Saturday, 18 June 2011

Of Swallows and Hunting Cats

Every year, swallows fly home from Africa, to old nests of mud, moss, feather and hair in the wooden stable roof . The parents spend a while mending and renovating, before the eggs are laid and brooding of the young begins.

This year, one nest fledged early. Two tiny fledglings died on the stable floor, but, in a shivering, gaping huddle amongst the wood shavings, a group of three survived.

Temperatures fell, especially at night, but the parent birds fed their youngsters well. Squealing and chattering over the rooftops, skimming the wide fields for insects, they swooped in and out, over the stable half doors, all through the daylight hours.

At night, the tiny bundles of new life clustered together, vulnerable on the floor.

Outside, Lucy kitten passed by on a well supervised moonlit walk around the yard. She ran up a tree and slid down again by her claws. She chased moths around the grass, but never did she guess that three young swallows were so vulnerable, just behind a nearby wooden door.

By day, the empty nest showed that the parent birds were always on the wing. Out catching food for the growing trio of chicks on the stable floor.

Part of an old ladder was put in the stable, as a half-way perch. It seemed such a long way up to the half opened door and freedom.

For more than two weeks, the fledgelings huddled on the floor. Cats were kept on curfew. Magpies were shoed away.

One morning, the stable floor was empty. I feared the worst, but then I heard soft cheeping and a flutter of wings. Up on a rafter sat three fine young swallows. I walked away. When I came back they were gone. Now that the family has fledged, the stable is empty by day, but at night they come back. Roosting with their parents on high places. At last they can fly and their days on the floor are at an end.

Through the kitchen window, I watch young blue tits learning to feed on apple, and being fed by the parent birds.

In the evenings, "Springwatch" has an audience of humans, cats and dogs. Lucy Kitten stares entranced at the inside view of a Redstart`s nest.


Rowan said...

What a wonderful story - it's incredible that these three swallow nestlings survived in such circumstances. It says much for the care and perseverance of their parents and the vigilance of their hosts:)

The Weaver of Grass said...

What a delightful post. We have plenty of swallows nests in our barns and the young all come back to roost at night and to sit along the edge of the nest. Those three did very well to survive on the floor - largely thanks to your ministrations I guess.

Kath said...

How lovely. My brother is buying a property which has swallows in the stables. He said when he first viewd the house, the owner gave him a tour of the out buildings. The swallows swooped out under his nose, his heart was lost to them and the deal was struck.
I did smile at Lucy, our dogs watch other dogs on TV.

chinecats said...

Well done you for giving the baby swallows a fighting chance! I have never seen so many baby blue tits in my garden. The fat ball holder needs filling up daily!

Isabelle said...

Had my heart in my mouth there, imagining Lucy the pussy red in tooth and claw...

Did enjoy visiting Salisbury with you. Have to admit that I couldn't think where it was, though "Salisbury, Wiltshire" seemed to sound right, but then I wasn't entirely sure where Wiltshire is either, though I knew it was quite far south. I was disappointed, however, to Google-map Salisbury and find that it's near Southampton. Hmm - not a day trip from Edinburgh, then...

Country Cottage Chic said...

How lovely that the three of them survived. There is a swallow's nest in Dylan's stable too & they return every year, swooping over his head to fly in & out feeding the babies.

WOL said...

It's miraculous how the baby swallows survived their fall from the nest, and for the parents to continue feeding them. I'm glad you saw them and were able to protect them.

Karen said...

When I am downtown by the Presbyterian church at dusk, I always stop and watch as the chimney swifts come out and swirl around the steeples.

Outside of the fledgling robin, I've also had fledged cardinals sit on the back fence and demand (loudly) that their parents feed them although they are as large as the parent.

Morning's Minion said...

A lovely journal of the swallow's season. I'm reminded of the generations of barn swallows that swooped in and out of the hayloft at my grandfather's farm. When the babies had fledged whole tribes of swallows clung to the telephone wires, teetering back and forth and chattering.
Lucy Cat's marking are very like those on my dear Teasel--classic mackerel tabby.

Mum said...

Beautiful story beautifully told
Love from Mum