Bird Observer: The Birding Journal for New England

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

February 2015

Vol. 43, No. 1

Field Notes: Barn Swallows on Board

Bob Fisher


Barn Swallow nest on author’s lobster boat. (Photographs courtesy of the author).

In the second week of June, I went to Rockport to check on my lobster boat and noticed a nest on a rafter next to the roof of the cabin. I assumed it was inactive, but when I took the nest down I was dismayed to see three eggs. I put it on a bunk next to the cabin entrance. A few days later when I returned I was surprised to see the parent had found the nest; there were now five eggs. I had to haul traps and didn’t know what to do with the nest, so I took it on the boat—much to the dismay of the parents, which were Barn Swallows. They flew around frantically squeaking up a storm. I returned three hours later and found the parents waiting impatiently. As soon as I went ashore, they returned to the nest.

About a week later, I had to haul traps again, and by then the eggs had hatched. There were five of the biggest mouths I had ever seen. I didn’t want to distress the parents again. Noticing a shady spot under the canopy of the boat at the next mooring, I moved the nest there, only 10 feet from the original spot. I backed off the mooring and watched. The parents flew around and eventually discovered the nest and settled in. Three hours later I returned and put the nest back on the bunk in my boat. As soon as I left the boat, the parents went in and settled down.

After that, I thought it best not to move the boat, although I came and went doing maintenance and repairs. The chicks didn’t mind but the parents were upset, buzzing and scolding me. In mid-July the chicks had left the nest. I could see the entire family nearby, the parents teaching the chicks flying maneuvers.

It was a great experience, but next year I hope the Barn Swallows will use the empty factory nearby and give me my boat back.

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