Wednesday, July 18, 2007

NPR - A family

I wrote about the recent pair of swallows who built a nest on one of the support beams for the roof the carport where I park. Well, they have a family, 4 young swallows who sleep almost constantly now while the parents get food for them. I discovered it's hard to get photos of them as each parent doesn't stay on the nest if I stay even 20 feet away near a tree. It seems they know their surroundings and when something is new.

I even tried to get up close, first with a ladder and then with my van to park next to it and sit on the roof to look straight into the nest, and cound the small white beaks. On the ladder they enlisted other swallows to attack me as if I'm a predator trying to take the chicks. Using the van, they must have realized they can't fight something that size, so they flew away to watch from a distant until I moved the van back into it's spot.

What's interesting is that I can drive the van in and out of the spot without disturbing them, but the minute I get out of the van, they fly away. It's the same with other residents in the adjacent spots. Cars seem fine but people disturb them. The only time I get to see the parents at the nest is to take the long way around to the tree and peek around it. Once I raise my camera, they see me and fly away.

One thing I did learn, however, is the answer to the question, how do young birds who don't even have their eyes open yet know one of their parents is there to fed them. And? Well, I lightly tapped on the front edge of the top of the nest and all four of them raised the heads with the mouths wide open. If they're totally asleep they sense the presence by the vibrations on the nest. It must be an instinctive trait as an automatic response to the presence of another bird. Kinda' cool, and when they went back to sleep when nothing happened after that, so they use other clues to keep the mouth open.

Anyway, it will be fun watching the chicks develop and see if the parents become more comfortable with people stopping by to say hello and wishing them the best in raising their family. And hopefully they'll become more comfortable with people and I can get better photos.

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