Holding a barn swallow after banding

My name is Ty Bryant, and I am currently studying in my 4th year at Dalhousie University. Starting late May, I have had the special privilege of being a field technician on the swallow team.  Coming into this summer position I was thrilled to take part in a wildlife conservation effort, especially one based in the Maritimes and as long running as the swallow project. This is my first opportunity to work out in the field, and I have been fortunate to gain new research experience. During my time here, I have become accustomed to the daily life of a biologist working in the field, and that is what I’d like to share with you in this post.

Tara was sure to inform me about the foundation of field work before I arrived, so that I would be well prepared for the 10 weeks ahead. And so I arrived in Sackville, New Brunswick with all the birding summer essentials including hiking boots, bug nets and of course my alarm clock. On days when we were catching adult swallow, my alarm would typically sound at 3:30am, this way we could catch the birds before they woke up.

There is something special about being awake in the early hours of the morning, listening to the silence of the outdoors before the first bird chirps and being greeted by the vibrant colours of the sun while it rises. As the sun rises, me and the other field technicians work steadily recording data and extracting swallows from either tube traps or mist nests until the sun is high in the sky.


The sun rises behind Tara and Donavon while they band bank swallows

Once we complete trapping in the morning we set off to monitor nests at our other sites. Most sites that we monitor are found on farms in the stunning country side, offering fun interactions with all sorts of livestock. With a break around noon for lunch, we then prepare to set back out to continue nest monitoring. After all the nests have been checked, we head back to place our new data into the computer. It is not until the end of the day that we check the weather and the schedule, to decide what time to start the next day. The schedule often changes, so being a field technician requires that you are always prepared and ready for what’s next, which always keeps things exciting.

It has also been very neat to watch the bird’s nests grow and develop from newly laid eggs, into young fledglings. Banding the young broods was very special because before this summer I had never seen chicks so small, and this field season I was lucky enough to help band hundreds of these cute little guys. At the end of the day its feels so rewarding to work so close to this threatened species and know that the work that we do will help provide answers to why these beautiful swallow are declining in the Maritimes.

Holding two barn swallow chicks (only 9 days old)

Holding two barn swallow chicks (only 9 days old)

If you have a passion for wildlife, the endurance to work hard and some longing for adventure then field work is for you. As my first field season comes to a close, I feel so lucky to have worked with such great people, obtained many new skills and have had such a fun time along way. Thank you Tara, the swallows and the rest of the team for teaching me so much. I hope to continue participating in research projects like this one in the future, and look forward to opportunities that are still to come.