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Tuesday, 14 July 2020

American Cliff Swallow at SpruceHaven

     On a visit to SpruceHaven two days ago, where both Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have had a very successful breeding season, I was astonished to find an American Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) busily engaged building a nest inside the barn.


     My astonishment was triggered by two aspects of this behaviour, firstly that new nest construction is underway in mid July, and secondly that the nest is being built in a very active Barn Swallow colony. This is the first ever nest of Cliff Swallow at SpruceHaven, and the first record of this species there.  If it has previously passed through on migration, it has been unrecorded.
     American Cliff Swallows usually nest on the outside of buildings, but frequently the surfaces are deliberately rendered unusable, such as by spraying silicone for example, to prevent the nest from adhering. Large colonies are found under bridges, but as old bridges are renovated or replaced, ancient colonies are destroyed. This happened at the Fountain Street bridge in Cambridge which was closed for a couple of years for major repairs. A colony that I watched for years disappeared.


     The species is not doing well, so it was especially encouraging to witness a new nest under construction. Cliff Swallow is a colonial species, but there obviously has to be a first nest to start a colony, so perhaps by next year others may join. The prospect of a mixed colony of Barn and Cliff Swallows is heady stuff indeed.


     I am left, as I so often am, with a profound sense of privilege to monitor the wildlife at SpruceHaven. It is as exciting an opportunity as a naturalist could wish for. 
     The grassland restoration is coming along wonderfully and in my next post you will be able to see the wonders that are happening there. If only pictures would download and edit themselves!

73 comments:

  1. heh heh if only pictures acab download and edit themselves!!!Yes it takes time to do so!!

    Ilove that swallow!so interesting what you are telling!It is good to see them breed though!

    Here the barn swallows cant decide if they shall fly high or low..You know the weather!But right now I see them flying so fast one can not take a picture of them.Looking forward to you next post!

    Greetings Anita

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  2. Hi David, that is really exciting news to have 'newcomer' I hope the nest will not remain alone, but that others join it sooner or later - preferably sooner! Let#s hope you will continue to observe such happy finds as this one. Have a great day, hugs to you and M, Valerie

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  3. Very beautiful birds ... and very noisy! LOL
    This species is larger than a house swallow?!
    Have a nice day!

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    1. Actually Cliff Swallows vocalize very little, unlike Barn Swallows where there is constant chattering!

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  4. How exciting David! Hopefully this will be the start of a new colony in this area.

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    1. If ever you are in Waterloo, Karen, let me know ahead of time and I can give you a tour of SpruceHaven if you are interested.

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  5. Nice picture taken in the nest under the roof.

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  6. This is great news David and I hope a good start for a new colony next year. I hope that this nest will do and bring some youngsters.
    It's nice that this species is a new species for SpruceHaven and you can do the follow up I think.
    It's a lovely swallow aswell.

    Best regards,
    Marianne

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  7. Cozy nest! Looks like Cliff Swallows have learned to adapt, as we all must do, in order to survive. :)

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    1. i am not sure that one nest represents "adaptation to survival."

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  8. That bridge being re-constructed was a pain in the rear for me, I didn't know it also destroyed a Swift Swallow Colony, what a shame. I do hope a new colony will start at Swifthaven. I hate to see any species not doing well.

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    1. You seem to have "Swift" on your mind today for some reason, Jo. The birds are Cliff Swallows and the farm is called SpruceHaven.

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  9. The houses where they make this kind of nests are quiet houses, which have an area rich in trees.

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  10. ¡Precioso! Mi querido amigo, una nueva colonia de especie instalada en el granero. Vas a disfrutar de lo lindo con ello y probablemente el año próximo igual tienes más visitantes. Enhorabuena, por esa gran labor que desarrollas mi amigo profesor.
    Recibe un fuerte abrazo de tu siempre compadre y amigo Juan.

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  11. Hello David! I love Swallows! I really enjoy watching them flying up of our heads every morning at the beach,chasing for flies! So difficult to take a photo! Stunning pictures! Have a lovely week!
    Dimi...

