Swallow

May 20, 2021

As I entered the office door at work for the last week, I have been madly dive bombed by a barn swallow.  I am usually in a hurry as they whizz by and I did not pay them any attention.  Last Monday was different since I had to go in early.  I had left both computers at work, and I was not going to get anything done without them.  I knew once I got my essential work done, I would have extra time, so I had brought my camera to see if I could get a photo of a new bird.  I had forgotten about the swallow, but as I approached the door, he made his presence known.  While the barn swallow is an open country bird, they normally use man-made structures to breed and consequently spread with human expansion.  It builds a cup nest from mud pellets in barns or similar structures and feeds on insects caught in flight.  If you do not mind the nests and the droppings, they are a win/win.

When I looked the swallow up online, I found the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) is the most widespread species of swallow in the world.  It is a distinctive passerine bird with blue upperparts and a long, deeply forked tail.  It is found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.  There are six subspecies of barn swallow, which breed across the Northern Hemisphere.  Four are strongly migratory, and their wintering grounds cover much of the Southern Hemisphere as far south as central Argentina, the Cape Province of South Africa, and northern Australia.  Its huge range means that the barn swallow is not endangered and is the most widely distributed and abundant swallow in the world.  This makes it familiar to birders and nonbirders alike.

Since I had brought my camera to capture pictures of birds, I thought this would be a good try.  The problem was the swallow was so fast I could not get a picture.  I switched to my phone to give me a greater range of view, but still I struggled.  The swallow was just too fast.  I started focusing on one spot and snapping the picture every time the swallow seemed to come into my viewfinder.  I probably took 20 shots and could never be sure I got one that showed the bird.  By then, I had run out of time and needed to go to work.  When I checked later, I found I had gotten a photo of this speedy swallow.

Thoughts:  I began to wonder about the bird divebombing me around the entrance of the office.  I know the swallow is territorial, so I began to look around the roof overhang on our front door portico.  Sure, enough, there was a mud nest wedged between the roof line and the light.  There are frequent cultural references to the barn swallow in literary and religious works since swallows live near humans and have an impressive annual migration.  The main myths concern the weather.  I always find it interesting how humans attribute mystical powers to animals to make predictions.  We have used them to predict the weather (Punxsutawney Phil?) and the future (scapulimancy?).  Perhaps we should just enjoy the wonder of nature and realize it rarely is about us.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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