Monday, May 10, 2010

swallows ~ 05/10/10 ~ El Estero

barn swallow
Hirundo rustica

where a violet-green swallow was
Tachycineta thalassina

Seeing four species of swallows at Lake El Estero was an unexpected delight. They were everywhere! Why do they fly so close to you as you're walking? I was hoping to take a picture of a night heron in a tree when I found these swallows seemingly soaking up the late afternoon sun. Truth be told, I have never looked up the different kinds of swallows before these pictures. Dunno, it was easy to simply call them swallows and leave it at that, especially when they fly so freakin' fast. For a fun pic of a barn swallow nest from last year while we were on a camping trip north, check out this travel post from Oregon.

I once banded cliff swallows, if you can believe considering I am definitely not an avid birder. I did not like the experience at all. An ornithologist fellow (can't remember his name now, but he was very pleasant) and I set up a mist net across the underside of a road bridge. I cringed at how the swallows were caught and struggled for their lives to free themselves from the net while babies chirped from the nests nearby. The trapped swallows eventually sorta hung there, tangled in the net, looking pitiful. Then I had to grab them, extricate them from the netting, and crimp a ridiculous metal ring to their leg. I hoped I wasn't using too small a hole on the pliers-like device for clamping. Their legs felt so fragile. I was bitten several times while whispering to the little, warm, rapid-heart beating bodies, "I'm so sorry to do this to you." Nope, I won't go banding again anytime soon. It's not for me.

Actually, we headed to El Estero this evening for 3 reasons: 1) french fries nearby 2) look for juvenile American coots (after seeing what they looked like online, I'm really excited to see one in person 3) and get off our stinkin' computers and go outside.


Erica Lea said...

You were indeed lucky, especially to catch them sitting still! We see barn and cliff swallows flying all over the waterways here, but they are so fast and erratic as they swoop up bugs. I get dizzy just watching them;-) Need to try for photos, though, just to challenge myself. I understand the point of banding, but would probably feel the same as you if I actually did it.

Nature ID said...

Haha, I actually have about 30 pictures in an attempt to capture the swallows in flight. The best I got was a brown blurry spot over the lake.

I lost a birder blog follower after this post. I rewrote this to reflect more my own experience, rather than a criticism of banding.

Anonymous said...

OH baby coots yeah - first time I saw one I almost fell over laughing with their little red punk mohawks!

Nature ID said...

We only saw 2 adults this outing and no baby coots. We looked as best as we could in the reeds for nests. There's another pond just a few blocks away that I want to check soon, but it's on the Navy Postgraduate School property. I hope I can convince the guards to let me in to check for baby birds.