The Swallows

I have a deep dread in my soul that the extensive hard freeze we had in February may have been the demise of all the Eastern Bluebirds in our area. People from birds groups in Central and Southern Illinois have posted reports and photos to bird groups with horrifying finds. I saw images of four to nine Bluebirds huddled and dead in nest boxes – presumably as they tried to keep warm enough to survive the rare deep freeze.

In looking back at photos from last year, I found that I was filming an Eastern Bluebird pair on March 26th as they were deciding upon which nest box to use. On March 29 I have photos of the pair actively making a nest. Ultimately four broods of Bluebirds fledged from boxes across our acreage last year (one pair had two and two other fledged one brood.) It brought me great joy to observe the process and know that we had a little influence on helping the species thrive.

It’s a few days past March 26th, and we haven’t seen or heard one Bluebird this Spring. I am holding out a bit of hope – but, mostly I am sad. I know that Mother Nature is a very sophisticated system of checks and balances including traumatic events and grand explosions of life. But, Bluebirds started my journey as a backyard birder and they hold a very special place in my heart.

On a much happier note, Tree Swallows have made it back to our little opportunity for them to make a living here for the summer. They are busy formulating the final decision regarding where they will dedicate all their resources towards building a nest, laying eggs and rearing their chicks. If they are fortunate, they will get two broods in this season.

One pair is contemplating the center nest box in my Office yard.

They may be the same pair that used that box last year. It’s perfectly situated for my direct, and near constant observations. I can see it out the doors of my office as I sit at my desk.

Last autumn, Robert and I set up a few additional nest boxes along the perimeter of our property. They were situated to be attractive to Bluebirds, but Tree Swallows and even House Wrens could find them suitable. The ground has been a bit too mushy from all the rain we’ve had, for me to travel to all of the perimeter boxes. But the one at the south end of the western hay field is within sight when I travel to the west pond overlook. I’ve tried to get to the pond as often as possible because migrating water fowl sometimes stop for a bit of a rest for a day or two, and I like to capture their visit.

As an example, this pair of Blue winged Teal were hanging out just yesterday. They were quite flighty, so I was only able to film them from afar.

Before I even got to the pond, the nest box on the south end of the west pasture also had a nice surprise. A Tree Swallow was peering out of the hole as I drove by.

Later in the day, I drove back to that location to see if I could capture more activity. I observed a pair of Tree Swallows on the electric line that runs alongside the road on the south property line. They were perched about 40 feet east of the next box. I suspect it is the pair that is claiming the box. That’s great news.

I remain slightly hopeful that a Bluebird pair will find its way to our property where we are ready to offering ample housing options! In the meantime, I am thrilled to be able to observe the Tree Swallows beginning their breeding activities.

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