Summertime in the Pacific Northwest can be a bummer for bird watching. Most of the songbirds and water birds have migrated. It is hot and dry – next to no swamps or ponds, lots of vegetation for birds to hide in. I saw an eagle land on this adventure – in the mid level of a tree at Flaming Geyser park. Then I couldn’t find it with my binoculars or camera, even with the zoom! I saw the Leucistic Robin again. He was hopping around in a meadow with his mate. I didn't get a good picture because someone kept pulling their leash. Did I say Maggie? It was that pup that prevented my shot! It's hard to be a paparazzi when attached to an animal on the trail of a scent. She didn't think there was much to see yet!
But swallows are there in the summer, and they, with the red winged blackbirds, make the trip worthwhile.
There are five somewhat common swallows here in King County – barn swallows, tree swallows, violet green swallows, bank swallows, and cliff swallows. But wait - this was news to me – the purple martin in in this family! This year I have seen more violet green and bank swallows than in the past. Barn swallows tend to like the farmland – they swoop swiftly over the fields and all you can see is the flash of red on their stomachs and their deeply forked tails. I have yet to get a good picture of a barn swallow! Tree swallows hang out with them, with green and white flashing in the sunlight. Their tails don’t have the deep forks. They also like the water.
It’s not too hard to distinguish the tree swallows from the violet green swallows – there’s more violet coloring and more white in the face. There is no white around the eyes of the tree swallow.
Bank swallows have brown backs and white chins separated by a necklace of brown from white underparts. A group of bank swallows are referred to as a foreclosure of swallows. Wonder if that is because they can destroy a farm crop fairly quickly? Not just bank swallows – all of that family is capable of swooping in on the lovely produce and practically levelling it? I might not like swallows so much if they made me lose my home or my living!
Cliff swallows do not have the white neck so they are easily separated from the bank swallows. But purple martins! I haven’t seen one in a while, but I’ll be looking for them to get a picture now that I have found their family connections!
Swallows may be common at this time of year. But I enjoy watching them – their tiny bodies swooping and diving so fast they’re a challenge to keep up with. They give me a good fix on my birding when so few fowl can be found!
I love birdwatching. It's relaxing and fun. Even though I've been birding for over 10 years I classify myself as an amateur birder. I plan to write a blog a week about my experiences. Hope you enjoy them!