Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Final Barn Swallow Update

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After losing three chicks to the heat, I was hoping the swallow hen could keep her other two alive. It didn't work out that way. A few weeks ago, I was outside when one of the chicks decided to try to fly. It didn't get far and landed on our deck. It was immediately grabbed by a lightning quick cat! The cat grabbed it and ran out of reach under our deck. There was nothing I could do to help the poor creature. When that one started crying out, the other flew from the nest and landed hard on the deck! It must have been worn out or very afraid because it couldn't take off again.

I was able to rescue it before the cats got to it, but it was a close call! While we had named the two remaining chicks in the nest, we ended up calling the sole survivor "Chip." "Chip, chip, chip!" is the sound it made. 

I have been trained to feed baby birds and have done this quite a bit in the past. Previous experience told me this fledgling only needed a little time to gain in strength. I also knew the parents would hang around for it. We let the little one practice flying in a room of our home. Once it was able to circle the room a few times without resting and could accurately reach high places we knew Chip would be beyond the cats' reach.

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When I knew she was ready, I asked my family to round up the cats. Then, I took Chip outside and got it to perch on my finger. Its parents heard and came to sit on the wire near us. I lifted Chip up as high as I could. The baby bird sat there while it oriented itself and then flew to the parents who were calling. Oh, the JOYFUL chirping of the reunion was wonderful to hear! They were so happy to have their baby back!

I have never seen a fledgling being taught by its parents before. As Chip learned to fly in the big world, they flew under her. One was on each side and directly below her wings. When Chip would get tired and dip, they would chirp encouragingly and the fledgling would pull up higher. They circled over my head a few times while doing this and then flew off. I figured that was the end of our swallow guests.

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I see Chip and the parent birds every day now. They seem thankful for the help. Sometimes a swallow will fly low over me chirping happily. Sometimes they sit on the wire and chirp at me for a while, or they will fly around in the front yard until I walk outside and say hi to them. I can rest in the hammock, and they will sit there and watch me. Other times, I can go outside and call "Chip, chip, chip!" and they come from wherever they are and circle around a few times. 

One day this week, Chip came back and spent about forty five minutes sitting on the power line watching me grill food for our family. I'd talk to Chip, and Chip would chirp back at me. I've also noticed the birds seem to recognize the sound of our car coming home. I knew our dogs could hear it long before our human ears could, but it seems the wildlife pay attention to that too.

I will miss the barn swallows when they leave this fall, but will look forward to their return every spring. If God allows, I will be outside next spring when the swallows return saying "Chip, chip, chip!" From start to finish, the swallows have been a very neat experience and an encouraging reminder of God's love. 

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Chip (bottom) and her parents sitting on the line over the deck.