Friday, August 24, 2007

Swallows Found Dead (Disappearances)

Swallows have been found dead in large numbers along the Susquehanna River the past few days. Results are still preliminary (and reported to me about third hand) but the word is that they had no food in their stomachs and so likely starved to death. Toxicology tests are being run, however. The weather here has been (as regular readers know), foggy and rainy and chilly since last Saturday. Apparently that has been long enough for the insects that the swallows feed on to disappear.

Perhaps the scariest part of this story is that it was only a few weeks ago that I reported on an article in The Auk that indicated large numbers of insect-eating swallows and warblers died during their northbound migration in the late frost that killed the insects they feed on. And now it appears the same thing has happened during the southbound migration, though at this point I have no idea if the deaths are as widespread as what was the case in the spring. Why this may mean to the population of insect-eating birds as a whole is unknown. How long it will take the population to recover is also unknown.

My photo today isn’t of swallows, but the theme of disappearances continues. This lovely old stone fence has been here for 150 years or more but may well not survive the week. Road widening is underway, and another of these stone fences just a mile up the road has already gone. The lovely tree that I photographed along the outside of this same fence for my January 19, 2007 post has disappeared from the time I drove past after work yesterday to when I drove past this morning.

Disappearances are just one half of the process of change--appearances of new things being the other half. I don’t think I would mind changes so much if so many of them weren’t for the worse.


Dorothea said...

What strange webs there are in the tree in the lower photo.

I hope the stone fence stays; it is quite beautiful in its age and ruddiness and it would be awful to lose. It's also a lovely lane and too bad that it will be widened and not be as cozy. I suppose if there's excessive traffic or accidents it's a good, but still rather sad change...

Your blog is wonderful. Someday I hope I have a cabin in the woods. :) Thank you for visiting my little blog - you did find Mangy!

Carolyn H said...


I'm glad you're enjoying my blog. I like yours too. I've been to Alaska and the lower Yukon several times, and wish I could get back soon.

Carolyn H.

Jennifer said...

Funny, but I feel more sadness over the loss of the fence than of the birds. I have faith in the natural world that populations can bound back. But that fence... even if reconstructed back a few hundred feet to allow for the widening of the road... It just would never be the same, would it?

Carolyn H said...

Jennifer: So far the stone fence in my photos is still there, though the trees between the fence and the road are gone. I'm almost afraid to say it, but I'm starting to hope this fence may survive, this time.

Carolyn H.