Today is Thursday, June 29, 2017

Were You Raised in a Barn?

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Barn Swallow Babies

There was not a whole lot to be found this past Saturday morning as Anthony Gray and I went through the Cedars of Lebanon State Park on our usual bird foray. If we could have gotten a dollar for every cicada we heard, that would have paid for a nice down payment on a new car. I'm not sure what species of cicadas we were hearing, but the ones I have seen are big, green and ugly, a young girls nightmare, especially when one is crawling on them. Just imagine the screams.

Out through the woods towards Norene, everything seemed to be quiet again this week, until we hit the large tract of deciduous trees at the end of the Cedar Forest Forestry area. This week there was an Eastern Wood Peewee and of course, the resident Red-eyed Vireo. One old tree, that had been dead for several years stood out as the perfect haven for all types of Woodpeckers. There were small holes on some of the smaller limbs suggesting that most likely they had been excavated by our small Downy Woodpecker, which in turn would sub-lease it out to a pair of Carolina Chickadees the following year. Later some wind storm will snap the limb off right where the nesting hole is.

Larger holes down the trunk of the tree could have been drilled by Red-headed, or Red-bellied Woodpeckers. These old holes might have been commandeered the following season by a family of Great-crested Flycatchers, who might use the holes for many years for raising their own families. The largest holes in the tree were probably made by our largest, the Pileated Woodpecker. Eastern Screech Owls would find their size perfect for incubating it's eggs and raising their family in it.

Last week I talked about one of my favorite Swallow species, the Cliff Swallow. Another Swallow that I see all the way through the breeding season, especially here in my own backyard, is the Barn Swallow. It's bright Cobalt blue color on it's back with a tawny brown color beneath makes it a crowd favorite when flying in such precision chasing it's food on the wing. Nesting in barns and other out buildings all over the world is what gives this Swallow it's name. The Barn Swallow, ( Hirundo rustica ) has taken up residence right in the presence of us humans, and has taken advantage of the nice nesting facilities that have been constructed for them. Before the modern days, before we started to colonize the North American continent, these Swallows nested in caves and now they use man made objects exclusively for their nesting.

The nest is composed of mud pellets mixed with a little grass and a small ledge to perch on is constructed first. From this place to sit, the rest of the nest is added. Depending on where the nest is started, determines how the finished nest will look. If attached to a wall, the nest will only be a half circle, but if on top of a rafter, it will be circular in shape. The female lays three to six creamy white, spotted with brown, eggs which will hatch in 12 to 17 days. After another 15 to 27 days the brood will take to the air. Most of these Swallows will raise two broods here around Wilson County. Some of the ones in the first brood will help with the feeding of the newly hatched members of the second brood.

My Tree Swallows were a no show this spring, because my Bluebird family had already laid claim to the nesting box in my back yard. By the time I  had placed out another box, my Tree Swallows had already moved on. The same can be said for me, "if I snooze, I lose". I will be ready next year to accommodate both species of birds.

I would love to hear from you as to what's lurking about in your neighborhood and at your feeders. You can write me at 606 Fairview Ave., Lebanon, TN, 37087, or e-mail me at,

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Our Feathered Friends
Anthony Gray, Ray Pope
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