I have never seen anything grow as fast as baby Mexican cliff swallows. We have a mud nest under the corner of our front porch. We sit on the other side of the porch to avoid being strafed by the parental units as they swoop in and out, feeding the chicks. At first we couldn’t see anything in the nest. We’d stand up on a chair, watching both ways for the parents, and take pictures down into the nest with our cell phones. We could barely interpret the results, maybe a little yellow V-shape was a baby bird beak? Now, a few weeks later four fat little bodies are perched shoulder to shoulder on the edge of the dried clay nest waiting for their mom, dad, or aunt or uncle to bring Cliff Swallow bug tacos!
Watching these birds reminds me of the air to air combat scenes in the movie “Top Gun.” Amazing aerial feats performed by these birds, sometimes appropriately referred to as swifts, delight us as they sweep up tiny invisible insects to carry back to the nest. I can almost imagine a radar heads up display zeroing in on a mosquito.
“Ten-four, Goose, I’ve got an Aedes Egypti in my pipper, about to squeeze off a round, over.”
They come in at night and perch on the thin strip of metal under the cornice, and in the morning we find dots of crusting guano, white with black centers, on the porch floor under the nest. Remember from geography class in fourth grade how guano was mined in Chile to be used as a powerful fertilizer? Wonder if I should scoop it up onto the nearby rose bush. Anyway, I guess that Saint John may have been right,we maybe ought to eat bugs. Look at what they do for baby cliff swallows!