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The Fresh Pond Reservation Nesting Box Project began in March of 2004 with a Friends group program where four nesting boxes for tree swallows were assembled. A year later we built four boxes for chickadees and other small cavity-nesters. In 2008 the Cambridge Water Department came on board: their carpenters made us 11 more boxes for tree swallows. They made an additional seven boxes in 2010, three for wood ducks and four for screech owls. Twenty five of these boxes (one wood duck box was stolen) are now set up around the reservation.
The tree swallow boxes are taken down in the fall for cleaning. Tree swallows are notoriously awful housekeepers, and by the time the babies are fledged, their nests are filled with feces. We remove the nests, wash the boxes with bleach, and store them for the winter. In March, before the swallows return from their winter quarters in the south, we put the boxes up again, with screen predator guards to keep out marauding chipmunks and raccoons. In recent years we have seen the birds hovering over us as we put up the boxes. They apparently remember their previous year's accommodations, and are anxious to move back in. Volunteers monitor the boxes, but we no longer open them to check on the eggs and babies as we did in the beginning. Although this practice does not appear to disrupt the rearing of young, it clearly upsets the birds, as well as the inspectors.
This year's results from the tree swallow boxes appear to be about average. All fifteen boxes contained nests, nine of them successful, as evidenced by the quantity of feces in them. Three contained unused swallow nests, and one was stuffed with sticks but not used as a nest (behavior typical of house wrens). One box was used by chickadees, apparently successfully.
The four boxes
for smaller cavity-nesters contained three (or perhaps four) apparently-successful
nests. Two had twig nests typical of house wrens. One of them was built
atop a nest made of pine needles. It is not known whether the needle
nest was complete or successful, or what kind of bird made it. One box
contained a typical black-capped chickadee nest that looks as if it
had been used.
not been observed in the four boxes made for screech owls. These birds
emerge from their cavities in the evening, when low light conditions
make observation difficult, and occurs after the official "closing
time" for visitors on the reservation. The two wood duck boxes
are now set up in North Pond on the golf course, an area that is off-limits
to non-gofers, and where they are not visible to us from the perimeter
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