I spent a good part of my day today filming the Martins. Not a lot is happening. One bird is staying in the nest a lot and I think they have eggs but no evidence of new life yet.
Much as I want to watch the Martins this year it is very hard to ignore the other beautiful birds that are nesting just below.
Barn Swallows mate for life and they return to their old nests, sometimes. I am just going to believe that these are the same birds that left here last September, the birds that gave me so much enjoyment last year.
So here is a quick recap of what happened last year.
Fred and Rosa had three broods. The first was five birds and I watched and filmed them grow in the nest.
I was able to watch them take their first flights and then they were gone.
The second brood was not so successful. They all died and Rosa was distraught.
There was a call that she had made when she was encouraging her chicks to take their first flight. Calling her babies to her. I had previously only heard this on the day that they fledged but now it became her constant lament. It went on for about two weeks and she just cried all of the time.
There was a problem. I had picked up two dead chicks from under the nest and removed them. It soon became apparent (from the smell) that there was at least one more still in the nest that she couldn’t throw out. The nest was uninhabitable.
They went to work and they built a new nest on the opposite side of the passage.
Rosa had her third brood and it was just one chick. I don’t know if this was the right thing to do but she was happy again and it was so nice to see her happy and not to have to listen to her constant wailing. I think that Fred was relieved too.
The problem with a third brood is that even the second brood has a hard time with the migration, they have less time to prepare than the first brood. Her single chick fledged and that was in September and they all left just days after he had learned to fly.
I have since learned that not all of the Swallows go all of the way to South Africa. The RSPB report that a significant minority overwinter in Southern Europe so maybe he made it, we will never know.
And unlike the Martins she has got something in her nest. It is too little to see yet…
The first bird that you see on the nest is the female, that is Rosa. The second bird is Fred. The white sac that Fred removes from the nest is the evidence that they have at least one egg hatched.
Who’s a clever girl then?
You should really watch this next video full screen, just to see Rosa’s reaction to her hatchling.
Fred however is not so perfect.
The birds separate during the migration and in Rosa’s absence Fred has picked up a little something. I don’t think Rosa has noticed yet.
Again go full screen to see what is running around on Fred’s back.
Most birds suffer from some sort of ectoparasite. Most of them are so small that you wouldn’t know to look at the bird. These are quite big and Fred is going to have some trouble keeping them a secret from Rosa.
I know that it is a bit “yuk” but we are scientists and we have to observe these things and learn from them 🙂
BTW I don’t know what they are yet. If anybody does please tell me.
Edit (The next day): I think that I may have identified the parasite as Louse flies, Crataerina hirundinis and I am adding tags to this post in the hope of drawing more authoritative comment 🙂