Every Saturday I do a Junior Ranger progarm for children ages 6 - 12 to teach them a little more about nature, and help get them excited about it. Today's program was The Life of A Tree. The turn-out to the program was small, but that wasn't all bad. It allowed for more interaction with those who were there. We counted tree rings, examined holes in trees made from beetles, created our own tree rings and played a game with them. Everyone seemed to have a really fun time, and learned some things about trees and nature.
But that wasn't what these kids will remember and take home from today. When the program was over, we were waiting for a couple of girls' parents to come back and pick them up. So I took them on a little walk around the visitor center looking at swallow nests. We have two kinds of swallows with nests around the visitor center: Barn Swallows and Cliff Swallows. We talked about the differences between the birds and the types of nests they build. Several of the birds were learning to fly, and could been seen on tree branches, ledges and in the nests. We saw some really young birds that were still nest bound, mouths open, waiting for mom to come back with some insects.
After making our way around the building, a young Cliff Swallow flew in and landed right on the head of one of the girls. I gently lifted it off, and held it on my finger. It just sat there, not appearing scared, or nervous. The girlss were so excited. And it just sat there, as if that was where it belonged. Normally wild birds won't do something like that, so somehow this bird has gotten very used to humans. Which, while fun for us, could be bad for the bird. But we won't worry about that now. The excitement these girls felt at being so close to and touching a wild baby bird is one that they will never forget. Each wanted a chance to hold the bird. So they took turns holding it until it decided it was ready to fly away again.
Swallows can be very pesty. They nest over our doors, windows, and under our shelters and their droppings are very messy, and can get very stinky when it builds up. But I have a feeling, these girls will always have a special place in their hearts for these brids, and won't mind so much if their homes become the gathering place for several swallows.