Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fledging Time

It is fledging time on Bull Creek.  The century old barn is functioning as a pediatric ward full of barn swallows as well as the black vulture chicks.  There are at least 7 swallow nests glued to the beams, each brimming with chicks warming their engines for takeoff.  Every time we entered the barn in June there was a mass of zooming parents darting in and out and chirping hysterically.  By now they don't pay much attention, having become accustomed to our coming and going just like the vultures have.

Barn Swallows, Hirundo rustica, are a common sight around our land, swooping over our garden and patrolling up and down the creek, dining on a rich source of flying insects.  They dart gracefully at low levels, sometimes just skimming the water.  Their distinctive pointed V-shaped tails and flight pattern cannot be mistaken for any other bird.

These swallows have made a successful adaptation to the presence of humans, so much so that their nesting is almost exclusively limited to man-made structures.  Their numbers increased dramatically as we spread barns and farm structures across North America and they found the perfect place to next.

Baby seals??
Now that the chicks are close to taking off, they have become curious about our visits.  Peering over the nest, they don't make a sound.  Looking at them head on so you can't see their pointed beaks they almost look like baby seals.

Driving down pond trail with Mike Kromrey's parents, his mother, Sandy, spotted some "big birds."  Sneaking up on them with camera in hand, I got some good pictures of a pair of black vultures sitting on the top edge of a hollow tree, half a mile from our barn with its vulture chicks.  These look to be the same age as ours.  When I got too close, they dropped back into the tree with a drum-like thump.

Hollow tree nest
Even after they have fledged, the young hang around for several weeks, still being fed by their parents.  I guess if you are going to eat rotting meat for the rest of your life, it doesn't make much difference if it is "fresh" or secondhand. 
Note down traces- Click to enlarge
Our barn vultures the same day

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