These are Barn swallows. I took these photographs in Phippsburg while sitting in my car. I could have watched them all day, but did not. I realized that sitting on the side of the road, though not talking on a cell phone made me look like a stalker or a cat burglar casing homes. I didn't even have a cell phone with me, nor lunch, nor anything else that could explain what I was doing had I been asked. I only had a suspicious looking camera with a long lens and a couple of waterproof field notebooks. All together, it was an assemblage of possibly circumstantial looking evidence that did not look good for me. So, I moved on.
The maneuverability of the adult birds in flight was spectacular. Barn swallows don't fly all that fast, only about twenty miles an hour. But, they can dip, turn, dive and spin to catch insects in midair. About seventy percent of what they eat is big flies as seen in the bottom photos. They do eat other insects and will pick ants from the ground, too. I have photographed Barn swallows before and written about them, as well (in the previous post about them I had mentioned Michael Jackson, too. According to some readers, that would be another tick against me in the negative column for a jury). Their grace and socialness fascinate me. I have read that they practice mutualism with osprey. I've never seen this, but apparently they will build their nests under that of an osprey taking advantage of the bigger birds protection of their own nest from other birds of prey, like eagles, owls and falcons. The osprey benefits by the swallows alarm calls when there are predators nearby. I am guessing that the flies that accumulate near an osprey's nest from rotting fish parts are attractive to the Barn swallows, too. A little house keeping seems like a good trade for protection from gangsters on the block!
Barn swallows nest twice a summer. Their clutch success rate (sounds like points a woman gets for buying a really good handbag!) is about 80% unless it has been a cold, rainy year. This keeps the insect counts down and thus, the food availability. That happened in Maine last year when June had record breaking precipitation. Anecdotally (I don't know if ornithology data supported this), people reported fewer swallow chicks. The chicks fledge about twenty days after hatching. Then, after they have left the nest, they are fed for about a week by the parents. Sometimes, the first brood will assist in feeding of the second! Both parents feed the young. Lady Barn swallows like guys with longer tail streamers (the tail feathers on either side of the notch). If a male is missing his tail, he may be a helper assisting in nest building and feeding rather than breeding. Now is that cordial or what?
"Cool move, Mom!"
"Hey! What about me? That one looks really juicy!"wikipedia for some of the information.