As I hope you’ve seen Tree Swallows are remarkably tolerant of human presence. However, now that incubation is in full swing it’s probably best not to push our luck and disturb incubating females unnecessarily. Up to this point I’ve been checking every box daily, but during both incubation and the first 12 days of the nestling period I’m going to reduce box checks to every third day. The problem is remembering which boxes to visit on any given day. The solution is to use a Control Sheet.
Control Sheets are a device that lets you see at a glance the status of every swallow nest and that records important facts and milestones regarding each one. Control Sheets also permit you to schedule box checks systematically, in order to prevent excessive disturbance. In addition, Control Sheets can suggest the proper dates for trapping and banding adult swallows and identify the short window for banding nestlings. Plus Control Sheets tell you exactly when to stop checking boxes altogether to cut the risk nestlings will fledge prematurely. Long story short – Control Sheets can be extremely useful for anyone monitoring Tree Swallow nests.
From now until the end of the nesting season at Salmon Creek I plan to include thumbnail shots of my Control Sheets at the end of each blog post in case you like records and you’d like to follow the nests along. There will be two sheets each time, one covering Boxes 1-12; the second covering Boxes 13 and 14 (yes, there is now a Box 14, story later), plus all second nesting attempts in a box. Let’s get familiar with Control Sheets by taking a quick peek at one of today’s.
The first three columns from the left list Box #, First Egg Date, and Last Egg Date. Next is Clutch #, which is the total number of eggs the female laid on this nesting attempt. Then comes Egg #, which is the number of eggs present at the end of incubation, just before hatching – this could be less than clutch # if eggs have disappeared or been broken. The next four columns list dates during incubation when the box should be checked – you see they are at three day intervals, counting from the date the last egg was laid. After a box is checked on its appointed date a red line will be drawn through that date on the sheet. That’s all we need to know for now – we’ll cover hatching and the nestling period when the time comes.
So there it is. You’ll have the option to view the Salmon Creek Tree Swallow Project’s Control Sheet at the end of each post from here on out. All you’ll need to do is click on the little thumbnails, like the ones below, to get an expanded version.
Control Sheet 1 for 5/24/12.
Control Sheet 2 for 5/24/12.