It has now been just over a month since the Swallow team wrapped up the field season in Sackville, NS and returned to Halifax, NS. Since then, we have been busy looking at all of the data collected over the last three years of the project, to piece together what is happening to the Swallows and why their populations are declining.
As we sit indoors, watching the leaves begin to change colour, it is easy to become nostalgic for the sunrises and Swallow-filled skies of the summer. Our field sites are incredibly beautiful ecosystems, full of meadows, wetlands and rivers. It is no surprise that Swallows were never the only animals we would see during our days. The unique call of an American Bittern always greeted us at one site, and we saw our fair share of deer, racoon and fox tracks in the dried up riverbed by our Bank Swallow sites! We also crossed paths with Bluebirds, skunks and frogs on a regular basis.
An early sunrise by one of our Bank Swallow colonies, and a field of buttercups bordering a marsh home to some of our Tree Swallow nest boxes.
The preservation of locations such as our field sites is an important step towards helping Swallow populations, and it provides other species with a good home too! The meadows at our sites were home to countless Bobolink, which are also a threatened species in Canada. Throughout the summer, their bubbling song filled the air as they flew around their nests hidden in the lush fields. Our sites are particularly great habitats for these birds because the fantastic landowners wait until after the young have left the nest to mow the fields for hay!
Maintaining productive, diverse ecosystems is a very important step towards ensuring Swallow population recovery and the health of their communities. With the work we are doing now, we hope to better understand specific reasons for declining populations. Once we know this, we will be able to direct our conservation efforts where they matter most!