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A Real Life Nursery Rhyme

October 28, 2015

Everyone knows the story of Humpty Dumpty – an ovoid-shaped character that one moment was sitting on a wall and the next was not. A real-life enactment of that happened at our house recently. WARNING, there is no happy ending.

DSCN0713For more than a month Welcome Swallows (Hirundo neoxena), pictured left, have been building a nest under our deck. Hirundo is Latin for swallow and neoxena comes from the Greek words neos meaning new and xenos meaning visitor. Those who have encountered these birds before will know that welcome is a relative term. The construction and subsequent occupation of the nest usually results in an enormous splatter of faeces on the ground below the nest. But for the sake of being able to watch ‘close-up’ the development of young swallows in the nest it was worth the mess. The nest was built on a horizontal PVC pipe. Looking down through the deck we counted four eggs and the parents were ever attentive on the nest.

IMG_1816On Saturday night a very large storm swept up the valley and on Sunday morning the nest was no more. Strewn on the ground were pieces of mud and unfortunately, broken eggs. It did provide a good opportunity to study how the nest was constructed. We all know that the swallow nest is built of mud. It is sometimes mixed with grass and carried by the beak-full to the construction site. (I sometimes think that wasps are smarter carrying their mud balls in their legs). What I didn’t realise was that the nests are lined with twigs, feathers and fur. Beautiful, if it stays attached to the wall.


IMG_1928The two parents returned to the failed nesting site for weeks after the incident. But at another nest site (pictured left) we may get a ‘Happy ever after‘ ending.

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