On August 21 at 11 am, Councillor Steve Ferguson officially “opened” PEPtBO's new Barn Swallow nesting structure. PEPtBO hosted a small celebration of this addition to our avian monitoring, educational and research activities.
The Barn Swallow is an iconic insectivore known chiefly by its steely blue upper parts and deeply forked tail. Barn Swallows can be seen swooping over farm fields, marshes and grasslands feeding on insects as they fly. Traditionally Barn Swallows, as their name suggests have nested in barns and garages throughout their southern Ontario range. Unfortunately, over the past 40 to 50 years populations of all insectivores, including Barn Swallows, have declined drastically to less than 25% of their pre-1970 levels. There are several reasons for this decline; however, at least part of the responsibility lies with old barns being demolished and garage doors being kept closed limiting access to suitable nest sites.
In an attempt to alleviate some of the problems noted above, Bird Studies Canada promotes building alternate nesting structures for Barn Swallows. The Bird Observatory area boasts resident Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows, Cliff Swallows and Purple Martins; therefore, this part of the National Wildlife Area is a good place for an alternate nesting structure. As a result and with approval from the Canadian Wildlife Service we received a grant from Wildlife Habitat Canada and Nature Canada to build an alternate nesting structure at the Bird Observatory. Further support for building materials came from the Home Depot Belleville store. The structure was built by the woodworking classes at Prince Edward Collegiate and erected by PEPtBO volunteers in June.
The location is an important one. Barn Swallows have traditionally nested close to the location of the new structure in old buildings at the harbour and in the shed at Point Traverse Lighthouse – a short flight over the harbour from the Bird Observatory. Although the structure was erected too late in the season for use this year, we hope that Barn Swallows will be attracted to it next spring when they arrive from their wintering grounds.