Another few days have passed and our box occupation rate is increasing rapidly. The most astonishing thing has happened, however, in that the behavior of the swallows has changed with the change in box placement. Remember that initially all of the boxes were attached to trees by wire, anywhere from 7 to 10 feet off the ground. Throughout all of the 2012 field season when the boxes were mounted to trees in this way we never witnessed a male or female perched on the box. However, our new boxes are now attached to posts and often a few meters away from the adjacent woods-line (so as to eradicate depredation from tree-climbing, invasive rat species). The swallows, in high abundance, are now regularly perching on top of the box and on top of the metal pole to which they are attached – a behavior we have seen in many of the other swallows of this genera that use boxes attached to posts. So why the change? We can only guess that the swallows feel less threatened when perched in the open, and thus perch more often and for longer periods of time. When the boxes were attached to trees, the male swallow would often circle the box in flight repeatedly, eventually indicating by sound to the female when the opportunity was safe to enter the box and continue incubating or feeding the young inside. Now, the male simply perches on the box with an entire 360 degree field of view and communicates a ‘safe-entry’ chirp to the female whom then enters the box. Additionally, the swallows, both female and male, are perching on the box and preening. This also supports the hypothesis that they are more comfortable perching in the open. If anybody out there has had a similar experience or has any other ideas as to the behavior change, don’t be shy in dropping us a note.
On top of this, we came much more prepared this field season for taking photographs of the swallow that ‘wouldn’t sit still’. We are borrowing a 400mm fixed lens from David Winkler (thank you!) and have also purchased a wireless timer remote that allows us to mount a camera, hide ourselves at a great distance, and wirelessly take shots of the birds around the nest box. I’ve included some of our first photos of this kind below (with many more to come I hope).
We’ve dreamt of taking a perched GOSW photo for over a year now….well, here is the first
A GOSW checks out box 27, let’s hope it passes inspection
A GOSW pair works on building their nest