Tree swallows need swamps and marshes

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Tree Swallows, Danvers Rail Trail by Eric Schultz

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Running with the Birds by Rebecca Pugh

If you’re running near a swamp or river this week, watch for the bright blue back and bright white belly of the acrobatic tree swallow.

They have the same silhouette, with plain gray backs. They hunt near wetlands all summer.

Everyone eats hundreds of insects a day. They hunt flying insects and catch them in the air.

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You might see them rushing towards the green heads above the salt marsh. Send them a few words of gratitude, because for the runners, who are trying to pick up speed to outrun the mosquitoes and horseflies, the swallows are doing their part.

Wetlands without swallows would be a grim place for mammals like us.

In the fall, they migrate south. Tree swallows travel to Central America, Mexico and Florida. They supplement their winter insect diet with berries, so they can keep their energy levels constant.

For a runner descending the track alongside these tiny athletes, there is a kind of remote kinship. 300 million years ago we had a common ancestor, a reptile living in the swampy Paleozoic forests.

Today, our cousins ​​prepare for their own migration race, while we train for our own triathlons and marathons: and all of us, hoping to eat well to survive and achieve peak athletic performance.

Tree swallows are facing the challenges of climate change: they now lay their eggs, on average, 9 days earlier than they did in the 1960s, which means their hatching cycles are on a different timeline than they did in the 1960s. ‘insects.

They also face deforestation, as they mainly nest in hollow trees, although some artificial nest boxes are useful for them.

Build a nest box, yes, and install baffles to protect yourself from predators, but advocate for open space and offer your voice for marshes and swamps to be restored and preserved, so Tree Swallows can have their traditional nesting places. .

The oldest tree swallow on record has been banded and released in Ontario, 12 years after it was first studied.

To think of all these migrations – twelve years of flying to Guatemala and back – is a lot of flying.

That’s why I think running with Tree Swallows in Ipswich is a good idea. We loosen the insects and they eat them.

We run for strength and they train for the long runs. It’s a world of athletics, human and bird, as we run with tree swallows.


Rebecca Pugh, author, has a Ph.D. in storytelling and peacemaking and is a student in Mass Audubon’s Birder Certificate Program at Joppa Flats.

Eric Schultz, photographer, animator The Occasional CEO’s Blog. Eric is a graduate of Mass Audubon’s Birder Certificate Program in Joppa.

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