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Raising a barn swallow


Several weeks ago, as we were pulling out of the lane, I noticed a dead Cardinal in the road. I slowed the car to a stop and rolled down the back windows so Birdy could look out and see it. She is my #tinynaturalist and finds all things–living, dead, gross, beautiful–fascinating. I knew, even though the bird was a goner, she’d still love to take a few minutes to study it from her view out the car window.

This wasn’t one of my finer parenting decisions.

It turns out the cardinal wasn’t completely dead. But was most definitely experiencing its last moments on earth. Instead of giving my miniature scientist a fascinating moment to study, it was a little closer to emotional trauma. Ooops.


As we continued up the road she began to cry big, giant tears in the back seat. She’d always dreamed of finding an injured bird. Could we please come back this way and if the bird was still there, could she keep it?

I tossed out the idea to her that maybe it would be good news if we returned home to find the bird gone from the road. Wouldn’t this mean that it had survived and flittered away? (While I silently considering calling Dan to remove the what I now assumed would be dead-bird from the road.) But no. Health and healing was not what she hoped for. She hoped for an injured bird awaiting her care and comfort on the side of the road.

We did return that way. I never called Dan. (Another parenting miscue.) And we returned to find a small, red pancake in the middle of the road.


If you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat you are well aware of Birdy’s obsession with the natural world. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It is unwavering. And her acute awareness of her natural surroundings means she is constantly seeing and finding things that go unnoticed by the rest of us. She is always looking and discovering and in utter awe of the natural world around her.

So on Saturday–our major moving day, when we had nothing else to worry about in life–Dan rescued this little barn swallow from the dirt floor of the barn. Thanks, dear. Pushed from the nest or overly-zealous about lunch, it found itself on the floor of the barn, unable to fly and seconds away from becoming a prowling barn cat supper.

And so, in the absolute thick of the chaos of moving, I found myself outside at ten o’clock at night, with a flashlight, mason jar and paper plate catching crickets to feed to this new “project” perched inside an old bird cage on my dining room floor. Nevermind the fact that beds had yet to be set up or made at Waffle Hill Farm, a baby bird must eat.

We were pretty sure the barn swallow wouldn’t need us for very long. He looked just days away from learning to fly.


But here we are 150 mealworms and 27 crickets later.

He rides around on shoulders. In dress pockets. Sits on tummies, perches on fingers and phone screens and even spent some time outside in the bird bath today. This afternoon I found Birdy out back setting up her wooden barn with toy horses, her barn swallow perched in the little wooden window.

Maybe this bird is smarter than we think.

Free meals. Baths. A safe place to sleep. And plenty of attention. Little does he know, he’s making little Birdy dreams come true.

And eating approximately 150 meal worms every 4 days. I may not have food in my fridge, but I do have a small container of worms and a pair of tweezers. #Priorities

16 comments on “Raising a barn swallow”

  1. How do I love this? Let me count the ways:
    I love this for the photographs, so evocative and sharp.
    I love this for the narrative, so descriptive and real.
    I love this for the characters, a sweet, well-intentioned mom and a refreshingly tuned- in little girl.
    I love this just because I feel better for having read it.

    That makes 4 ways. Is that enough?

  2. What can I say? This is genetic. As your mother and the mother of your two sisters, all I can say is this is par for the course. You will be getting used to it.

  3. oh, molly…. this is all kinds of wonderful. it reminds me of some of the wonderful memoirs we’ve read about families who have taken in animals. (wesley the owl, the dog who wouldn’t be, and a year in the maine woods (by bernd heinrich, who i think had a tame flying squirrel)) it is such a gift to notice the natural world as birdy does!!! and these pictures?? so fantastic!!!

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