[Tweeters] FW: Lack of Barn Swallows

Wilson Cady gorgebirds at juno.com
Sun Aug 19 12:25:50 PDT 2018

Today on Mt. Pleasant, Skamania County, we had two VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS return to our place where they flew around the field chattering for about a half of an hour they even flew several times up to the nest box that has been used by violet-greens every year for the last 20 years. Overhead we could see several other swallows with a couple of BLACK SWIFTS mixed in with them. Today seems to be a vireo movement day with one RED-EYED VIREO and multiple WARBLING VIREOS so far. Wilson Cady
Columbia River Gorge, WA

---------- Original Message ----------
From: Hal Michael <ucd880 at comcast.net>
To: Eric Kowalczyk <cassidix2005 at gmail.com>, Tweeters <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Tweeters] FW: Lack of Barn Swallows
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2018 22:36:48 -0700 (PDT)

Note that neither Barn Swallows nor Cliff Swallows use snags or holes to nest in. The build on structure like bridges, walls, and such. The hole nesters may have problems with lack of snags but they do use nest boxes.

Hal Michael
Science Outreach Director, Sustainable Fisheries Foundation
Olympia WA
360-791-7702 (C)
ucd880 at comcast.netOn August 18, 2018 at 10:11 PM Eric Kowalczyk <cassidix2005 at gmail.com> wrote:

I know these are numbers only for the past 2 years........wish my records went back further. These are just dates of FOY and LOY (last of year). But definitely seems like numbers are down.

For South Portage Bay:
Tree swallows: first seen 28 April 2017, last one seen 28 June 2017; in 2018, 7 May 2018 - 31 May 2018.
VG swallows: 16 March 2017 – 28 June 2017; 14 March 2018 - 11 July 2018.
Barn swallows: 8 April 2017- 5 August 2017; 13 April 2018 – 3 August 2018.
Cliff swallows: 14 June 2017 – 24 July 2017; 14 May 2018 – 4 July 2018. (nested on 520 bridge, north side only).

I think another consideration is lack of suitable snags for nesting ( a limiting resource here).

Of particular interest is to watch the Barn swallows fly low over the Montlake playfield, weaving in and around searching for insects that are “disturbed” by humans playing Frisbee. Several times when no one else is on the field and I see Barn swallows foraging low over the grass.....I walk across the field dragging my feet and this attracts the Barn swallows and they fly circles around me.

Eric Kowalczyk

From: Tweeters [mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman11.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Hal Michael
Sent: Saturday, August 18, 2018 6:16 PM
To: Bud Anderson <falconresearch at gmail.com>; tweeters <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Tweeters] Lack of Barn Swallows

Back in 1980 we moved into a newly built house south of Olympia. From 1996-2001we had Barn Swallows nesting in our barn (if we left the door open) and right over our front door. The front door pair had at least two nests a year. Then, it stopped. They disappeared and we never saw them again.

Part of the issue, I believe, is the continued growth of vegetation. The plants reach a point where the Barn Swallows no longer use the area. It may be that foraging areas are too overgrown, etc. We saw significant changes in the avifauna at that house as the yard went from bare ground to a complex of trees and shrubs.

I don't think that we appreciate how much the habitat changes when we see it every day. I drive along I-5 here in Olympia almost every day, and have done so since 1980. Those Doug firs along the freeway have not grown one little bit in that whole time. Amazing.

Not to downgrade the lack of bugs. Here's another possibility. Quite a bit of land that was protected by levees has been restored to intertidal conditions. These formerly open areas that were upland/freshwater based are now saltwater based and produce significantly fewer insects. The insectivores have no place to go to find bugs that isn't already occupied.

Hal Michael
Science Outreach Director, Sustainable Fisheries Foundation
Olympia WA
360-791-7702 (C)
ucd880 at comcast.net
On August 18, 2018 at 12:21 PM Bud Anderson <falconresearch at gmail.com> wrote:

I have been watching late summer swallows at Sea-Tac on an incidental basis since 2001, enjoying the large numbers of family groups that used to congregate on the west side perimeter fence each summer. I always looked forward to their pre-dispersal numbers. I estimated this annual mixed species swallow flock to be in excess of 1,200 birds.

However, over the years, this number has decreased markedly and I doubt there are now more than 100 that gather there anymore. I will make sure to count them this week.

Even here on the Samish Flats, there are far fewer swallows than normal.

Like you, I find it incredibly depressing to even think of the possibility that we could lose our swallows.

As to causes, I think one of the most logical avenues of thought would involve the famous decrease in insects that is being reported these days.

Maybe we could hear from any swallow biologists out there.


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