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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tree Swallows At Fernhill Wetlands

Yesterday was the warmest, most beautiful day yet this season; the temperatures were in the 70s and there was not a cloud in the sky. (Don't worry for those of you still dwelling in the grayness of early spring, we're back to overcast and drizzly today!) It was perfect weather for taking a walk around Fernhill Wetlands, where the tree swallows that just returned a week or two ago are now out in force and in the process of claiming nest boxes for the season.

It was magical to step out of the car in the parking lot and be immediately surrounded by dozens of swallows, all dipping and swirling with amazing grace and speed. I remember my dad asking me once when I was younger if I could be any bird for a day, what would I be? Yesterday I remembered why my answer was tree swallow! I can only imagine what it must be like to fly like that.

Of course it was nearly impossible to capture in-focus photos of the swallows in flight, but they were very protective of their nest boxes and once perched on one would stay put for a couple of photos. You can really see in the above photo how the dark green coloration covers the eye, unlike in violet-green swallows where the white goes above the eye. Despite some violet-greens having been reported at this location just a few days earlier and some close looking on my part, I saw only tree swallows yesterday.

After moving on from the swallows (which took a while, I'll admit), the rest of the birding at Fernhill was pretty good too. I saw or heard 27 species, including about 2000 cackling and Canada geese. Another highlight was getting a brief glimpse of a single Wilson's snipe (124). The other best photographic opportunity was this male Brewer's blackbird that was making all kinds of metallic noises while perched in this poplar:

Just a few days ago I was reminding myself to look for rusty blackbirds among flocks of Brewer's blackbirds. In general, rusty blackbirds are an eastern bird while Brewer's are what we see out here in the west, but occasionally an individual will cross over - indeed, there was a rusty seen up in Washington within the last week. It's pretty difficult to tell them apart, but the male in this photo is undoubtedly a Brewer's - note the purplish iridescent sheen on the head, while the wings have a green sheen. The rusty are, overall, less glossy, and sport an entirely bluish-green sheen, without the purple. As you can imagine, distinguishing one from another is no easy task.


Warren Baker said...

'' The temperature's were in the 70's and not a cloud in the sky''

oh! for a day like that!

Love those tree Swallows Monika. Our swallows and martins are due any week now - cant wait :-)

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

'' The temperature's were in the 70's and not a cloud in the sky''

oh! for a day like that!

I concur!!! with Warren.

124 now Monika it's neck and neck I'm expecting you to overtake me in the next few days...keep up the good work.



Rhett Wilkins said...

Wonderful photos, Monika!

Do the numbers in parenthesis represent your year list, life list, month list?


Monika said...

Warren and Dave - I sure hope you get some nicer weather soon!

Dave - I think it will be neck and neck for a while now. With spring migrants moving through there's no telling who will move ahead!

Rhett - The numbers in parenthesis are my year list - I should probably clarify that from time to time!