Back in April, when I cleaned out all my bird nest boxes for the new year, I was saddened to discover one was filled with mummified corpses of baby tree swallows. What had killed their parents? It was upsetting to realize that last summer I passed this nest box every day while infants were quietly starving to death.
I hate these little tragedies. However, knowing how common they are in nature gives me a small (very small) measure of philosophical resignation to my own troubles.
In late May, a pair of bluebirds arrived and moved in.
I watched them as they built their nest, incubated the eggs, and then wore themselves out feeding a squeaking gaggle of demanding babies. (My camera is dead so these photos are taken with Lucy’s hand-me-down iPhone.) Here is the male resting from his labors.
And here is the female.
I have lightened this photo taken on a dark day so you can see Mama keeping watch while Papa feeds the children.
I drove in early one morning and was alarmed to find a raven sitting on the happy home.
Although I’m always pleased to see ravens, they are predators. I fervently hoped he had not been munching on my bluebird babies. Surely his beak was too big and the gate just a little too far away to give him a boost to the nest box hole.
I was greatly relieved to look down from the hayloft later and glimpse Papa back on the job.
Every day as I mowed the fields and mucked the barn, I watched the comings and goings of the dedicated parents. Last weekend a pair of tree swallows cruised by and caused a ruckus, the bluebirds telling them clearly and firmly, no, this house is occupied.
On Friday afternoon, however, I suddenly realized all was quiet. There were no more busy flights in and out of the box. The bluebirds were gone. The babies had fledged and flown the nest.
And I missed it. Rats!
The barnyard feels a little lonelier.