As we approach the warmer months of the year, we start to observe the arrival of some of the birds of summer not usually sighted during the winter, spring, or fall season. Some of these groups that fascinate many of us are the popular Martins and Swallows.
Starting with the Purple Martin, I can remember when I was a youngster growing up in this area, I would observe the Martin House, similar to one in the attached picture, that was situated on a tall pole in my neighbors yard. At the time I was not familiar with what the purpose of attracting these birds was, but my neighbor soon informed me that they were excellent mosquito catchers. This seemed pretty good to me since I was not too fond of the mosquito at the time as well.
The Purple Martin normally arrives in our county about the second week of May and departs for its southern home by the end of September. Martin houses have appeared over the years in many county locations. Mosquitoes lay their eggs on the surface of water, where they can be observed when the young emerge at the right time. Because of this fact, one of the more common and accessible places to observe this bird is near the Conservation Club at the west end of the Dunkirk Harbor. This Martin House has attracted several species of other nesting birds including Martins, Swallows and House Sparrows.
The familiar Barn Swallow has entertained many of us over the years with its in and out antics of arriving and departing from the nesting site located in many a home owners garage or back barn. I am enclosing a photograph of a Barn Swallow nest I photographed a few years ago in the attached garage of Greg Giambrone who resides on Elm St. in the village of Fredonia. It was obvious that these birds made the nest during the time the Garage door was open, creating a problem for the homeowner to make sure the birds can come and go during the nesting and parent-feeding season which varies with individual species of these birds. The Barn Swallow usually arrives in our county from its wintering home around the beginning of April and normally stays to around the second week of October. It starts breeding by the last week of May, building in such locations where it can find mosquitoes including ponds, rain barrels and empty open containers as small as soup cans. The Barn Swallow builds a nest of mud and lays four to five white spotted eggs. Records maintained have shown that there have been colonies of these birds containing over 50 nests.
The Cliff Swallow also builds a nest of mud and clay suspended under an overhang. In the last breeding census conducted in our state this was the least number of swallows recorded. Exactly what this means at this time is yet to be determined. What future studies will show will be greatly anticipated.
The Bank Swallow is an interesting member of this family. It is the smallest member of our counties group of swallows. Colonies of this species are found along the shores of Lake Erie and other larger inland lakes. This is the smallest of our swallows that will nest in banks not necessarily near water. Several years ago my article predecessor Allen Benton and I studied such a colony near Cassadaga for the purpose of obtaining certain specimens of the flea that infested these birds. The largest colony of this species in New York state was reported in 1974 near Falconer with a colony of over 1,000 birds. This bird is similar in arrival and departure times as most other members of this family. The Northern Rough-Wined Swallow is a member of this family that breeding studies show a slight increase in numbers of birds in our state. Artificial breeding sites which consisted of tubes placed in sand banks helped increase the number of some of these species in our state. This technique along with others is one of many such activities that Ornithologists use to increase the population of declining species in our area demonstrating a conservation technique conducive to population increase.
It should also be pointed out that we must be careful in our practices of dealing with wildlife populations in such a manner that we ourselves are not creating problems conducive to the decline of certain species of wildlife.
Remember, I am always receptive to article ideas and photographs which may be sent to me by U.S. mail at 38 Elm St. Fredonia N.Y. 14063 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and enjoy and preserve nature.