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On March 17, Ranger Jean Rogers, Squizzle Plekavich and I put up 13 of the Reservation's 15 tree swallow boxes. The other two were placed in the Lusitania Wet Meadow on March 26. Box locations are shown on the accompanying map.
Boxes were monitored to prevent takeovers by house sparrows. The box in the Water Department parking lot planting bed became the site of a face-off between the swallows and sparrows (and their human observers.) When the sparrows appeared to have won, we took down the box and removed their nest. Later we put the box up again, after Reservation Supervisor Vince Falcione had narrowed the hole by attaching small pieces of wood above and below the opening. This apparently made the hole too small for even the swallows, so we experimented by removing one piece of wood, then the other, until eventually the sparrows gave up and the tree swallows moved in. Their nest appears to have been successful.
This year's nesting success rate has been about average for the Reservation. All of the 15 swallow boxes had typical tree swallows nests. Seven nests had clearly been successful, and three might have produced fledglings, although these had fewer droppings than are typical of a successful nest. The other five nests either appeared unused or had very few droppings. Three contained dead chicks, perhaps casualties of bad weather or inexperienced parents.
Boxes were taken down in August, and carried to the Water Department garage to be power washed, given a coating of linseed oil, and stored for the winter.
Chickadee boxes were checked in December, and any nesting material was removed. These boxes are left in place because black-capped chickadees begin their nesting process in late winter, when the ground is usually frozen, making it impossible for us to drive the supporting pipes into the ground. Chickadees, unlike tree swallows, are good housekeepers. They never leave their chicks' fecal sacs in the nest. Thus they provide few clues as to how many young they raised. They are also quite secretive while nesting, making it difficult for an observer to see them delivering food to the nest. The nests we removed this year were each made of a single material: two were made of moss, one of fine grass, and one of a white fur-like material that might have been the undercoat of a rabbit.
We do not know if the four screech owl boxes are being used. We are not at Fresh Pond at dawn or dusk when these owls are most active and might be visible in the boxes. This year we have not heard any reports of the boxes being used.
The two wood duck boxes have been set up in a small pond on the golf course where they are not visible to non-golfers during the nesting season. We have not heard any reports of the boxes being used by wood ducks or any other birds.
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