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On March 28,
2013, two volunteers and a water department staff member worked together
to put up the 15 tree swallow boxes in an annual rite of spring that
has taken place on the Reservation since 2004. Tree swallows were observed
inspecting one of the boxes on Monday, April 1. Soon the birds had claimed
all of the boxes, built nests, and begun raising their young. Tree swallows
are welcome at Fresh Pond because they feed on insects while flying.
They consume large numbers of the insects that like to feed on humans,
e.g. mosquitoes. We provide nesting boxes on the Reservation because
there are a limited number of natural nesting cavities due to the extensive
removal of dead tree snags.
In early July,
fledglings were observed on the dead branches of trees near Little Fresh
Pond. Because tree swallows in an region somehow are able to coordinate
fledging time, the sighting was an indication that the boxes were now
empty. They were taken down for cleaning and storage on July 10.
This year, judging
by nesting material, we conclude that every box has been occupied by
tree swallows. Ten of the fifteen nests appear to have been very successful,
and two more might have fledged one or two chicks. Any tree swallow
nest that has successfully fledged young is quite a disgusting sight:
it is covered with feces. Apparently the swallows do not carry away
their chicks' droppings as other birds do.
Of the unsuccessful
nests, in one we found the skeletons of very young chicks, another contained
a finished nest that looked unused, and a third, an incomplete nest.
Two boxes contained dead fledglings but may have fledged others.
Chickadee boxes will bechecked in December, and any nesting material will be 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.
Chickadee Boxes (2012)
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