Return of the Swallows

Apr 17, 2011 | 1 comment

Oysterville Fixer-Upper

     It’s been ten days since we saw the first swallows of the year here in Oysterville.  On that day, April 8th, we saw only two.  They were barn swallows on a leisurely glide above our garden, scoping out the possibility of edible insects in the vicinity.
      A few days later, neighbor Bradley reported seeing two more swallows sitting atop our roller door.  Perhaps they were members of the cliff swallow family who ensconced themselves within our kitchen wall last year.   No doubt they’ll refurbish their nest this season, for once they left last September it was out-of-sight-out-of-mind and we never did patch their entry hole behind the house trim.
     Since those sightings last week, we hadn’t seen any more swallows until yesterday.  I blame the rainy weather, though it may be projection on my part. It just doesn’t seem to be good house-hunting weather to me.   But yesterday, out came the sun and back came the barn swallows, this time checking out the old nests above our east-side kitchen window.  Those two nests have been used every year for more than a decade, and I have every hope that they will be used again this year.
     Today I dug out my 2010 calendar to see when the swallows had returned last year.  For once I wrote it down and, not only that, I kept the calendar!  April 11th was the date.  I can’t really say their April 8th arrival was early this year.  If they typically send out a few front-runners, we could have missed those last year.  But, certainly it’s safe to say they arrive in early April – about three weeks later than their San Juan Capistrano cousins.
     Most of the swallows that we see here – barn, cliff, violet green, tree, bank and northern rough-winged swallows and purple martins — are called Neotropical migrants.  They leave their breeding range in the fall and travel south to winter in Mexico, Central and South America, eating as they fly.  Most average 200 miles a day during their migration, but barn swallows can travel as many as 600 miles a day!  Whew!  That’s about my limit in a car!       

1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    I enjoy seeing the swallows having breakfast in our yard and we even have a bird house, painted to match the house. What I don’t like is when they make their nest on our front porch light. I can see the advantage of a warm spot tucked under the porch roof, but the porch ends up covered in bird doo. We have a plastic owl, but our swallows are very hep to that. I’ve arrived to find one sitting on his head. I guess I need more bird houses in places that don’t foul the porch.

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