Tuesday, June 5, 2012

To Tree Or Not To Tree?

That is the question for many of the Tree Swallows in Pennsylvania. These birds are an unusual sighting in Phoenix, but they are one of the most common in southeast Pennsylvania. All along the roadsides, along fields and neighborhoods and any other expanse of open space, there are nest boxes set up to provide the Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds with quality homes. The Swallows and Bluebirds do wonders to control the insect populations, so it's advantageous for the residents in Pennsylvania to keep their populations stable. Tree Swallows are also totally stunning birds, and I was afforded many close-up looks and photo ops that I'd never had in Arizona.

The Tree Swallows have to make a tough decision. Nest in the boxes, which have a structural integrity that can only be wrought be beings with opposable thumbs, or keep to their namesake, their traditions, and nest in the Trees? Many of the Swallows preferred the nest boxes, but still liked to perch in the nearby trees and utilize their camouflage. It seems like a good compromise.

Perhaps this Tree Swallow, as evidenced by his perch atop a directional trail sign, was at a metaphysical and existential crossroads. To use the artificial nest and become a Box Swallow, or build his own and remain a Tree Swallow?

Whether they chose tree or box, all of these magnificent Swallows had the same, spectacular emerald luster on their backs. It was still too early to see the brown juveniles, who had yet to emerge from their cavity nests. The Tree Swallows were not new birds, but seeing them up close and so frequently was one of the best bird-related experiences I had in Pennsylvania.