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Nov 22, 2014

Supramundane swallow

Photo by Tom Lusk
The overtness of the above Cliff Swallow's expression and the great photographic capture by Tom Lusk has prompted me to write a bit about swallows; the Barn Swallow and Cliff Swallow in particular.   The Canadian Wildlife Federation used Tom's swallow photo to illustrate a press release on the decline of aerial insectivores such as the Barn Swallow, one of the world's most common and widespread species.   In Canada, it appears in every province and territory and tends to inhabit areas close to humans.   They build their mud nests in man-made structures like barns.   They should be welcomed everywhere, especially because of their prodigious appetite for flying insects.   However their decline in my part of the world is causing alarm.   The decline is being attributed to several factors, including loss of nesting habitat (old buildings being destroyed), pesticide/insecticide use, and climate change.   Property owners, sympathetic to swallows, can make sure there is easy access to outbuildings for nest locations.   Creating a muddy spot in an out-of-the-way spot can provide much-needing building materials.   But let me now mention the other swallow species, the Cliff Swallow, which is also under severe environmental distress and declining rapidly, especially over the last 30 years.    This swallow species was recently added to the endangered list in Canada.   Reasons for the Cliff Swallow's decline appear to be similar to the Barn Swallow but much research needs to be done to get a clear picture of the situation.   As an illustration of the Cliff Swallow decline, on a personal level, I am republishing two photos (below) of nests which I took in July of 2012.   I spotted the nests on a tour of country homes in King Township, where I live.   There were 18 Cliff Swallows nests under the eaves of one house.   The owners of the house, the Corcorans, informed me that the year before (2011) there were 63 nests!   I certainly hope this drastic decline was the exception to the rule when compared to observations elsewhere.   
Photo by BarrytheBirder 
Photo by BarrytheBirder

As a final thought on the subject of swallows, I should explain my use of the word supramundane in the title of today's blog offering.   Supramundane simply means '...above or superior to the world".   These swallows are of this earth, however they are also of the sky above.   They are therefore special and we must all do something to prevent the extinction of swallows...and all other birds and creatures.

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