Sunday, September 28, 2014

Children and Barn Swallows - How to Approach Wild Birds, with Children's Books about Swallows Adele Barger Wilson, author of Bonding with the Barn Swallows
© 2014 Adele Wilson

Children who are able to grow up around Barn Swallows are fortunate indeed because these birds demonstrate quite a few virtues that can be applied to our lives as humans.  Among these virtues are resourcefulness, diligence, family devotion, vigilance, and community.  Others are hope and optimism.  In my book, Bonding with the Barn Swallows, I give examples, all set by Barn Swallow behavior, of these and other virtues, which I call "lessons".

This blog post offers guidelines or how to avoid alarming Barn Swallows when you or your children are near them.  In general, these guidelines can be followed for viewing many types of wild birds.  At the end of these guidelines is a list of books about swallows for children.

Children (and even some adults) need to learn how to act around Barn Swallows so as to not upset or alarm them. This can be rather challenging because Barn Swallows will swoop at people who are near their nests, or even near their babies after they have left the nest.  They will even swoop at people who are near a nesting site that they are planning to use.

If a Barn Swallow senses you as a threat, it will call its mate and friends, and you will have several swallows swooping toward you at once.  This is called "mobbing".  This can prove to be quite scary because human instinct dictates that, when we are being mobbed, we put our hands and arms around our face in order to protect our eyes and heads.

In order to teach children how to act around Barn Swallows, we first must learn how to do so ourselves.  I offer the following guidelines and rules: 

1.  The first step in learning how to act around Barn Swallows is to KNOW THAT THEY WILL NOT HURT YOU.  They will try to scare you by swooping near you.  However, I have never had a Barn Swallow make contact with my head or any other part of my body.  Perhaps that is because I have learned how to act calm and non-threatening while they are swooping toward me, but I have never read or heard of a Barn Swallow harming anyone.

2.  With the knowledge that you will not be harmed by any Barn Swallows, you can start practicing acting calm and neutral around them.  Under any circumstances, DO NOT FLAIL YOUR ARMS AROUND.  This will most certainly alarm the swallows and cause them to swoop at you more intensely.

3.  YOU SHOULD KEEP YOUR ARMS TO THE SIDES OF YOUR BODY.  The swallows will interpret any use or motion of your arms as your intention to attack them.  They will see your arms as wings and sense that you are a large bird preparing to prey on them.

4.  You should ACT CALM AND RELAX YOUR BODY as much as you can.  Swallows can sense the degree of tension in your body.

5.  You should MOVE SLOWLY, just as if you are under water.  The faster you move, the more threatening you will appear to the swallows.  If and when you are able to approach the swallow at close range, you should stand as still and statue-like as possible.  If you are using a camera, continue to go through the motions as usual, but do them as slowly and gracefully as you can.

6.  If you are with anyone, try to talk as little and as quietly as possible, and DO NOT USE YOUR HANDS OR ARMS WHILE YOU TALK.  Many people naturally do this, and for these people, talking without use of their hands can be challenging.  But it can be learned with practice.

7.  If you are alone (and this is the best way to approach any type of wild bird), TRY NOT TO TALK OR USE YOUR VOICE.  Sometimes I have tried to communicate to the swallows using a sweet, soft voice, and often I automatically resort to this without thinking.  But I have found it to have no positive effect, and sometimes it will even further scare the swallows.

8.  If a swallow swoops toward you and brings in other swallows that do the same, it is time to calmly and quietly leave the area.  This is not difficult because your instincts will dictate that you do so anyway.

9.  Assuming that the swallows have not started mobbing you, the last step does not involve your body.  Rather, it is a state of mind.  Try to CENTER YOURSELF IN A MEDITATIVE OR PRAYERFUL STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS and send Love to the Barn Swallow(s) who might feel threatened by you. This could even make a good first step if you can do it.

Here are six children's books about Barn and other types of Swallows:

Barn Swallows (In Winter, Where Do They Go?), by J. Clark Sawyer.
Easy-to-read story about a Barn Swallow who takes off for his migration south for the winter and joins many other Barn Swallows.  Reveals how migrating Barn Swallows survive the winter.  The author has written other children’s books about where animals go in the winter.
Henry the Barn Swallow, by Mary J. Wright.  A charming story of how Henry the Barn Swallow hatches out of his eggshell, gains the courage to fly from the nest, and discovers the people and pets of the house.  Henry then meets Marvel, a female Barn Swallow, and they feed and play together until it is time for migration.
Follow the Swallow, by Julia Donaldson.
Two fledglings, Apollo the Swallow and Chack the Blackbird, meet in the garden. Apollo tells Chack that he is practicing flying to Africa. Chack tells Apollo that the blossoms on a tree will be turning to orange berries. Neither bird believes the other, but, when fall arrives, everything changes and they become friends forever.

Swallows and Spiders: Two Stories in One! by Julia Donaldson.  First story seems to be a sequel to Follow the Swallow, with Chack the Blackbird needing to get a message to his friend, Apollo the Swallow, who is far away in Africa. Second story is about a spider, Spinderella, who wants to learn about numbers. Everyone else thinks she is silly, but then her Hairy Godmother steps in.

