The Drake Landing off-leash dog park is home to a number of new residents this spring as tree swallows move in to the bird boxes attached to the fencing there.

Town of Okotoks Parks Manager Christa Michailuck says that's good news because swallows have a great appetite for insects, including mosquitoes.

This is the third year for the Town's bird box program at the off-leash park and the number of boxes have been increased to 20 this year from 14 in 2016.

"It's considered a blue bird trail," Michailuck explains. "You'll get one of two species, blue birds or tree swallows. We don't tend to get a lot of blue birds in town, so swallows would tend to be our expected main attractant to those boxes."

She says a team of four volunteers with an interest in birding regularly check the boxes. They're tracking the nesting activity of the swallows, being careful not to disturb any fledglings, and also trying to discourage non-native species, such as house sparrows, from moving in.

"The volunteers monitor the boxes," Michailuck says. "They note which boxes have which types of species in them, how many eggs are laid and then how many young birds there are. They don't open the boxes once the fledglings are getting close to leaving the box so that they don't prematurely fledge."

She says last year, out of the 14 boxes, there were eight or nine that successfully resulted in tree swallow fledglings. The bird boxes are part of the Town's initiative to introduce more biological control for flying insects.

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