Dave Slaten has to take responsibility for this image. Much to the delight and incredulous reaction from numerous members of the aGathering group Dave somehow managed to convince me of the merits of purchasing a tripod – I mean, a guy can only stand so many blurry images before he goes mad!!
Actually there is another story behind this image. It surprised me with the intensity of the emotive responses it engendered within me. (This is really a boring wee tale but one of the ideas about posting our work was to catalogue how our images reflected who we were at that given point). Numerous swallows nest and live around our farmhouse. They usually don't make a nuisance of themselves except for a couple who nest above our kitchen skylight, building a clever construction that rests atop the curve of the spouting downpipe. It is cunningly positioned to avoid the blast of the wind, the sun and the searching, penetrating rain. Three young swallows filled it to capacity and I enjoyed watching them being cared for by the parents. Last years nest had been rooted out and lay in messy pieces on top of the skylight, hay and feathers sticking to the glass. I hate cleaning my windows and in recent years I have found a couple who come out and clean all my windows, inside and out, and I am able to avoid the fuming and resentment I used to hurl at the windows as they resisted my best attempts to make them sparkle. Last week when the cleaners came out I asked if the nest up on the skylight could be thrown down and the mess cleaned up under the downpipe. Communication is an interesting thing -When I asked for the nest to be thrown away I meant the discarded nest and not the new one atop the drainpipe and the cleaner thought I meant the new one. Imagine my horror when I discovered the smashed nest on the concrete below, one bird dead and the remaining two panting with distress as they lay in the hot sun. When the cleaner called down that it looked better now, I guiltily agreed with him, but inwardly I was mortified that I had been the agent of such a calamity. Secretly I scooped up the remnants of the nest, disposed of the dead fledgling, and put the nest in a shady spot.
After the cleaners had gone I bound the broken nest in a plastic bag, scaled a ladder up onto the second floor of the house and positioned the debris as best I could at the bottom of the downpipe. It would be sheltered from the sun and wind but not the rain. My head for heights has disappeared and manoeuvring around the narrow ledges nearly got the better of me.
Nesting swallows are very protective of their young, dive bombing any threat they perceive to their young – cats, magpies and people are all treated with the same ferocity. They also show extreme distress when they find their young / nest destroyed. I was feeling extremely guilty. The next couple of days were very cold and I thought the fledglings wouldn't survive, maybe the parents would be frightened off by the plastic bag fluttering around the base of the broken nest. However a wave of relief greeted me when I saw two gaping mouths and squirming bodies greet the adults. The rest of the week saw me pre occupied with tasks but the weekend brought a very cold rain and I knew the nest would be exposed. My mind twisted back and forward as I heroically determined that I should go back up onto the roof and try to find some way of protecting the nest and then the voice of caution told me that the steep slope on the roof would be treacherously slippery. What to do, what to do, I needed to make a decision. But time was running out, I had an appointment that had to be kept, it would take me all of the day to complete and it would be dark when I returned. I would just have to leave it, there was no more I could do.
The next morning was bright and warm yet I dreaded looking out the top floor window to see how the youngsters had fared. The nest was empty ! Water pooled at the bottom of the plastic bag. I felt rotten at the sight. The easily recognisable squeaks of adult swallows came in through the window on the other side of the room. I looked out and saw two fledglings, sitting on the top of the ridge of the roof, their parents dipping and swooping around them. Out with the camera, out of the previously unopened box came the tripod, no time to read operating instructions, set up, focus, select appropriate settings – enjoy the capture of the first flight. Bless the simple joys, cherish the moments you are given, love the life you have been given.