Bank Swallow. Photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

 

The past few weeks I’ve focused on insect eating birds. Here’s another – the Bank Swallow. (Photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren.) Bank swallows are a grayish brown on their head, back, wings and tail. They have a dark band across their breast with a white throat and belly. When flying you will note their deeply notched tail.

Bank Swallows live in colonies and look for sandy banks along rivers where they can dig tunnels which they use for nests. The Androscoggin provides good habitat and, in the past, a colony has used the bank adjacent to Valentine Farm and the Riverside Cemetery. These colonies can change from year to year and rely on ongoing erosion to create the habitat they need. If you have boated the river, you’ve probably seen these birds pirouetting and zipping in looping circles catching insects on the wing.

We may hate the black flies, mosquitos and other spring-time pests which make our part of Maine famous; however, it is the vast explosion of protein in the form of insects that drives dozens of types of birds here each year.

The biggest threat to Bank Swallows and other birds which come here each year is the dramatic drop in insects which has been documented around the globe. In 2019, a research review reported there has been a 41% drop in insect populations over the past decade. You can read the report at www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320718313636.

Granted, most of us in Western Maine could do with a drop in some insects in the spring and early summer. But some indications suggest that is already underway with significant drops in beneficial insects, like bees and other pollinators.

These trends prompted Barbara Murphy, Development Director at Mahoosuc Land Trust along with a group of volunteers to install a pollinator garden at Valentine Farm Conservation Center. In addition, Barbara offers an online gardening course which can be found at the Habitat for All section of the Mahoosuc Land Trust website. Visit the garden and take the course for ideas on how you can build a beautiful garden that helps insects as well as insect eaters like the Bank Swallow.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME. To learn more visit www.mahoosuc.org. To contact James, send your emails to [email protected]


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