Spring migration is getting ready to kick into high gear. There are some species coming into the area in good numbers already. One group is the swallows.
Several species are common through the breeding season, and I always look forward to their arrival each March. Last Sunday I took a late afternoon stroll around the lake at McAlpine Park and encountered a sizable flock of three swallow species skimming over the water’s surface. Present were tree swallows, barn swallows,and Northern rough-winged swallows.
The barn swallows are the most graceful and are my favorites. Some of you may deal with nests over your front porch and the ensuing mess, but I wish I had them. The entire flock eventually came to rest in a birch tree by the lake, giving excellent comparison views of the three species.
The tree swallows are increasing in the area as breeders. This swallow uses bird boxes in open country near water. The males are a shiny blue-green on the upper parts with immaculate white underparts. The Northern rough-winged swallow can be found near any body of water, and sometimes a fair distance from water. They are especially fond of nesting in the understructure of the trailer portion of parked eighteen-wheeler trucks. Purple martins, the largest swallow in our area, are back too, but I did not see any that day.
Everyone’s favorite migrant, the ruby-throated hummingbird, will start showing up this week. There is usually a big surge around the first of April. If you have not freshened up your feeders, it is time to do so. Most of the birds seen early in April are male birds heading north. They likely won’t stay long, so you may notice a lull in sightings after an initial push. Many of you may not see any more activity until midsummer, unless you are lucky enough to have a pair set up a territory near you. Be patient; by late July there will be plenty of action at feeders as adults and juveniles fatten up for the impending trip south.
Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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