July 11, 2013: And off they go!

Day 20 seems to be the magic number–the age when most of our Tree Swallows fledge (leave their nest box for the last time). As of today we are waiting for just one more box to fledge. We are also reflecting upon how amazing these birds are! They grow from an egg to a grown bird capable of incredible aerial acrobatics in just 20 days! (See photos below!) 

Once again–thank you to our hardworking crew of high school interns & youth volunteers: Jolie, Diana, Harrison, Josef, Eli, Shayla, Hannah, Tjarn, Maggie, Aubrey, Sophia, Jared, Jordan, Dana, Ali, & Lexie for all your hard work (often in the HOT sun!) 

We also would like to thank our financial supporters: Melinda Gray Ardia Environmental FoundationSkaggs FoundationUSFWS Connecting People With Nature Program, BP, & Flint Hills ResourcesThis program is not possible without your support.

Finally we owe a HUGE thanks to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and the North Star Community Foundation for their ongoing support!

Photos: a one day old chick at left; fledglings and a parent (sitting on top of the post).

day 1fledging

July 5, 2013: Almost done!

We have finished measuring and banding almost 150 chicks. Now it is time to simply watch from a far and record the date that each nest fledges. If we are lucky we may see a few birds take their very first flight! Photos clockwise from top left: We measured the nestlings at days 3, 6, & 10; on day 10 they are also banded. Harrison measures a chick at day 6. Returning chicks to their nest box. The crew! THANK YOU for all of your help this season! 

banded_chickchick_measurereturning chicks


the crew

June 20, 2013: What a difference a week makes!

Our first two nests hatched on June 14 and now almost all of them have hatched! We are BUSY capturing and banding all the breeding adults. This takes stealth, PATIENCE! and skill–the interns and kids are great at it!

We have also begun deploying some geolocators–tiny data loggers with a light sensor. They are fixed to a harness that select birds will wear for one year. When retrieved, the data is downloaded and processed to determine the bird’s approximate location throughout the year, teaching us where our Creamer’s Field Tree Swallows spend the other 10 months of the year! You can learn more about how geolocators work through the Migratory Connectivity Project.

Finally, we are measuring the nestlings at intervals to track their growth rates. We plan to compare the growth rates of Creamer’s Field chicks that are hatched early in the season to those hatched late in the season, and to compare the growth rates of Creamer’s Field chicks (born close to the northern limit of where Tree Swallows occur) to chicks in more temperate climates.

Thanks again to all of the high school interns & youth volunteers involved in this project: Jolie, Diana, Harrison, Josef, Eli, Shayla, Hannah, Tjarn, Maggie, Aubrey, Sophia, Jared, Jordan, Dana, Ali, & Lexie! We couldn’t do it without you! 

Pictures from left to right: a geolocator; male Tree Swallow wearing a geolocator; siblings from a Creamer’s nest



June 13, 2013: Waiting for eggs to hatch…

This week we are waiting for our nests to hatch. We took advantage of this slow time to build and hang some new nesting boxes. The oldest of the Creamer’s Field nest boxes went up in 1998! So repairs and replacements are needed. So far we built 24 boxes! Our chickadee nests are growing quickly and we have noticed that swallows aren’t the only things nesting out there in the fields! Photos clockwise from left: supplies, planning construction, building!, Black-capped chickadee hatchlings (8 days old), a Savannah Sparrow nest

supplies  planningbuildingSAVSBCCH

June 2, 2013: Incubation begins!

Most nests are nearing completion, and the early birds began incubating on June 2. With the help of Becky Windsor from the Golondrinas de las Americas project, we installed our first incubation temperature logger. It will record nest temperature at regular intervals throughout incubation. Tree Swallow incubation generally lasts 13-16 days, so our first Tree Swallow chicks should appear mid-month. (Our first chickadee hatchlings appeared on June 3!) Stay tuned! (Photos from left to right: a Tree Swallow nest; Becky installing a data logger; chickadee hatchlings!) 

TRES_nest Becky BCCH_babes

May 28, 2013: First Tree Swallow eggs…again!

Cold temperatures and late snow made for an usual spring migration this year. Late arrivals and large bottlenecks of songbirds, waterfowl, and cranes were reported throughout the Tanana Valley, and Tree Swallows were no exception. The first swallows were spotted at Creamer’s Field on May 10, eleven days later then their average first arrival date of April 29! Oddly enough, the first egg appeared on May 22–just two days later then last year! We initally thought the swallows might be rushing to stay on schedule, but despite the warm, dry weather, no additional eggs appeared until May 28th. Now egg laying has begun in earnest! So it appears 2013 will be just over a week behind average timing.

What are we up to? With the help of 18 students we are currently busy documenting nest building and lay dates, and we have deployed three insect traps to monitor the abundance of aerial insects (tree swallow FOOD!) during the nesting cycle. Stay tuned for hatching updates! (Photos left to right: Eli & Harrison deploy an insect trap; a Tree Swallow & its nest box; Josef & Jolie conduct minor repairs while checking boxes for eggs.)

bug trap       TRES_post       boxcheck

A huge thank you to our high school interns: Jolie, Diana, Harrison, Josef, Eli, & Shayla and to the students in our mentoring program: Hannah, Tjarn%