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After 15 good years, the Dog Who Smiles (Tewa terrier, from Española to Bethel) developed kidney disease. Among her contributions to innumerable neighbor kids, alpaca camp, her cat, and myself, she left just as the swallows were arriving. For the first time I could put up a bird box, jerryrigged but evidently acceptable.

The box is placed on the north side of the house to keep it from getting too hot. There is a hinge so I can clean the box after the birds leave, about the 2nd or 3rd week in July (keeps pests and parasites down for next year.) I still don’t know why the birds start so many nests in different boxes and why so many birds try to build in the same box. It’s also hard to tell who the parents are supposed to be as there seems to be more than one pair involved with this box. I recorded the sounds from the box and the approaching adults, but it is tedious to edit so will provide a link later.

The mud swallows come later than these swallows which are among the earliest birds to arrive and they therefore leave about 2 weeks later. I once had the mud swallows build in a hole in the west wall of the house, but only that once.

For some reason, I and others around town have noticed fewer birds, big and little, than in years past. It’s not just because people build on the tundra or fill in the ponds or drive too fast on the dirt roads. Maybe it is just this colder spring.

Sanitation is important to birds and other animals like us. Click on these images to see the larger versions.





This bird is carrying out the fecal sack from the nest. I used the binoculars one time to watch as one adult arrived. The adult inside the box deftly turned and neatly defecated the anuk bag so the arriving adult could take it away.


Fecal bag. When I have been watching, the birds will take the sack out of sight behind the neighbors, towards the tundra pond (“naturally constructed wetlands system”)


Fecal splat. The usual kind of bird dropping.

part of the Toilets and trash in the Last Frontier (Alaska) (Pool) at Flickr

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