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  12. How wonderful. That would have been a truly exciting discovery. I hope that this is indeed the 'first' of colonies to come.

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  13. Delighted to read this post and I can guess how excited you are having seen this, The swallow looks very big or is it just you are well zoomed in? It seems very late for nest building but hopefully something will come of it. Good luck and looking forward to further news. Diane

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  14. Nice captures of the bird in the nest.

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  15. Spectacular photos David. It must be very interesting to follow their moves from so close.

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  16. We should all take note of the Cliff Swallows and possibly adapt our lives too. Swallows are and Swifts are some of my favourite birds. They always seem like little messengers of hope when they first arrive here from Africa.
    Where do your Swallows spend their winter months?

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    1. There are seven swallow species in North America (I think I have remembered them all) and they winter from the very southern part of the USA to northern Argentina depending on the species.

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  17. Lovely to see these swallows ...

    All the best Jan

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  18. How unusual. At least to my knowledge. Cliff Swallow nesting in a Barn Swallow colony? Is this something you have observed before?

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    1. In my personal experience, the answer is no, Dorothy. However, in another barn that I used to monitor there were a couple of old Cliff Swallow nests, but only Barn Swallow occupants, and I have no way of knowing whether they were ever co-occupants.

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  19. Well, a warm welcome to the new colony of Cliff Swallows. May others soon join them!

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  20. What a lovely bird. And how exciting to see this very beautiful nest being built. It is such a good sign for the Cliff Swallows. I think they will find a peaceful home that will attract others. I hope so.

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  21. Wouldn’t that be interesting if the cliff and barn swallows were in the same place?

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  22. how wonderful to see the Cliff swallow. It is, as all of them, beautiful and interesting bird. I have not seen it in person, but I seen them in some nature program. :)

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  23. Hi David what a beautiful bird the Cliff swallow is and how fascinating to be able to watch them hope you have a lovely day

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  24. The cliff swallow is a beautiful bird!

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  25. I fail to understand why some people dislike the wildness of nature so much. Silicon on walls? Really? And was there no way of working around the bird colony beneath the bridge? I guess I am not that progressive, I much prefer wilderness to a manicured landscape. But I am happy to see this swallow establish itself, and hopefully next year there will be more of them :)

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  26. A very interesting post. I saw my first barn swallow a couple of months ago. You do such good work.

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  27. Buenas noches, querido amigo! como estas? from here can hear the birds singing, yes clearly! and how much patience they have to make the nest, it´s fine art ..! beautiful pictures in every way possible, so divine these swallows, i find them nice and beneficial. Such a nice and prolific is this time in Canada!
    Wishing you have a wonderful time with your loving family i say goodbye delighted
    Hugs, from Argentina

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  28. A snug little nest she has there.
    Merle ................

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  29. Trying to survive I expect is the Barn Swallow but would be a surprise to find them there.

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  30. Lovely!
    Swallows are always a welcome view.
    Have a nice day!

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  31. Hello David,

    I'm a little late with my comment here, but I have been so busy. Beautiful photos of the swallows! It's a lot of work with photos, and I know all about it. Still you take wonderful photos to share with us. Thank you!

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  32. Super, j'espère que l'année prochaine il y'aura d'autres nids!
    Bonne journée

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  33. Hi David.

    Beautiful species of the Swallows is this.
    Great that it will nest there.

    Greetings from Patricia.

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  34. Hello David, what amazing news is this. I do hope next year you will discover more of these birds that will come to breed. Reading that because of restorations a whole colony of this birds is destroyed is something to shed lots of tears for. Thinking of all the effort these birds make to fly to their breading ground and all for nothing. I do hope they found some new place to bread. Making a blog is indeed lots of work and it made me smile reading your comment of wishing the photos would instal themselves. It is a lot of work indeed but so much rewarding when the blog is done.
    Take care and warm regards,
    Roos

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  35. What an exciting, and encouraging, discovery, David! I hope that your wishes for this presence to expand into a colony are fulfilled. Fingers will be crossed, I'm sure.

