Pretty speckled swallow eggs

I was worried that they were never going to sit on these eggs and hatch them out.  I never saw any adult swallow incubating or brooding on the nest.  Even so, the eggs did hatch.
Scrawny newly hatched swallows
The chicks hatched during a lovely hot spell here in SW Scotland.  Tiny hatchlings always look so delicate and fragile. Because I felt so protective of them, I wouldn't let anybody close the door to the tool shed once the eggs had hatched.  Even though they could probably get in through the huge gap at the bottom of the door, I wanted the swallows to have open and free access to the hungry chicks.  If we were robbed, then so be it.  I was quite willing to sacrificed our possessions so that these wee birdies had a chance.
A few days after hatching they were all gaping mouths.  If we walked in to get the lawnmower this is what we'd see.
week old swallow chicks

A week later they look a bit bored.
Then they developed a distinctly grumpy look.Later on it gets very crowded.
It really looks as though there is no room in there.  This photo was taken two days before the three swallow chicks fledged.

This morning, the nest was empty
Oddly tonight the swallows were back in the nest.  I don't know how this works, but tonight after the first day of flight, the young ones are back in the nest above the light fixture.

When we first bought this place, there were three or four external swallow nests.  The nests were abandoned as the cats learned to get on the roof and make swipes at the birds. I am thrilled that we have been witness to the arrival of three new swallows.  I really hope this years brood make it down to sub-Saharan Africa and back again next year.  It would be wonderful if the old nest sites are reestablished.

1 comment:

Shammickite said...

That's a great story, and well illustrated too! Hooray for the swallows. A couple of years ago a robin family built a nest on a wall-hung flower pot. The only way I could see into it was by holding the camera above the nest, like you did, Eventually there were 4 eggs, but one morning there were only eggshells left. I suspect raccoons, as we didn't have a cat.