MY RICHMOND TREE SWALLOW AND PURPLE MARTIN NESTBOX PROJECT UPDATE

I wanted to update you all about my Tree Swallow and Purple Martin Nestbox projects with the City of Richmond.

If you are interested please read our 2022 Tree Swallow Nestbox report HERE. It was a successful year in 2022 with over 115 young successfully fledged! We lost 37 birds to the heat wave though. Reading this report will be helpful so you understand why I am adding heat shields and ventilation holes and painting the boxes white.

Tree Swallow nestbox with heat shield at Garden City Lands - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Over the last few years we have had a lot of success with this project and have had so many more boxes occupied than in the first year. Unfortunately, the unprecedented heat waves both years, have caused some chicks and even an adult to succumb to the heat.

To prevent those losses I recommended to the city to put on heat shields and vent holes with mesh and to paint the boxes white. Scientific Studies have shown as detailed in the report that heat shields and white boxes decrease the temperature considerably inside the box.

Tree Swallows nestboxes with Heat Shields - Photos: Rich Kenny

You can watch a video showing a heat shield test proving how they lower the inside temperature of the nestboxes below:

Last year, we had Violet-green Swallows successfully nest as well, which was great. We don’t want to lose any more young. Hopefully at the end of the year we will have great success and the heat shields work and do their job.

We were having problems with Northern Flickers pecking at the front of the boxes widening the entrance holes. Check out the report on page 9 to see photos of the Flicker damage. This is why we made sandwich holes on the entrance holes to prevent that from happening.  Thank you to my friend Peter Ward for suggesting this to me. Once the entrance holes are widened they become unusable for the swallows. Also, predators can get  in and kill the chicks. The boxes were all installed in all 3 parks (Terra Nova, Garden City Park and Garden City Lands) on Jan 11, 2023. 

The new retrofitted Tree Swallow nestbox with heat shield - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Painting Tree Swallow boxes white to reduce heat inside the boxes - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Tree Swallow nestbox with heat shield at Terra Nova Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

I’m very excited about this and grateful to the city of Richmond and Rich Kenny at Richmond Parks for helping me get these heat shields on all the boxes in all 3 parks. This is no cheap endeavour, as all the boxes had to come down and be rebuilt and retrofitted and then reinstalled. Ilya and I also painted the front of the boxes white to help decrease the heat inside the boxes. 
I will be updating soon and at the end of the year I will add a detailed report to see if the heat shields were a success.

Hopefully the next time I’m checking boxes I lose no more chicks to heat waves - Photo of me by Sabine Decamp

Also, finally my Purple Martin boxes are completed and will be soon installed by my friends and I at Garry Point Park.  We will wait until the end of March so starlings don’t overtake the boxes. My friend Rob Lyske stepped in when the City of Richmond carpenters’ were too busy to get this done in time for the 2023 nesting season. Thank you so much Rob for making me 20 boxes and for doing this!! I am so grateful. Thank you also for helping me install the boxes!! Thank you Rob for your time! Sooo grateful for your friendship!

Rob Lyske’s completed PUMA production line!

Thank you also to DFO for granting us permission to allow the boxes to be placed on federal land. The boxes are being placed in the slough near Scotch Pond and in the ocean off the West Dyke side across from Garry Point Park. The City of Richmond will be adding information signs at Garry Point Park with QR codes as they have done in all the parks where the boxes are for the Tree Swallow Project.

Where the Purple Martin boxes will go at Garry Point Park - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Swallow information signs with QR codes put up by the City of Richmond  this one is at Terra Nova 

I asked Rob to put on wire netting to prevent gulls from perching on the top and he did so beautifully. He is going to suggest they do this at Maplewood now. He is also adding the metal baffles that I requested to prevent predators such as racoons to climb up the pilings.

Purple Martin nestboxes with wire netting for gull protection - Photos: Rob Lyske

Realistically, it will take a few years for Purple Martins to establish here, if they do so. I am trying and hoping that these blue-listed species, which are nesting across the river at Reifel Bird Sanctuary, will hopefully expand over here! This year the Iona Purple Martin colony sadly virtually collapsed, so this is very much needed in Richmond. I am excited to see what the results will be at the end of year 1 and 2. Hopefully the mantra "if you build it, they will come" as it did do for the Tree Swallows. Realistically though there are far fewer Purple Martins than Tree Swallows.

What we hope to see a new Purple Martin colony at Garry Point Park in Richmond

Thanks to everyone who has supported me through this and believing in this conservation work. A big thank you to The City of Richmond, Ilya Povalyaev for his many hours of volunteer work helping check the boxes with me and to Rich Kenny and the city of Richmond.  Thanks also to Sabine Decamp for volunteering and helping me clean out boxes and check on them. Thank you to Burke Mountain Naturalists for their box design tips. Thanks also to Rob Lyske and Peter Ward and all the many birding friends offering to help me with these projects.

These boxes were not cheap to create or install and I’m grateful to the city of Richmond for paying for the creation of these boxes and the installation and for hiring Rob as contractor and for trusting me on this. 

Thank you also to Councilor Carol Day for all her support in making the Purple Martin nestbox project happen when I took this to Richmond City Council!

Comments

  1. Wow, this is amazing! I’m sure that these heat-proof boxes will be welcomed by the swallows and martins alike! Thank you for all the work you do for the birds and also to the other generous volunteers that helped with this wonderful project! Hope to soon see martins nesting at Garry Point!

    -Raymond

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    Replies
    1. Thanks dear Raymond it is nice that we have had successful nesting in our patch! Thanks for your kindness my dear <3

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  2. PacificnorthwestkateJanuary 15, 2023 at 6:35 AM

    This is wonderful!! What a project - and big thanks to Rob L for getting those boxes made in time for the 2023 season!! And well done Melissa - for your continuing advocacy and determination and always fighting for the birds!! WTG!!!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Kate for all your support and friendship and for volunteering to help me!!!!

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  3. Sharing this with our martin/swallow box people here in Port Townsend, as well as on Birds and Climate Change Facebook group.

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    1. Thanks so much Steve! If you or anyone needs heat shield specific/construction plans feel free to email me at bcbirdergirl(at)gmail(dot)com with the continued increase temperatures we are now getting in the PNW this will probably be the way forward for future TRES nestboxes. So far the Purple Martins here (maybe because they are bigger) didn't seem to succumb to the unprecedented heat waves like the TRES....

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  4. Thanks for all the hard work. I am glad you were able to get enough people on board to make this project happen.

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    1. thank you so much Alaina!! It was a lot of work especially convincing the city to put up the Purple Martin boxes because of federal permissions but we just couldn't find a better spot for them in the city! I am hoping we really have no more Tree Swallow losses to heat next year with these new retrofitted boces.

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  5. Thanks Melissa for all you do for birds and the birding community. You are leaving a lasting legacy and the birds will be so grateful for it. I know how heartbroken you were when you lost those chicks to the heat wave. I read your great CBC article. It is sad we need to now put heat shield and paint boxes white just to combat the human-induced climate change. I am afraid it will only get worse too. Thank you for caring so deeply about the birds and the environment. I am in awe of how much you do and how selfless you are.

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    1. Thanks Sarah for your kindness. Your words are very touching.

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