    The person that comes up with self-processing and editing photos will make a fortune - I, for one, am fully aware how time-consuming the process is. If I had to put figures on it, I would guess that each hour spent in the field with a camera resulted in approximately a further five hours at the computer prrocessing the photos.

    My best wishes to you and Miriam - stay safe - - - Richard

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  36. Swallows are amazing birds!
    Have a wonderful day!

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  37. What a nice discovery for you.

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  38. Finally some good news, a new species nesting! :)
    Their nests are so beautiful. This made me remember my childhood when some of the local swallows were trying to build nests under the eaves of our home but the nests fell because of shaking caused by sonic booms (?) and the birds gave up the idea. For some reason, the (military) planes are less noisy nowadays, but no swallows trying to nest here.
    Thank you for your very kind comment today, David. Take care!

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  39. What a handsome bird! Where on the earth are you located, David?

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  40. Hi David,
    Another new species for Spruce Haven and a super find, lets hope your wishes all come true and this is the start of a new colony, excellent set of images
    You both stay safe,
    John

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  41. Wonderful! It is rare for us to see swallows in our area. A month ago a flock spent a good half hour or so flying in and out, under our patio roof. Ocassionally one would rest on the bricks. The energy expended for little reward [to me] was amazing.

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  42. I regret the construction of the old bridge where their colony was torn down. Hopefully not reduce the population.

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  43. Interesting. I love watching swallows fly!

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  44. I can see that the American Cliff Swallow is completely different from the northern swallows that I met here, David. Ours have black and white colors, and yours have a red head. They nested in July, that's weird, isn't it?

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  45. Such a privilege to see birds building their nests.

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  46. Hi David - it's wonderful you and Miriam are so entranced by your natural life ... especially all the birds - and I certainly love seeing them. The cliff swallow looks to be a healthy size - i.e. quite large ... but as you say - wonderful to see they perhaps have found a new home area ... and can join ranks happily with the Barn ones. Lovely post - thank you ... Hilary

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  47. Hello David,
    I am happy to hear these swallows are doing well with their nesting. They are sweet birds, beautiful photos. You do such a great job with your blog, it is a pleasure visiting. Happy birding, enjoy your day!

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  48. Hi David,
    Lucky you to see this rare species in SpruceHaven. Let's hope that there will follow more in the future so that you will be able to enjoy even more of these birds.
    Greetings, Kees

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  49. Hi David,
    I have told you befor, that i love these Cliff swallows! I hope that they will find new places for the nests next year!
    And will come back at SpruceHaven! Great shots!
    Regards, Maria

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  50. Hello David,
    Carol and I enjoyed your blog. Let's hope this is the start of the mixed colony of swallows at SpruceHaven. Maybe humans can learn from the birds how to coexist together. I was impressed with your pictures, considering they were taken in the dark barn. Seems to me you are doing just fine with processing them.
    Franc and Carol

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    1. Thanks, Franc. I think we have got the hang of this photo-editing package now. In fact we seem to be learning new features all the time. I was back out at SpruceHaven yesterday and the nest has increased appreciably in size and both birds were working furiously at it. Give Carol a hug for me. I can't wait until I can do it myself! Since I am overdue by about four months she and I will have to sit and hug all day!

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  51. Such beautiful photos, so close up. I miss our nesting swallows here, the neighbour knocked down the shed.

    Deb in Wales

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  52. Las golondrinas siempre fueron y lo son unas de mis aves favoritas. Estoy pensando en preparar un tejado para que aniden. Besos.

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  53. The photos are so fine, David. I love to watch our swallows swooping and diving -- not least because I know they're helping to reduce the mosquito population.

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  54. hello David
    also here in Germany I see many swallows this year at an enormous speed they fly just over the cornfield and grab insects or come by the garden pond to drink
    for me and my camera everything too fast ... ;-))
    Regards Frank

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  55. How nice to see the nests of this species that visits us here in summer but it is not very common to see, it is also beautiful

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  56. How fantastic to have such an exciting new nest, a very good sign!

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  57. Beautiful bird, so great that there's a new nest!

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