Adams County is known for being one of the flattest counties in Indiana. So what were cliff swallows doing in Geneva the summer of 2016?
These swallows are uncommon in our area. Gene Stratton-Porter did not mention them being in Geneva during her time. Maurice McClue, an attorney from Angola, wrote in his “Natural History Memoranda” that they were extirpated from Steuben County around 1920. He was pleased to note that a small colony was using the side of a barn for their nests in Cass County in June of 1955.
These insect eating birds have learned to adapt themselves to use man-made structures such as barns, bridges or culverts for nesting. They build mud nests side-by- side that cling to vertical walls.
On May 21, Randy Lehman and I observed a small flock of them around the Loblolly Creek close to the Limberlost Swamp Wetland Preserve. Some of the birds were perched on electrical wires and others were busy scooping up mud from the creek banks and taking it below the bridge. It appeared that they were building nests.
On May 27, Curt Burnette was able to confirm that there was a colony of cliff swallows nesting here. He took a couple photographs of the nests.
Since a colony can eat hundreds of insects, like mosquitoes, a day, they are a welcome summer resident.
Southern Adams County appears to agree with the swallows as barn, tree, bank, rough-winged and cliff swallows have been documented here.
We wish the cliff swallows safe journey back to their winter feeding grounds in western South America. We hope to welcome them back to Geneva next May.