The End of Summer and the Swallows Have Flown

Further observations of our summer guests

by Lois Rice

© 1997 Lois Rice

A week or so after the first brood of young swallows left the nest to try their wings, we noticed the adult birds making a determined effort to keep the young away from the nest in the evening as they tried to come 'home' for the night. The parents circled between the young and the nest, scolding all the while.
Soon after, we saw the female on the nest again and realized she was laying eggs for a second brood. By the 8th of August, the excitement of the birds let us know that the eggs had hatched.
This time the parents had plenty of help in caring for the young. The youngsters from the first brood worked just as hard as the parents at feeding the new babies. Sometimes one would fly up, look into the nest, then fly away again without feeding. The little ones must all have been satisfied and sound asleep.
This exciting event-- the new family in the neighborhood -- drew an audience, a convocation of young and adult swallows from the surrounding area. We counted at least 38 sitting on the electric service wire and on dead twigs in the pin oak, all chattering and twittering at once.
When it was about time for the youngest ones to try their wings, a procession of swallows flew close, circling around and calling, "See me, see me, you can do it too. Time to try, time to fly," they seemed to me to be saying.
Next day the group gave the young in the nest several fly-bys and the little ones finally ventured out. There were four again, though just as with the first brood, we had seen only three heads at a time in the nest. The second day, the youngsters wanted to sleep in (they probably were very tired and maybe had sore wing muscles), but the noisy crew of young and old kept flying by the nest coaxing and scolding; finally the little ones ventured out again.
After about another week we noticed the parents trying to keep their new family from coming to the nest at night. By the first of September they all stayed away. The days were clear and dry and we could see swallows flying high in the sky. Occasionally a few flew by low enough we could see by their shorter tail feathers that they were young ones.
Now we see the swallows no more and we suppose they are somewhere gathering in larger flocks for migration or perhaps have already started for their winter home in Mexico or South America. Farewell to the swallows and the summer, and we look forward to next year!

copyright 1997 Lois Rice, all rights reserved

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