Lately I've noticed more swallows in the area. This tells me that lots of young swallows have just fledged, and are learning to catch flying insects in mid-air. The old bridge that crosses the Kickapoo River is home to five pairs of cliff swallows. Attached to the underside of the bridge are five new jug-shaped mud nests, each about the size of a large softball with a short neck at the opening. The bridge is located on a seldom-used gravel road and I stop occasionally to watch the swallows hunt insects over the river. It's relaxing to watch them gracefully glide among the overhanging green branches. Now, with 4-5 times as many birds, the experience is enhanced.
Inside a neighbor's barn there are four nesting pairs of Barn swallows. The seem to have no fear of the milker or milk-ees, and they come and go freely through the open barn door. I feel so at ease when I'm in the barn, knowing these beautiful birds have no fear of me. There is a new sense of excitement as the young barn swallows fledge from their bowl-shaped mud nests and fly up and down the center aisle of the barn. Twittering to each other, they fly about in a swirl of wings and long, pointed tail feathers. I've never known a farmer who didn't welcome these swallows to his barn.
At my house, barn swallows nest in the old machine shed. They fly about the yard and gardens, catching those pesky mosquitoes. Sometimes they land in the branches of a dead elm tree, or on top of a bean pole in the garden. The may sit and preen for a few moments before flying off again to satisfy their enver-ending hunger for flying insects.
Today I noticed a lovely male, perched on top of a blue spiderwort in the flowerbed. The beautiful combination of bird and flower inspired me to put them down on paper. I know my attempts to capture their natural beauty will never match the living vision, but it sure is fun to try. For me, drawing is like trying to capture a fond memory so it will last forever. My advice to beginning artists is not to worry about how good a picture is, but to savor the memory of the experience that inspired it. It's that inspiration that will encourage you to again be creative.
On the sandy walls of an abandoned gravel pit I've found a dozen pairs of Bank swallows. Their nests are inside small holds burrowed into the sand. These birds too are now showing their young the ups and downs of being a swallow. It's good to see that they were successful in raising their families; that means a better chance that there will be swallows here again next year.
In the small river town of Viola, family groups of Chimney swifts fly over the rooftops in tight formation. Unlike their cousins the swallows, swifts appear to have no tails — but you wouldn't notice by how agile they are in flight. By following closely behind the adults, young swifts quickly learn the best places to catch insects out of the air. The swifts' call, a trilled "chitter," adds to the pleasant ambience of this quiet little town as the birds fly over the streets and rooftops. The affix their small nests to the inside of a chimney where four to five young are raised until they are able to fly straight up and out into the bright world alone. During migration, scores of these birds may roost at night in a single large chimney. In the fall they will gather for days, forming a large whirlwind of swifts that can be seen each evening.
I have many wonderful memories of watching swallows and swifts, from the open barn door and from my favorite fishing hole along the river. I never tire of seeing these acrobats of the skies as the busily go about their lives. What would summer be without them?
All art ©2013 Organic Valley