Swallows Nested Here At Riverby

by davidbunch - Date: 2010-07-23 - Word Count: 456 Share This!

White's 'Selborne' is both an immortal Nature classic and a most delightful book to read. Written more than one hundred and fifty years ago, it finds, as time goes on, new readers in every generation. Written with no thought of publication, being a series of letters to friends who were fellow naturalists, its enduring charm lives, not only in its Nature observations, but in the sincerity, honesty, and humility of spirit of White himself. This is a quaint, little, blue-backed, gold-bound volume, published by Ticknor and Fields in 1866. Since White had so much to say, and so many observations, about swallows and house martins, it was with both delight and anticipation that I observed, last summer, that a pair of barn swallows were investigating a building site in my shop.

Never in all the years had barn swallows nested here at Riverby; therefore, I almost held my breath as they flew in and out of the loft, evidently trying to decide. One day I was to be given the opportunity to study them; to compare my observations with White's; to learn to know them just as White had done so long ago. The swallows had started their nest upon a sharply slanting roof timber, thus, at first, the mud and nesting material they brought slid off. So, watching my chance, while they were away I quickly nailed a strip of wood on the lower edge of the timber to hold the nest and give them an absolutely safe foundation.

Although very likely this was not really necessary, it was a pleasure to help the little swallows, if I could. In speaking of this White says of the house martin: "As this bird often builds against a perpendicular wall without any projecting ledge under, it requires its utmost efforts to get the first foundation firmly fixed, so that it may safely carry the superstructure. On this occasion the bird not only clings with its claws, but also partly supports itself by strongly inclining its tail against the wall, making that a fulcrum; and thus steadied, it works and plasters the material into the face of the brick or stone. But then, that this work may not, while it is soft and green, pull itself down by its own weight, the provident architect has prudence and forbearance enough not to advance her work too fast.

Reading this statement in Selborne, I felt both amusement and emotion, because father had made a mark, writing on the margin of the page: "Other birds do the same." So it is quite likely that my pair of swallows would have secured their nest anyway. Nevertheless, much of the material they brought at first, before I nailed on the cleat, did slide off.

Related Tags: barn swallows, swallows nested, barn swallows nested, little swallows, time goes

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