Friday, August 03, 2007

Where are the Swallows?

I've seen far fewer swallows at Roundop this year than is typical, and I have wondered what was going on all summer long. I have a few barn swallows, but in most summers these birds fill the utility wires that run next to the snowmaking ponds. And in most summers it's not just barn swallows. Rough-legged swallows are usually fairly common, as are tree swallows. Not this year. This year I've seen only barn swallows and only a few of those.

Now, I hear of a reason that might explain that. The latest issue of The Auk, the publication of the American Ornithologists' Untion, has an article that suggests many birds, and swallows especially, died during the late cold snap experienced this past spring in the east. The article suggests that the cold snap killed the insects these birds eat, and that the swallows died during their migration as a result. Naturally, this work is still a preliminary one, but at the very least it offers an avenue to explore this possibility more fully.

I've already been told the local peach crop suffered a severe blow from that cold snap. The peaches available right now are excellent but the local orchardman tell me there aren't many of them and that they will disappear quickly from the local produce stands.

In the I-knew-it-would-happen department: this morning Baby Dog wouldn't walk past the spot where she saw the fox yesterday. She kept expecting to see the fox again and planted her feet in one spot, on alert. Everytime I called her away or turned my back, she headed back there again as soon as she could. That girl has a memory like an elephant. I'll be lucky if she's forgotten this episode by this time next year.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Interesting swallow observations and reflections. I live in a small river-town, where I see more chimney swifts than swallows. The swifts seem as numerous as ever; a few days ago, I saw a dramatic whirlpool of swifts hovering above a brick chimney with occasional individuals darting within. I think they are gathering in that chimney as a preliminary move ending in migration.

It was an anomalous spring here ; many flowering trees, such as mimosa, tulip tree, and magnolia, are flowering now rather than during their normal early summer time.