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.