Today is Monday, August 21, 2017

Return of the Swallows

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Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Nest building continues all over Lebanon and Wilson County. I receive constant updates from many friends and readers of my bird articles. My cousin Allison Herod Neal had concerns over a nest found in their boat that had been stored in a shed to keep it out of the weather during the winter. It would help if I could get a look at the nest and maybe the eggs. I am not an expert on nest by a long shot, but sometimes seeing how it might be constructed will give a person clues on what might have built it. If I was a betting man, I might guess a family of House Sparrows or even a Carolina Wren.

Certain birds are what we call cavity nesters, and they will only build nest in bird boxes, under the eves of houses, in gutters and inside your attic if there is an accessible way inside. The people to the north have squirrels living inside their attic along with a couple of starling families. If I owned the place, I would put out an immediate eviction notice to these trouble makers. What could happen if the squirrels started chewing on the electrical wiring?  I have already suffered through the disease Psittacosis, which had me in a coma for fourteen days because of something in starling droppings. (Look that one up) It was very frightening to my family when they thought that I might die, and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. I am still suffering from the symptoms of that.

After Easter services at Rocky Valley Baptist Church, I went over to visit with my mother, Margie Pope. She had been cleaning out her garage and found her old scrapbook that had been put away for many years. She showed me a Valentine card that my dad, Vernon Pope, had given her back before they were married. I am not sure of the date on the card, but it was an expensive card at the time at 50 cents. My brother told me that there were eggs in the Bluebird box over on the fence, so I had to investigate that. They belonged to a family of Carolina Chickadees. That sure beats House Sparrows.

On our regular Saturday foray out into the county, Anthony Gray drove us out to check on a Purple Martin box at the Good Hope United Methodist Church out North Commerce Road. It is in a great location and looked like each compartment had a family of Martins inside.  It would be great if they could add another box a few feet away to help with the overflow that I am sure they have. They could send them over to my vacant box. I have more patience than most people and I am optimistic that soon, my day will come.

Later that afternoon we were headed north on the Old Hartsville Pike to see what might be lurking on the north side of the county. With all of the new construction on the TN, 141 route, we noticed lots of Swallows flying around the many road cuts there. Back in the days of yore, the roads followed every twist and turn that the country side had. Now, they blast the hills to fill up the hollers and make the road as level as it can be. On the road cuts, they drilled from the top, down to the level where the road would eventually be, and then blasted the lower levels. After clearing the loose rocks, some of the upper holes remain and that is where the Swallows were building nest, see photo.

We finally pulled over to check on what species were involved in this new enterprise. Up and down the rock faces, I was surprised to see, Northern Rough-winged Swallows checking out every nook and crannies. I have seen these birds by the thousands down in Florida sitting on power lines that span some body of water during the winter months.

The Rough-winged Swallow, (Stelgidopteryx ruficollis), is a member of the Swallow family that prefers to breed in solitary pairs. This Swallow is not real picky about where they dwell and is an excellent example of being able to adapt to a certain situation. Usually it will tunnel a nest into sand, clay, gravel, or as it does here, into a man made hole cut out of solid rock. Evidently each hole that I saw them at, had the top part of the hole sealed up by debris. They wear a brown back and a grayish breast. The female lays six to seven, white eggs in a nest constructed of grass and rootlets. If your hearing is better than mine, you can hear them making a rasping "trit trit" sound. While hunting flying insects. The Roughwing has a more direct flight instead of the zigzag flight of the other swallows.

I would love to hear from you as to what's lurking about in your neighborhood and at your feeders. You can write me at, 606 Fairview Ave., Lebanon, TN, 37087, or e-mail me at,

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Our Feathered Friends
Allison Herod Neal, Anthony Gray, Margie Pope, Vernon Pope
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