Monday, May 12, 2008

Swallows and more swallows

Barn Swallow

Mosquito season has not yet arrived but there are many flying insects on the surfaces of local ponds, swamps and rivers. There seems to be an abundance of swallows around this year compared to last year and I have finally been able to identify every Ontario swallow except the Purple Martin. It can be a challenge to focus on these swift flying, acrobatic birds with the binoculars long enough to see what they are. I have noticed they eventually do stop for brief rests when foraging for food.

Tree Swallow

The Tree Swallow is the easiest for me to find perched somewhere as there are many bird houses placed along the river for them. They are our earliest arriving swallow in the spring.

Cliff Swallow

I have been looking under the bridge near the hospital for the Cliff Swallows that have a nesting colony there. House Sparrows had squatted in some of the mud nests in early April but in the past two weeks, the swallows have returned. I hoped to see them repairing their homes with new mud but have not been able to see where they land and have never seen them perched outside the nest. This nest is in definite need of repair but the Cliff Swallow does not seem to be bothered by the hole in the floor.

Grand River, Homer Watson Park

I recently hiked this lovely trail high above the river where sandy bluffs allow a great view of the treetops below. I noticed some swallows swooping back and forth near the bank and on closer inspection found the nests of some Bank Swallows.

Bank Swallow entering its nest

I never would have seen this bird near its nest unless I had watched it fly in with its mate. It is very well camouflaged! Apparently their nests are at the end of a sand tunnel. There were several nesting pairs in this little area.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

I had never identified a Rough-winged swallow until this spring. They are similar in colour to the Bank Swallow but lack the dark neck band. They hold their wings at a different angle when in flight. They are very active and difficult to find sitting still but will swoop within a couple of feet of your face. I did manage to get the shot above shot near a city pond. A trio of Rough-winged Swallows perched on the grate across the aquaduct that was under the pathway at the same pond.

Rough-winged Swallows- back, side and front...

Now I have to find a Purple Martin colony like Monarch wrote about in a recent post. My husband works in the country and I asked him to inquire if any neighbours or customers have an occupied Martin house.

Mosquitoes will be buzzing around any day now and if there are more swallows around than usual this year, they are most welcome to stay and gorge themselves on the pests. I never get tired of watching their graceful flight over the water with spins, turns and dives.


  1. I could watch swallows fly forever. Pure grace.

  2. When my sister and her friend went to visit the lady with the martin colony, she told them the best way to tell them from other swallows in flight is that the martins tend to flap, flap, flap and then glide a while instead of the rapid flap, flap, flap, flap of other swallow species. Hope you can find a colony Ruth. Lovely photos of the swallows you get to enjoy. :c)

  3. Ruth--very clever--all those swallows you identified. I really enjoyed the back/side/front photo. So nice of them to pose like that for you.

  4. Swallows are pure entertainment for me. I rarely know which ones I'm watching as they are so swift! You know your swallows very well, Ruth.

    I'd love to say we have an abudance of Barn Swallows...

  5. Wayne and I sat here laughing about swallows - I showed him your pics. At exactly 7:10pm, they would swoop over the pool to get insects. We forgot to warn a SIL once and she went in right as they swooped by - her scream was heard a great distance - thanks for the memory!

  6. I walked to the lake today and noticed the swallows for the first time this year.

    We are to get warm weather this weekend ... up to 25 by Thursday ... I guess the mosquitoes will be hatching! D will have to get the mosquito trap out ... unless a could coax a few swallows up our way!

  7. Our skitters are just beginning to come out. I got a black fly nip or two yesterday.

  8. I agree with Lynne--swallows are gorgeous. Maybe their elegant, streamlined look is what I love. Nice pictures!

  9. Great photos. We do not have tree swallows, but barn swallows are plentiful. I love watching them and I love the added benefit of knowing how many insects they are eating. Thanks for a great post.

  10. Anonymous4:15 pm GMT-4

    So nice to see your swallow photos and to see them in various places. I love watching them fly. Pretty picture of a bend in the Grand River. Mosquitoes - not looking forward to that. They usually come out the middle of May in our area. Must get the garden in before they appear. :)

  11. Such an interesting post! I enjoyed it!

  12. Anonymous9:21 pm GMT-4

    You've inspired me to be more diligent in finding different Mexican swallows. Our numbers are drastically down but hope more come as late arrivals.
    Our hot dry weather has not encouraged mosquitoes but rains should come soon. None since last October.

  13. Lynne- I feel the same way!

    Jayne- It was interesting to read of your sister's attempt to attract Purple Martins. I hope we both find them.

    KGMom- I spend so much time walking near water where swallows are abundant. Don't ask me about warblers :-)

    Mary- If they are swooping and flying around they are most difficult to identify. But they do stop from time to time.

    Jean- Great story! I am glad you got a chuckle from seeing the swallows.

    CS- Mosquito time is fast approaching. Maybe you have some other flycatchers that can enjoy your insects.

    AC- I have found 3 mosquitoes in the past 24 hours. By the long weekend they should be out in force.

    AfricaKid- Thanks. They are very elegant and our Tree and Barn swallows are beautifully coloured.

    NCMW- Any swallow is welcome, except Barn Swallows can be messy nesters around a house. Interesting that you don't have Tree Swallows. I see more of them than any other here.

    April- Hope you gardening is coming along. My trail choices will change after the mosquitoes appear. No more woods for a while.

    Rondi- Thanks!

    Mom- All our swallows live near water but you don't have much near your place. Your swallows are very entertaining.

  14. Anonymous4:21 am GMT-4

    wow... that's a lot of swallows... We didn't see so many on our birdathon on may 3rd, but i bet we would see more now...

  15. Jennifer- I started seeing different swallows after learning about them on Tom's blog. I only see the cliff swallows around bridges, but the others are anywhere there is water.

  16. I've never seen a Purple Martin on my own.It is interesting for me to see that you get some of the same migrants as I do in Connecticut. Nice photos!

  17. Larry- You must have Purple Martins in your area. I think they have become quite dependent on people for providing nesting sites.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.