Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Gathering of Swallows

Each August, a large group of swallows gathers in the yard. This morning, I found one of these large groups flying around the yard. After a little while, the group settled, landing on the barn, power lines, and the house. The majority of the swallows were Barn Swallows, the most common swallow during this summer. About a week ago, the local population stood at about 22 individuals. This morning, I counted 52 individual Barn Swallows! The next common species was the Tree Swallow. This species also breeds on the property, but in much smaller numbers. During the past few weeks, I had seen about four Tree Swallows around the yard, but this morning there were close to 30!

A group of swallows from this morning

Although these two species are the common breeding swallow species, a few others showed up this morning. The first uncommon (for the yard) swallow was a Northern Rough-winged Swallow. This lone bird circled around and called its buzzy notes with some Tree Swallows before heading west along the ridge. Soon after, I heard a similar buzz, but this was from a Bank Swallow, an even rarer species! This small swallow sat alone on the line.

The tiny Bank Swallow preferred to sit away from the other swallows.

The third, and rarest species of the morning was the Cliff Swallow. While scanning through a group of Barn Swallows, I noticed one individual with a brighter forehead patch and a shorter tail. When the group took flight, I could easily see the tan rump, which immediately distinguished the Cliff from all of the other nearby swallows. As I searched the flock more carefully, I found three more Cliff Swallows! This is the highest count for this species in the yard!

Cliff Swallow

In flight, the tan rump patch of the Cliff Swallow is very visible and distinct.

Cliff Swallow (left) with two Barn Swallows

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