A Tree Swallow Looks Out From HIs Nesting Box

The morning was beautiful, with a bright blue sky, comfortably warm – perfect for a hike, birding, and a bit of nature study. I decided to head for the High Ridge Wildlife Management Area in Westminster. Entering from Westminster, the access road climbs up a short hill to the administration building. The area is run by the Mass. Div. Fisheries and Wildlife.

Every once in a while the state does something right.

There has been a bluebird restoration project going on there for a number of years. The acres of open fields are lined with nest boxes. In the past, it’s always been a reliable spot to see some.

Not so this year, at least, not in the area that I went to.

The nesting boxes at the top of the hill are now populated by tree swallows (Tachycinera bicolor). Not a problem. They’re fun to watch as they zig and zag over the fields, catching insects.

I’m wondering if they’ve already got nestlings. As I approached one box to try to get a picture, two of the birds came and try to buzz me away.

It was a wonderful morning in any case, bluebirds or no bluebirds. High Ridge was once the site of a state mental hospital, long since gone. There was a large active farm, residence buildings, acres of carefully landscaped lawns and orchards.

Now it’s a perfect place to watch nature gradually reclaim the land. The carefully manicured lawns have gone wild. Old access roads are crumbling. It’s not unusual to run into a forgotten fire hydrant in the middle of the woods, with maybe just the outline of a cellar hole nearby.

It’s great for nature study, whether wildflowers, insects, birds, trees – anything. For a nature-lover, it puts me on sensory overload.