Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tree Swallow (juveniles)

Trinity Creek runs near our house, but only when there is sufficient rainfall to keep it flowing.  The pond that supplies the creek is low due to lack of rain.  The lack of rain accounts for the lack of mosquitoes, which is good for us, but not so good for birds that rely on insects for food. 

These four baby Tree Swallows, born somewhere nearby, have fledged, but are not yet self-sufficient.  They still rely on their parents to supply insects, as they seem endlessly hungry.  Mom and Dad travel from pond to perch continuously, but not fast enough for the four hungry mouths.

Still not capable of catching their own food and only strong enough for short flights, they mostly watch and wait.  When scared off their perch by a dog walker, they quickly returned because they’ve learned this is where the food arrives. 

While waiting, the four fledglings practiced their balancing skills with mixed results.

Whenever a parent flew by, even without an insect, the babies’ bright yellow-orange beaks would open in unison in hopes of a meal.

If the parent didn’t stop with food, the disappointment was noticeable.  The begging faded softly and their beaks closed slowly as the parent flew away.  Then it was back to waiting and watching again.  Thankfully, with two insect-hunting parents working continuously, the next meal was not far away.

By what appears to be random selection, one wide-open beak gets the bug, while the others lose out.  

This was a non-stop, air-refueling operation where the food was transferred in a split second on the fly to one gaping throat at a time. It was an air show worth admission, if it weren’t already free.

The Trinity Creek Wetlands Habitat supplies Trinity Creek, a tributary of the Milwaukee River. Reclaimed from drained cornfields years ago, it now holds rainwater for slow release.  That process recharges ground water supplies and provides habitat for fish and birds. Migratory waterfowl and songbirds pass through twice yearly.  This Tree Swallow family is a current beneficiary.   

June 28,2012