Romeo and Juliet would like to announce:
The impending arrival of four baby swallows! That Mating Ballet really worked after all. Kat, having a need to always know more, did a Google and learned that it may take up to 19 copulations to get the eggs fertilized.
Mom will begin to incubate the eggs after she has laid the second-to-last one of the average 3 to 8 eggs a swallow will lay, with 4 or 5 being the most common. How do they know when they have only one egg left to lay? She will stay on the nest for an average of 11 minutes, then leave to search out food or perhaps to exercise for an average of 9 minutes before she returns.
Quite often, while mom is taking a break, dad will stand guard, either on top of the nesting box or in the entry opening – when Mom returns, if dad is in the opening he will fly out simultaneously as she flies in. Amazing! She will incubate for 14 days, after which both mom and dad spend most of their time feeding the hatchlings until they fledge in 14 to 21 days.
Coming back from the city across the mountains the other day, we saw that mom and dad Osprey were at their nest with young inside. This is an annual bit of excitement for us – checking that nest which is, coincidentally (you think?) near the fish hatchery. It appeared there were 2 young in the nest, but I could not be sure and I had my little camera that I carry in my purse, not my camera with better resolution and longer zoom. Dad is not shown, but was on a cross bar on the pole that was below the nest. Standing guard, protecting his young, apparently.
Our hummingbird population has increased and the feeder area is becoming a bit frenetic sometimes, with old man Rufous out there trying to prevent any other hummer from getting a bite to eat. There is a chance, you know, that they will drain all three feeders dry and leave him absolutely nothing. This is the normal pattern – we start with a pair of Rufous and a pair of Calliope and then the numbers grow, which I interpret to mean the young have fledged and are joining their parents in the bid for food.
Each year I am impressed and amazed by the way the birds and for that matter all animals just know what to do. They just know what is needed to produce offspring and to nurture those offspring. Without any books telling them what to do! Can you imagine that? We humans have all kinds of assistance and sources of information available, but I’m not sure we do a better job of parenting than the birds and animals do. Admittedly, none of them parent for as many years as we do, so we do have a lot more time to make mistakes – as well as a lot more time to correct mistakes. Still, against the harshest of odds, with scores of risks familiar and not, they manage to reproduce and to survive. As did our ancestors – those stalwart pioneers who sailed the ocean to begin their lives in a new land, also against the harshest of odds with scores of risks.
Survival – isn’t it just the most amazing thing in the world?