Monday, June 11, 2012

Leaving the Nest

More body than beak!
The swallow fledglings are preening this morning, and I wonder if they will still be in the nest when I return from church.  Before we moved to the farm, I had heard of barn swallows, but nobody warned me about fan swallows.  From our first summer here, swallows have built nests on the motors of the ceiling fans we installed on the front porch.  The back porch fan had gone unnoticed--until this year.

I'd not really paid much attention to the front porch nests--out of sight, out of mind, you know--but this year I've had a front-row, well living-room sofa, view of the story.

Sitting the nest, before the eggs hatched.
The parents persisted in building their nest, which looks like a really messy pottery project with bits of grass and small sticks poking out at odd angles.

Once the eggs were laid, they seemed to alternate sitting the nest, leaving it entirely for only a few minutes at a time.

When the eggs finally hatched, they were occasionally swooping around the yard and house, returning to stuff something into the tiny upturned beaks.

The swallow version of the Berlin airlift.
As those beaks grew bigger, the trips became more frequent.  What once fed all the tiny beaks would now only feed one or two.

The beaks grew little round heads that peeped from the nest when the parent was late with a tasty snack.

Will the silly humans
ever go inside?
Last night, the Resident Dragon and I enjoyed a few minutes on the porch after a long day in the garden.   Both swallow parents had been out gathering food but, shyly, sat on the posts of the blueberry garden, waiting for us to go inside.  We sat a few minutes more, and they moved to the gutter on the ell of the house.  We sat some more and they chipped their displeasure.  The babies responded, leading me to wonder what their conversation went like.  Was it, "Just wait; we'll be there when these silly people go inside."?  And did the babies reply with thanks?  Really, they sounded like impatient teenagers, ready for their dinner.

Now, those tiny heads have grown round, fluffy bodies.  They don't really fit in the nest anymore.  Someone always has to sit on the edge.  Not yet sleek and shiny like their parents, the babies' feathers are bristly and random--like a bad case of bed-head (or is it nest-head?).

Preening requires a lot of room!
And today they're preening, tiny wings comically disproportionate to their egg-shaped bodies.  The parents are still swooping in like the Berlin airlift--steady and constant--with food, but they look tired.

How much longer will the fledglings stay?
Hold on, bird friends, your fledglings are almost ready to fly on their own.  They will leave, each in their own way:  sure-winged or fluttery or hesitant or confident.  Each will make their own way because you've done your job well.

Your nest, at last empty, will stand silent witness to your faithfulness, but it will have served its purpose.

Take wing, parents, and soar and swoop and sing.

You've earned it.

How are things in your nest?


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