Wednesday, 30 June 2010

A barn swallow drama

Ok, as you can see, I'm no good at shooting flying swallows. And barely sitting swallows for that matter. So I hope you see these photos as more documentary in style. Think newspaper photographer on site of accident. And if you make it to the end of this short, but slightly dramatic, tale, you'll find a couple of nice pics of a sweet young swallow.

It's been a warm and sunny day today and I spent the afternoon outdoors. As usual, the swallows were circling in the air. Our beloved barn swallows. They build nests in our stable every year.

They circled low this afternoon, which is unusual on sunny days like these. Normally, the fly around catching insects and on warm days the insect fly high up in the air. And thus do the swallows. They did not behave as I was used to.

In fact, they even seemed to swoop down on me. As if trying to scar me away. I didn't pay much attention at first, but the closer I came to stand to the greenhouse, the lower they flew. Still, I was too focused on other things to "connect the dots" yet.

It wasn't until I fetched my camera, thinking I'd give it another shot, trying to photograph these elusive (to the camera at least) birds. When I began focusing on the birds I soon realised that there really was something wrong. I wasn't imagining it when I thought they were "aiming" at me. I got the final proof when one swallow actually swooped down on Mini, one of our cats that had just wandered into the yard and laid down on the gravel. He wasn't doing anything to aggrevate the birds so something had to be really, really wrong from the birds' point of view.

Still not knowing what was wrong, I stepped closer and this is what I found. Can you see what it is? A kid, a young swallow that probably wanted to try its wings, but failed. As you can see below, the vent hole on the top of the barn wall is right above our greenhouse. The swallow must have either fallen from the hole or perhaps bumped into it during one of its first flights.

Poor soul. There this little one sat, while the parents were soaring above, trying to defend it from the carnivores that called the farm theirs. Humans and cats. And also, by flying, trying to get their little one to get airborn. Poor birds, they can't pick their kids up in their arms or carry them from danger by holding them by the nape.

At one point, which I got a good look at and which was so touching to watch, one of the adult swallows sat down on the clothes line that run from the greenhouse to a nearby tree. As if trying to comfort the youngster and at the same time trying to coax it to get into the air to get to mummy/daddy. At this point I'm standing about two metres away from the birds.

Oh, look at the poor defenseless one as she or he is looking up into the sky, following the flights of mummy and daddy. At one point it tries to flap its wings, but alas, it remains stranded on the glass roof.

As the adult swallows didn't seem intent on attacking me, I got into the greenhouse to get closer to the poor baby. Some of the panes are missing since the autumn storms and snowy long winter and when dad got ill, no one got around to repairing them. Luckily for me, this meant I could get a couple of good shots, being within a meter of the bird. It was heartbreaking, seeing this lost little child looking up in the sky at mummy and daddy.

I wish I could end this story with a happy note, but the truth is I don't know what happened to the bird. I turned my back and the next time I got there, the swallow was gone. I didn't hear anything that resembled the sound of a cat catching a frightened bird. I don't know if it fell to the ground, but I didn't see it inside the greenhouse at least. If it did fall it would probably be the end for it. But the swallows disappeared so maybe, just maybe, they didn't abandon a falling child, but flew away with their little one. Maybe it did, in the end, flap its wings and soar into the sky. On should never give up, but try and try again. Baby birds know that better than most of us. Let us hope the story ended so.

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