Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Tree Swallows have Disappeared

In 2001 we located our Shop to a rural location roughly 1 hour north-east of Toronto. One of our first orders of business was to place nesting boxes all around the perimeter of the property.

Because of our rural location there are many open fields and, for a while, there were also large numbers of Tree Swallows to be found. The purpose of the nesting boxes was to provide habitat for these birds.

A total of 20 of these nesting boxes were made, and in the first few years it was not uncommon to see more than half of them occupied by nesting pairs of birds.

During warm summer days it was a joy to see these birds zig-zag and divebomb their way across the property to catch their staple meal of flying insects.

About 5 years ago the numbers started to decline, and I was puzzled as to why fewer birds were coming back every year. The decline in numbers is now complete, because this year not a single Tree Swallow has returned.

But at least now I know the reason why.

It's corn. Fields and fields of corn. With the heightened awareness of global warming in recent years (and the ramped up production of biofuels such as ethanol) most of the farmland in this area has now become converted to the growing of corn.

What this means for the Tree Swallows is a loss of the diverse meadows that once provided an abundant supply of insects for food. Crops for biofuel has now become big business in this area, as is evident from this nearby expanded storage facility.

While it's true that farmers feed cities, these days it seems that more and more of them are finding it profitable to feed gas tanks instead.

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