I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.







Thursday, July 11, 2013

Residents in the Swallow Box

Last year we built and installed three swallow boxes around our house.  By we I mean mostly my husband, but we were all involved to a certain degree.  I think we put them up a little late in the season and did not attract any inhabitants.  This year a pair of swallows built a nest in the box decorated by my son.

 My father-in-law told us several cautionary tales of his trial and error with getting his swallow boxes just right.  If the hole is too big then it is too easy for predators to perch and stick their heads in, or climb in and use it for themselves.  If the box is too shallow, and they can get their heads in, they can reach the eggs or young ones.  A year or two ago there were some people who had a table set up at one of the Swan Lake Native Plant Sales.  I got my template for building the boxes from them.


Here is a link to their website How to Attract Violet Green Swallows, which shows how to make the oval hole - a key feature to keep out the house sparrow.  I have been watching the odd sparrow sitting on the garage roof checking out our swallow box.  So far, so good and I think the babies will be ready to leave soon.  Check out the page link that says Violet Green Swallows for some extra tips.










As you can imagine I have had a great time watching the different stages.  It started out with a pair hanging around in our cul-de-sac.  One seemed to sit as a sentry on the top of the street light in the centre of the cul-de-sac, while the other flew around gathering materials and flying in and out of the box.  I saw lots of pick ups from the driveway where the crusty, dried grass lay and one afternoon I threw a handful of dog hair on the grass after I had brushed our golden retriever.  I watched the swallow do several fly bys and eventually pick up a few pieces.  I went out later on and could see a clump of dog hair stuck to the edge of the box opening.







Eventually the nest building activity slowed down and I wondered if they had given up and decided to go elsewhere.  I saw few swallows around our house and most of them seemed to be hanging around at the beach about a 15 minute walk from our house.  I can say from experience that it is good bug territory. Not that I have tasted them, but I have been the victim of several mosquito bites.

About two weeks ago I was excited to see the swallows back again flying in and out of the box.  There was the unmistakable sound of noisy chirps from inside the box every time one of the adults flew close.  I spent some time outside on a couple of days trying to get some shots of them going in and out.  They are quick though, and it was certainly a challenge with many shots of the outside of a birdhouse with no birds in sight.   Also, I am pretty sure my neighbour thinks I am a nut for bending his ear about baby swallows with a giant, goofy grin on my face.  I usually spend a few minutes every day watching the adults fly in and out of the box and listening to the racket from inside.  I know it will not be long before they have fledged and moved on.









As for swallows in general, my bird book does not have an entry for Violet Green Swallows.  I am a little disappointed and will have to hunt around for a different book, probably one that focuses more on this region rather than the whole country.  I did a couple of internet searches and found pages with information about Violet Green Swallows, but at this point I am going to pack it in for night.  Differentiating between similar bird species is a job for a more awake brain.  I would encourage you to give building a swallow box a try.  It is not an onerous project and, if you do not enjoy simply watching birds, you can take comfort in the fact that these little guys will eat their fair share of bugs.












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