I was working diligently at my kitchen table this afternoon and the tree swallows I thought had already departed for southern climes descended on our neighborhood. I watched them for a few minutes as they demonstrated their excellent flying skills. Then I couldn’t stand it anymore and got up to get my camera.
At this time of year, tree swallows – Tachycineta bicolor – congregate in the thousands before taking the extraordinary leap of faith of migration. They spend their summers near water, and I believe some of them are using a neighbor’s purple martin nesting colony set-up. I watched last summer as they brought their young to perch on our wires and learn the amazing moves they need to catch their insect meals on the wing.
And now they are “staging,” gathering before they fly down to Central America where they will spend the winter. Before they leave, though, they’re taking a short breather on some nearby wires. I always find it interesting how quiet their calls are, so soft and low key compared to the raucous flocks of starlings.
I stood outside for a while making pathetic attempts to capture the numbers of these birds in flight, but I – and the camera – are just too slow. They’re gone now, anyway.