Lucky us – we have nesting swallows!

I’m happy to report that the good fortune of our house is assured for the summer at least. This is due to the presence of a little swallow family nesting in the porch by our front door. We did try to explain to them that it wasn’t the quietest of locations, but neither parents nor babies seem particularly disturbed by our coming and going. And so, we have the privilege of watching this little brood develop at close quarters.

Swallow nest in our porch

Swallow nest in our porch

These are barn swallows, Hirundo rustica, as most European swallows are. They’re known locally as Lastavice, arriving on Hvar during April/May, along with their close cousins, the house martins. Vrboska provides a very suitable habitat for both, having an ideal source of mud for nest building in the upper harbour, and plenty of flying insects in the surrounding fields. We really appreciate the birds’ help in keeping down the mosquitoes!

Proud parent

Proud parent

I’m learning to tell the difference between swallows and martins, especially in their home life. What I thought was a rather unfinished nest in our porch turns out to be the typical open-cup shape built by swallows. It’s high up in the corner of the wall, built from gobs of mud. This is in contrast to the house martins more enclosed nest with entry hole, tucked up under the eaves of many a village house. And while the martins may build a row of nests together, the swallows tend to be more individual. Though I do understand that the next generation likes to nest near where they grew up, and our porch does have four corners!

House martin nests for comparison

House martin nests for comparison

We currently have four chicks in our nest, as I’m sorry to say that we lost one overboard during the week. It seemed in fine shape and pretty well fed, but unfortunately had not survived the fall when we found it on the step. We gave that one a decent burial, and have set a camera to monitor progress on the others and try to keep them safe.

Eyes open

Eyes open

Looking at today’s photos, I see that the chick on the left has open eyes and a feathery halo on its head! And they all have gaping mouths when Mum or Dad arrives with food, as they do often throughout the day.

Feeding frenzy

Feeding frenzy

For swallows, eggs typically take between 14 to 21 days to hatch. The newborns are naked with closed eyes, which take up to 10 days to open.Within 17-24 days these babies will fledge, but will still hang around the nest site to be fed by Mum and Dad for a while. More photos to come.

To be continued as things develop…

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