Sunday, July 12, 2009

Barn Swallow Colony

There's a culvert right smack in the middle of town that I've been wanting to check out for a while. From the activity on the outside of the culvert I knew that there must have been some good things happening down below. Hundreds of swallows would be flying around on the outside of the culvert and then flying to the inside. Sure sign of an active Barn Swallow colony.
So, I brought my camera with me when I had to run some errands and I was not disappointed with what I found. Above is a view of the outside of the culvert with lots of tall grasses and other native vegetation that acts like a giant magnet for the flying insects that make up the diet of swallows. The name swallow is interesting and pretty descriptive. These birds fly and catch their meals on the wing-that is while they are flying and swallow them. Sorry that I don't have any pics of the adults in action-they are much too quick for me.

Above is a view looking out from the culvert. I'm quite happy that the city has left all of this to grow wild and not sprayed it down with poisonous chemicals to kill it all off.

Here is a view of the inside of the colony, half of it anyway. Both sides are lined with nests. These birds are pretty social in the fact that they build their nest relatively close to their neighbors. The nests are located about 6 feet apart from each other-the brown spots up in the corner that run the length of the wall. There's also evidence of nests that have fallen off the wall, but on the day I visited I couldn't see that any newer nests had fallen to the ground.

I've come to the conclusion that these birds are pretty darn smart in nest building habits. First, these nests are protected from the elements~no heavy rains beating down on the nests, the hot summer sun not broiling the babies, no high winds to shake the nests loose from tree branches. Second, nest predators like snakes and squirrels would have a hard time scaling the smooth concrete walls to get at an easy meal.

The nests are built from mud and grasses that the nesting pair collects with their little beaks then attached to the wall. Hundreds of trips are made to collect the mud and shape the nest and when they are finally finished they let the mud dry for days to harden like a brick. Then, they will line the nest with soft grasses and any other soft materials that they find, like the molted feathers of other birds to make a soft cushion for their eggs.

Its learning about stuff like this that has made me a true freak of nature.


PonderandStitch said...

I've always been fascinated by bird nests, too!! They are truly bright little creatures. :)

Jeanie said...

What a wonderful discovery!

Mackin-Art said...

Wonderful photos! We have swallows on one of the buildings down on the dock, but their up way high under the eaves - I'll never get images like yours.