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Well, the tree swallows that were nesting in the nest box right next to the front door have gone along their merry way. (I think I heard a parental sigh of relief.) Normally when baby birds fledge (i.e. leave the nest) you will see them around the yard for a few weeks, trying out their flying skills and begging food from their parents from every tree branch. Not so with swallows, who spend their lives finding food on the wing. I wasn’t there for the actual event, but I have a deep appreciation for a critter who, never having flown before, or even completely stretched out its wings in a small nest box with 3 or 4 siblings, makes that inaugural flight by leaping into the air, trusting to instinct that it will all work out just fine…and it does. I was able to capture these pictures a few days before the babies departed, when they were clearly getting big enough to be ready to go.

TreeSwallowFledgie

The yellow edge to their beaks, which all baby songbirds have, to my knowledge, is called a gape.

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This pheasant was a recent visitor to my feeders, cleaning up the spilled seed, along with the Junco on the right.

I have a background in Ornithology (the study of birds) almost by accident. When I went back to school in the mid ’90’s to get a degree in Biology, I was determined to come out of school with experience I could put on a resume (with my first degree, I had failed to do this, and I had learned my lesson). While looking for a summer job, I saw a posting for field research with the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, in the mountains of Arizona. The job was “nest searching”, that is, looking for the nests of birds, and monitoring them to see if they were successful. It paid a whopping $500 per month (it’s gone up considerably in the last 15 years) and we worked 12 days on/two days off (still the case today) while camping and living in tents. But most importantly, no experience was necessary. Sign me up. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Kleffner

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