Theler barn swallows

I'm jumping the gun just a bit, changing my header photo to showcase one of my favorite birds. But I can't wait for the swallows to arrive at the farm. The violet-green swallows move in first, and take over the orchard nesting boxes. Then the barn swallows arrive, where they set up housekeeping in (appropriately) the barn. Or at least what passes for a barn here...  a huge old machinery shed where we keep the tractor, my stock of driftwood for walking sticks and other branches for rustic fences and furniture, our now-running 1977 GMC pickup, and where I once stored hay for the horses. The swallows usually build their nests on top of the light fixtures that hang from the roof, or on top of the long beam that holds up the front of the building.

Birds at the farm have no trouble finding nesting materials. They visit the farm next door for feathers from the chicken coop, and tail hair from the palomino gelding in the paddock... and there are plenty of twigs and dried grass in everyone's fencelines. The birds even bring peacock and other exotic feathers from the aviary that's near the creek. It's always fun to inspect the nests once the babies have flown away into the world, just to see what materials they chose. I used to save horse hair after grooming my mare, and when the swallows flew in and out of the barn, I could hold up a handful of hair and they'd snatch it out of my hand.

The barn swallows in this photo don't live near the pond at the farm. They were photographed at the Theler Wetlands in Belfair, a wonderful nature preserve at the tip of Hood Canal. We'd taken my sister and brother-in-law there for a long walk on a summer afternoon, and this pair of swallows charmed us by flying to the railing at one of the overlooks, and sticking around for a preening.

I'll post more on the wetlands soon. It's one of my favorite places.

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