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Fresh Pond Reservation
Reservation Supervisor Vince Falcione, of the Cambridge Water Department, and volunteer Elizabeth Wylde put up ten of the Reservation’s fifteen tree swallow boxes on April 2. There was still snow on the ground, but the soil had mostly thawed, and Vince was able to use a metal rod to make holes for the pipes that support the boxes.
During a bird walk on April 4, participants saw a half dozen tree swallows, the first of the season. Several were flying above Box 8 at Black’s Nook, and one was sitting on a branch above Box 9 near Sousa’s Rock. On April 6, Vince put up the remaining 5 boxes.
Swallows were observed on and in many of the boxes during the nesting season. On July 16, all fifteen of the boxes were examined (see Nest Box Monitoring Sheet), and the eleven that were no longer being used were taken down. In the remaining three boxes, adults were still on the nest. These boxes were left in place until mid-September, when Vince took them down. Although the contents were not evaluated at that time, we can optimistically estimate that several might have been successful.
Even without counting the three late boxes, we consider a season with nine successful nests as good as average. Most tree swallow broods produce 4 to 6 fledglings, so we may have helped the tree swallow population grow by somewhere between 36 to 54 birds. These birds migrate south after the nesting season and return to the same location the following year, so we may see some of this year’s fledglings next spring.
The Tree Swallow Nesting Box program was started in 2005, with four boxes made by Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation volunteers. A few years later members of the water department’s shop made the remaining eleven.
After the boxes are taken down each year, they are power washed to remove debris, parasites, and germs. They are then stored in the water department garage until the following spring, when they will be put up again.
December 3, 2015
Tree Swallow Boxes
Summary: 9 boxes contained used tree swallow nests that appeared to have been successful
3 boxes still had adult tree swallows on chicks or eggs
1 box contained an empty house sparrow nest
1 box contained an unused tree swallow nest