Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Barn Swallows (Hirondelles rustiques) at SpruceHaven

     Most birders are aware that aerial insectivores of all species are in serious jeopardy and the decline in the number of some species is nothing short of catastrophic. 
    At SpruceHaven there is an old barn, a wonderful structure reminiscent of the farming practices of yesteryear, wherein there resides a substantial colony of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica. 

     It has been a thrill for me to see so many birds wheeling around in that classic Barn Swallow flight, zooming unerringly through broken windows and small gaps in the boards, so you can imagine my elation when Dave gave me permission to organize a banding operation for the nestlings, and contribute to the scientific database for this species. 
     I checked the nests each day and identified the active ones, clearly marking them as shown. I recorded the number of eggs in each nest and the precise hatch date.

     As it turned out one nest contained two eggs which I am convinced were a leftover from an attempted second brood from last year, and two nests only ever yielded one egg, abandoned for some reason almost as soon as a breeding attempt began. This left us with eleven active nests.
     Kevin Grundy, a bird bander with a current permit to band Barn Swallows agreed to assist us, and so it was that on 14 June we banded the first nestlings, eight days after they were hatched.

     Kevin has been banding birds since the age of thirteen and fitted in precisely with our code of ethics as regards the welfare of the birds. He is impeccable in respecting all appropriate protocols and places the well being of the nestlings above all else.
     His wife, Grace, came out to watch her husband perform this delicate operation, not without a sense of pride I am sure.

     The full clutch of birds from two nests was removed sequentially into a cardboard box and carried to our banding table for speedy processing.

     All the necessary measurements were recorded and the young birds were returned to their nests in record time.
     Dave, Sandy and Jamie, were keen and interested observers of the entire process.

     Kevin explained the procedure as he handled the birds and Sandy was anxious to capture the operation on her new camera.

     Dave was both interested in and fascinated by the activities and made sure that he was in a position to observe everything that went on.

     After the young birds were returned to their nests we checked on them before closing up the barn for the night to make sure that all was well. In both nests parents were feeding the young, now bearing their identifying leg bands.
     I would like to express a very sincere vote of thanks to Dave and Sandy for sponsoring and encouraging us in this venture and to Kevin for his instant willingness to contribute his banding expertise.
     All of the data will be submitted to the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Sprucehaven swallows will become part of the scientific data base to help Barn Swallows reverse their recent declines.
     The environmental and conservation ethic that SpruceHaven continues to demonstrate is an inspiration to us all, and a personal opportunity which I will cherish to the end of my days.


  1. Hi David.

    What beautiful that to do so with the nests and keeping the information of the Swallows.

    Groettie frome Patricia.

  2. Barn Swallows are (seemingly) common in both Japan and England, I'm surprised they're declining in your neck of thr woods..........

  3. Hello, I have never watched the banding of the birds. The swallows are so cute! Great post. Wishing you a happy day and weekend ahead!

  4. Hello. Great and valuable work you have done. Swallow's flight is a nice to follow.

  5. Dearest David,
    This was a successful mission and I'm glad the parents did come back to feed them. As humans we never want to interfere with their task of raising their young.
    When we do bike in the evening (for now it is too hot during the day) we love the bird songs we get on our way through the fields where nature is at its best with only farm lands in-between.

  6. Buen trabajo sobre la Hirundo rustica, Kevin está haciendo una gran labor. Me ha gustado mucho el reportaje mi amigo David. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  7. Beautiful birds, I once had the opportunity to take pictures around a nest.
    You, David and more birders all over the world do a great job by not only take pictures, but do observations and registrations as well, what these pictures show.
    Gr Jan W

  8. Hello David, first thank you for your well wishes for a nice time with my broer. At the farm of my brother a couple of barnswallows are also atemping to make a nest. I hope they will succeed. It is indeed bad for swallows to keep up their numbers and therefore good to reed that there are still old barns where they can make their nest. Great you coold be present at the ringing of the youngsters.

  9. Fantastic implication David for the Barn Swallow and others birds.
    It's right, their numbers tumble, it's important to help this wonderful little bird.
    Tomorrow in my blog, I publish swallow ;-)

  10. Very interesting and the bird has lovely colours.

  11. A ringer of birds, beautiful photos.

  12. Good work David. There is so much valuable information contained in all of your vists for both nest recording and the actual banding. Not to mention follow up visits to record fledging success?

    Here's to the second broods. I take it that someof your swallows can have three broods in an exceptionally warm, insect laden summer?

    1. Two broods is almost routine, Phil, but three is pretty rare. I will research the success rate of third broods but I suspect it is quite low.

  13. Beautifully portrayed David.
    You are doing a good job, my compliments.
    Nice weekend, Tinie greetings