Its March 1983 outside Columbia Missouri on north Highway 63
|Barn swallow mother perches on rim of nest|
In a cold barn the photographer sits in the dark
practicing quiet trying to stay warm and explore good ways to unobtrusively light the spidery scratchy place so that she can see something... anything ...
some action besides the top of a black head high up in a nest on the barn rafter.
This action or change occurs in brief surprises in-between very long periods of no action For some days she has watched from a loft across and above her head as the nest was recycled Cleaned and lined with new mud and some of mother birds own indigo feathers. Then eggs were laid, one each day and, glory be! None of the awful predators came.
Each day the watcher/waiter/photographer climbs into her place and two females sit in a cold barn
one on eggs and the other in hay with a camera
|Again and again-- like a fighter jet she swoops in carrying food|
watching, dreaming, and incubating the one on the nest has come to accept / tolerate the the other
Barn swallows, Hirundo rustica, have thrived with the human race. They once lived in caves but now there are barns and porches all increasing in number
|Mother carries food to the noisy nestlings|
One morning there is shell on the barn floor and weak squeaking above she climbs and watches breathless from her loft the nestlings grow in their demands, exponentially
The mother becomes a flying carrier service
catering to growing mouths.
They are a chorus, parsons or judges, always above her, looking down, looking demonic and ridiculous
Soon they are nearly her size and their wide open mouths are endless. The photographer is reminded of parenting. Her own children wouldn't like the affinity she feels with this tiny straining bird.
|Barn swallows wait on a barbed wire fence for the evening bugs|
The birdlings grow beyond the nest, bursting its limits. Always one will take off first. Maybe it hates crowds, maybe it is not quite "right" and has fallen or been pushed, maybe it is restless or impatient, or simply believes flying can't be that hard. One will always fledge, 'trying his wings' on the long drop, but may not be ready to fly.
Those around barn swallows have come to expect at least one babe will fall or fail flying each year and not just once. With luck these people have learned and have and the means to re-place them in the nest or protect them from the cats (check out Baby barn swallow stories)
|Barnswallow feeds fledge|
Soon they all fledge and for the next two weeks parenting is on the wing.
Later, it is one of those summer evenings when the tree frogs are a choir, the air is a bit cooler, the grass is up, and after dinner we wait for the lightening bugs. The barn swallows and bats wait for the mosquitoes to lift off the fields.
I am reminded of a comment my aunt Mary Bumgarner made when my son was new born. In an amused but knowing voice she said, "The thing about parenting is that it is so daily."
For a lovely set of references about the barn swallow including short essays by people that have lived around them I highly recommend this site: excellent summary facts about barnswallows
Stay tuned we will create a gallery of Barn swallows.