Song of the Swallows, by Leo Politi.  A child who resides at the Mission at San Juan Capistrano is told that the swallows return there each spring.  The child plants a garden at the Mission, hoping that a family of swallows will decide to nest there.
Swallows, by Charles L. Ripper.  For children who like to study nature, this easy-to-read book describes the Barn Swallow, in addition to six other types of swallows.  Each page includes an illustration, also by the author, revealing typical postures of the birds themselves or how they build their nests and forage.  Included are cross-section illustrations of the various types of nests that these birds build.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Barn Swallow Nomenclature and Books Adele Barger Wilson, author of Bonding with the Barn Swallows
© 2014 Adele Wilson

Although the name of this species is "the Barn Swallow", these endearing birds are just called "Swallows" in the British Isles.  In some other parts of Europe they are called "Smoke Swallows".  Here in America they are called "Barn Swallows".

There are different subspecies of Barn Swallows.  Our North American Barn Swallows comprise one of the subspecies. 

Barn Swallows exist on all continents except Antarctica.  They spend winters in Australia, but do not breed there.  After they arrive in Australia, it is summer there.  That is because the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere are the same as the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere.

Here are some books about Barn Swallows.  The first two were written by me and focus on the North American Barn Swallow subspecies.  The third and fourth include many detailed, scientific findings about this species of swallows as a whole.  The fifth book is about all types of swallows and martins, which belong to the same family.

Bonding with the Barn Swallows, by Adele Barger Wilson, paperback edition, 186 pages.  My close observations of both adult and baby Barn Swallows during the summers of 2011 and 2012 led me to a great deal of research and many discoveries, which are all included in the book.  Consisting of Parts I, II, III, and IV, the book includes 118 photos, many of which feature baby Barn Swallows.
This is the Kindle edition of Bonding with the Barn Swallows, by Adele Barger Wilson.  Consisting of approximately 86 pages, it covers Part I of the paperback edition, taking you through the summer of 2011.   It describes how the swallows built the nest, guarded it, and raised five cute babies in it.
The Barn Swallow, by Angela Turner.  Based on many years of scientific observations and research, this book is a treasure trove of facts about the Barn Swallow species and subspecies (or "races").  It also addresses some of the differences between the various subspecies, such as the North American and the European.
Sexual Selection and the Barn Swallow, by Anders Pape Moller.  Includes superbly researched findings on how Barn Swallows select their mates and the evolutionary implications of their selections.  Goes well beyond the subject of reproductive competition for its own sake by expanding into topics such as life history, foraging, migration, and geographic variation.
Swallows and Martins:  An Identification Guide and Handbook, by Angela Turner and Chris Rose.  There are many species of swallows in the world, with Barn Swallows comprising just one species.  All species of swallows are in the same family as martins, of which there are also many species.  This family of swallows and martins is called the Hirundine Family.  If you are interested in comparing Barn Swallows with other swallows and also with martins, this book is for you.  Included are sections for each type of swallow and martin.

In my next blog, I will feature children's books about Barn Swallows.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Barn Swallow Nests and Babies Adele Barger Wilson, author of Bonding with the Barn Swallows

© 2014 Adele Wilson

Why are Barn Swallows so comfortable being near people?  Well, for one thing, they have nested in the vicinity of humans for many years.  Around 30 BC Virgil wrote:
      … the twittering swallow hangs its nest from the rafters.

This means that people have shared their homes with Barn Swallows for over 2,000 years!  These delightful little birds actually prefer to build their nests where people live.  They appreciate our help in keeping predators away, and we appreciate them for consuming insects that fly around and pester us during the summer.

And their babies are so cute!

Photo copyright 2014 Adele Wilson

The babies pictured above were hatched in June 2014 on a nearby building on the property where I live.  During 2011 and 2012, I had Barn Swallow babies right outside my door -- fourteen in all!  You can read all about them in my book, Bonding with the Barn Swallows.

Would you agree that the two Barn Swallows pictured above are in love?  This was the scene that greeted me when I opened my door early one June morning.  The pair had built the nest with the help of their friends, and now they were ready to use it.  I like to call this picture "the honeymooners".  The mama-to-be is on the right side of the nest.  She ended up laying five eggs, and the book tells all about the five babies who grew up in that nest and what happened when they left the nest to be on their own.

And the story continues into the following spring.  The nest was used again, with more babies growing up in it.  Included in the book are many photos of both the babies and the parents.

In the book I write about my intimacy with a special male Barn Swallow.  I even named him!  He actually communicated to me twice, once by twittering and another time by body language.  His body language ended up being a prophecy because two days later, I discovered what he had been trying to tell me!

It's all in the book.  You can order the paperback edition from either Amazon US or Amazon UK.

The US link is:

The paperback edition consists of four parts, covering 2010 to 2012.  Part one is available as an ebook on Amazon Kindle.  If you live in the US and order it today, September 23, 2014, you can purchase it for only 99 cents!  That's right, only 99 cents!  But you will need to hurry because this price will be valid for only 24 hours.  On September 24, the price will go up to $1.99.  Each day the price will go up one dollar until it reverts to its regular price of $5.99 on September 28.  Here is the link:

Below is the link for the ebook in the UK.  Regrettably, it is not on sale right now, but will be in the future.  If you follow this blog, you will find out when it goes on sale.

If you love Barn Swallows, the following would make wonderful gifts for yourself or others:
Four Barn Swallows Sitting on a Perch
(White Background)
Peel and Stick Removable Wall Decal
18 inches x 10 inches
Juvenile Barn Swallow
Peel and Stick Removable Wall Decal
18 inches x 13 inches

Juvenile Barn Swallow
Peel and Stick Removable Wall Decal
24 inches x 17 inches

Barn Swallow by John James Audubon
17 inches x 23 inches
Giclee Art Print
Framed and ready to hang

All for now.  In future posts, I will share what I have learned about these precious little birds.