Friday, April 20, 2012

The nesting instinct

Tree swallows returned to this part of the continent back in February with a strange warm spell that had many people going round in tee-shirts and shorts. These two decided that one or other of these two nest boxes would be home when it comes time to build their little cup of grasses lined with feathers.

They perch on nearby trees, or on top of the boxes whenever I walk to the north end of my property. There are two other nest boxes nearby but hidden from a direct sight line. Apparently tree swallows don't like to have close neighbours. Though when I first moved here and the boxes were installed by a friend to entice bluebirds, they were content to defend both boxes allowing bluebirds to nest close by, but not other swallows.

This pair, after trying to chase the dogs and me away, settles on one box. And watches us carefully, bristling at any movement from us.

It's three and a half hours after I tried loading a video of this pair of swallows sitting on the box then launching into blissful flight. It was only 45 seconds but the whole thing failed after loading only 50 percent of it  - so I obviously have to acquire more RAM or learn better techniques. But in the meantime I'll finish this story.

Tree swallows are notoriously territorial. They guard their nest boxes fiercely. There are 13 such boxes on my property and one has a blue bird's nest in it - new in the past week. I discovered it two days ago when I noticed about eight swallows dive-bombing a wee blue bird. The birds are about the same size, but eight to one seemed insurmountable odds... however the bluebird just moseyed off to a near by pine and returned to sit on "his" box a bit later.

I'll try and get some photos of that nest - which is very different from swallows' nests which are shallow, constructed of grasses and weeds and lined with feathers. Blue bird nests are tall and made entirely of fine grasses woven together in an intricate circular pattern. I'm hoping Mister and Missus Blue bird will have a successful nesting this year. Usually there is at least one every year. They are beautiful little birds with a soft low call, once drifting towards extinction, they seem to be on the increase again.

Hope you get to enjoy some activity in nature today and this weekend.


  1. We have a lot of tree swallows in these parts. It seems as if they all comeback (and leave) on exactly the same day. Given the terrible bat decline, there insect predation becomes even more important in maintaining a natural balance.

  2. Yes Wild Bill there has been a drastic decline in bats everywhere, I used to have two that would visit first thing in the spring and always let me know they were around... they lived in my drive shed roof. I didn't see both last year, only one. I'm hopeful that just maybe one or two have survived, there used to be several families in that roof. So I'm pleased to have swallows around... we've done a great job upsetting Nature's balance haven't we?

    1. Yep. So much I cannot stop thinking about it!