No field season would be complete without stories of bizarre experiences in the field.
Working in the outdoors, with animals, you can never really know what to expect. We have been caught in sudden rain storms while checking on bank swallow colonies, and found ourselves just metres from a skunk multiple times. Young birds are starting to leave their nests now, and one clumsy barn swallow fledgling, not yet sure of how to navigate around barriers, flew into the back of Tara’s head!
The most bizarre experience so far definitely occurred one day while checking a tree swallow box. While approaching the nest box through a field of knee high grasses and thistles, I [Hilary] was stopped in my tracks as a groundhog popped out beside the box and proceeded to awkwardly climb up the fence, then the pole the nest box was attached to. It settled down on top of the box, looked at me and started to make noises, voicing its displeasure. Once I overcame my initial confusion, my first instinct was to take a photo and send it to Tara with the question-“Do groundhogs eat tree swallows?”
The groundhog refused to budge as I made noise, waved my arms and even threw clumps of grass in its direction. After a good 5 minutes, I finally managed to persuade it to leave by giving it a gentle poke in the side with a stick.
The good news was that the chicks were inside the box, unharmed. I guess tree swallows were not on the menu for the groundhogs on that day!