THE HOUSE THE SWALLOWS BUILT

It is an annual event: each summer the Lesser-striped Swallows arrive. They wheel about the sky, swooping and weaving, sometimes low on the ground or whizzing through the gaps in the trees with keen precision.

Hot, dry days and weeks go by before the first rains fall. Not long after that, a pair of swallows perch on the electric cable and twitter to each other as if discussing their building plans for the year. They do this every year. Then the slow, laborious process begins of bringing blobs of mud, one beakful at a time, to build and shape their home. Blob by blob – no hands to help; no wheel-barrows; no ready supply of mud either.

Progress is painstakingly slow. The different sources of mud are evident by the different colours that emerge as the mud dries. See the picture of their nest in the entry on NOVEMBER 2014 GARDEN BIRDS. That clearly shows how the angle of their nest has changed over the seasons. This summer I was sure they had got it right: it looked so sturdy and snug.

I have observed the swallows collect nesting materials such as fine grass and small feathers gleaned from the garden and elsewhere. For some time I have been certain that the eggs were being incubated. Then I felt sure that they must be feeding their young and was looking forward to seeing the little family increase, as they do every year, and sit on the cable in a group of three or four.

At seven o’clock this morning I went outside and automatically looked up at the house the swallows have built. It took a second or two to register the horror … it was no longer there! Only the palest outline on the eaves suggest that anything might have been there.

I looked down, horrified to see that beautiful nest smashed to tiny particles of dust. The lining was intact: a curved collection of soft materials as mentioned above. Even worse … a tiny naked fledging was already being eaten by ants on the concrete slab while the parents twittered on the cable high above.

By the time I returned with the camera the fledgling had disappeared. The parents are still on the cable twittering as they always do. Are they contemplating starting the whole process all over again? What a cruel thing to happen.

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3 thoughts on “THE HOUSE THE SWALLOWS BUILT

  1. So sad… the swallows nest in my neighbours’ eaves every year. We watch them from an elevated position on our stoep – and watch with horror as the swifts attack them so they can take over the nest! My gardener was in tears the other day as he witnessed a jackal buzzard kill a Loerie in mid flight. He’d been admiring the Loerie pair as they flitted from tree to tree and was so upset when this ‘big, big bird fell like a stone “DWAH!” out of the sky’ – i know have Loerie feathers in my kitchen. I am so grateful to find your lovely blog. We share so many interests. I will be following you 😉

  2. What is rather distrurbing since the destruction of the nest is that only one of the Lesser-striped Swallows now perches on the cable. I keep wondering what happened to the other one and will keep a sharp lookout.

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