Should you keep records?
You've done it! You've chosen a good project site. You've built boxes and located
them properly. And Tree Swallows have found them. Now you can enjoy the birds.
You could simply leave your swallows alone, watching and listening from a distance,
gratified that you've given them homes, and if this is what you want, it's fine. However,
you may want to go further, to look closer into the birds' lives, note the progression of
nest building, count eggs as they're laid, marvel at how fast nestlings grow and
develop, and thrill to see newly-fledged juveniles flutter over the fields and wetlands.
Much of the pleasure of Tree Swallow projects comes from the uniquely close
observations these birds allow, and for many people keeping nest records is an
essential part of their enjoyment. They like to record progress of each nest attempt,
and to measure reproductive performance of individuals and age classes. They like to
compare seasons to get a sense of long term trends at their site. They take pride in
contributing to the overall knowledge of the species by sending their nesting data to
Nestwatch. All these options are open to you. Please consider at least recording
basic data. It isn't unnecessary busy-work; quite the opposite. It actually helps
structure and expand your experiences, and once you get used to keeping records
you'll be glad you did. Believe it or not, it's fun!
What are "basic data"?
Basic data are commonly recorded measures of aspects of nesting, including:
- Species using each box.
- Number of nesting attempts.
- Occupancy rate: % of boxes that had nesting attempts.
- Egg data: clutch start and completion dates, number eggs laid, clutch size
average and range.
- Nestling data: number and % of eggs that hatched, brood average number and
range at hatching and again at 12 days.
- Fledging: number fledged, % of eggs laid that fledged, and % of nestlings
hatched that fledged.
- Mortality: causes of egg, nestling, and adult mortality, when known.
Data is accumulated gradually over the nesting season and involves use of
four record sheets:
- Box Check Records: Sheets for recording box contents on each visit.
- Nest Box Records: Running logs of the progress of individual nesting attempts
- Control Sheet: A single master sheet outlining the status of nesting attempts.
It also determines dates when boxes should be checked.
- Season Summary: An annual "report card" compiled at the end of nesting.
The four pages listed above link to examples of each type of sheet, where their use is
explained. You can use our formats, which are adapted from ones used at the Long
Point Bird Observatory, develop your own, or try ones offered through sources such
as Nestwatch or in the Golondrinas Handbook.
Learn About Birds at Tree Swallow Nest Box Projects