Here are some snapshots of what’s been going on.
In early May of 2013, 8 nest-boxes were placed in an old agricultural region of Parque Valle Nuevo known locally as Nizaito. We chose the location as a new study site for several reasons:
– the habitat included those features that seem most preferred by Golden Swallows, including the year-round presence of water and open field surrounded by pine forest
– Golden Swallows had been seen several weeks prior actively foraging across the fields
– the open fields were among the most expansive we had seen in the National Park
The boxes were taken to immediately after being placed by two pairs of swallows, each successful in fledging young that season.
Upon returning to the site this year (2014), we were pleasantly surprised to find that 5 of the 8 boxes are active. Compared to other micro-sites we have in the park, this change in rate of occupation from one year to the next is unprecedented.
Furthermore, we were rewarded with the first non-swallow nest-box occupant since the beginning of the project. A female Ciguita de Constanza was found incubating two eggs one box down from a pair of incubating swallows.
This site should be considered high priority for adding nest-boxes and for more detailed study in the future.
While erecting three new nest-boxes in the Jurassic Park region of Valle Nuevo with the help of Fundacion Moscoso Puello, we came across a pair of Golden Swallow nesting in a cavity approximately 17 meters up a 20 meter snag. This is my first true observation – after three years – of a pair nesting in a natural tree cavity in Valle Nuevo. Seeing as standing snags are a rarity in Parque Valle Nuevo, other pairs have only been found nesting in dense clumps of lichen attached to tree branches and in the eaves of abandoned buildings.
I observed the cavity for approximately one hour. The nesting pair was seen repeatedly circling and then entering the cavity for only 3-5 seconds in duration, every 5 to 10 minutes. This behavior is most similar to that observed in Golden Swallow pairs occupying artificial nest-boxes during the chick provisioning stage of the breeding season.
Midway through the observation, a pair of trogons flew in and perched on tree branches approximately 5 meters from the snag. Their entrance and time perched was silent. Approximately ten minutes later, as I was recording video of the male GOSW perched on a dead branch stemming outwards from the snag just one meter below the nest cavity, one of the trogon took flight and attempted to make impact with the perching swallow. The swallow flew from the perch in time to avoid the encounter. A short period afterwards, the other trogon flew towards the snag and entered a cavity two meters below the Golden Swallow nesting cavity, where I presume they are actively nesting. The response from the Golden Swallows following the trogon’s entrance into their nesting cavity was an aggressive one, involving repeated alarm calls as well as a change in flight pattern.
Future visits will be made with an endoscope in an attempt to determine the size of the Golden Swallow clutch, the design of the nest, and lay date.
In 2013 we relocated all of our nest-boxes from trees to metal posts in response to strong depredation by invasive rats. Hoping the metal posts would buy us time, we’ve been continually pushing to add predator guards to each of our 200 boxes, but the effort to do so is extremely time-, money-, and energy-consuming. We just recently enlisted the help of community members from the nearby town of Castillo in order to finish the job. In the meantime, three active nest-boxes were left unguarded, and all three were depredated the same night. Each box was at a different stage in the nesting cycle (one with only a nest, one with freshly laid eggs, and another midway in the incubation process). This massive loss has confirmed the devastating impact of the rat and the absolute necessity for each nest-box to be properly equipped with a predator guard. We are currently live-trapping the rats to confirm the species. More information on the life history of the rat will hopefully allow us to make better informed decisions on how to fight back and how to better choose low-density predator sites for future nest-boxes.
We’ve come a long way when it comes to learning how to photograph Golden Swallows. Enjoy a few of the most recent photos below.
And finally, there are two active nests right outside the front door of the Visitor Center this year. Come and check them out!
Much more to come.