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By Allison Jarrell
Mission San Juan Capistrano and cliff swallows expert Charles Brown, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Tulsa, have announced the next phase of their quest to bring cliff swallows back to the mission.
Brown implemented the first phase of the Swallows Vocalization Project beginning in 2012, which consisted of playing recorded courtship calls through a speaker on the mission grounds to lure the swallows flying overhead. Since the approach failed to prove effective in keeping swallows at the mission, Brown has announced the project’s next phase will entail creating plaster nests on a mobile nest wall to attract the swallows.
This next phase, which will begin in February 2016, relies on research showing that cliff swallows prefer to reuse existing nests when possible.
Once the birds notice the plaster nests and begin using them, additional settling birds likely will lead to a colony of nests forming. Once nests are built, the artificial arch would no longer be needed.
The arch will be made of a wood frame and adobe and/or plaster, and the nests will be made from molds and dental plaster. The arch will be about 15 feet at its highest, and about 15 feet wide, allowing for approximately 40 nests stacked along the top of the perch. The temporary experiment recommended by Brown will be mobile and not attach to any historic buildings, obstruct views or impact the historic grounds in any way.