Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer is winding down

Blue moon over Nell's Hill, 6:15 a.m. 
I’m having a “normal” day here atop Roundtop Mtn.  Normal means Baby Dog and I scared the same buck and doe from earlier in the week. This time they weren’t at the paintball fields but over on the abandoned ski slope.  Poor deer probably think they can’t go anywhere without running into the two of us.

We don’t usually walk that way in the mornings, but I wanted to see the setting full moon, so this morning that is where we walked.  The deer were not amused. I took today’s photo with my phone because:

Good camera  + Baby Dog = Does Not Mix

Signs that summer is winding down are suddenly everywhere.  The barn swallows congregate in big numbers on the wires over the snowmaking pond. Congregating is what they do as they get ready to move south.  I haven’t seen this many at once all summer.  They will be gone shortly, within the week if they hold true to their pattern. Oh, I will likely see a few beyond that time, but those, I believe, are not my resident barn swallows but those heading south from further north. The ones from here tend to leave around August 26 or 27.

They are perhaps the earliest of the summer residents to leave the mountain. Certainly, they are the earliest of the most visible summer residents to head south.  In the early spring I often see tree swallows and sometimes rough-winged swallows. But those don’t stay and move on within a few days.  Rough-winged swallows sometimes do stay, though none seem to have done so this year.

Swallows are fast and not easy to see in binoculars, so identifying the others species can be difficult if the light is less than perfect. Male barn swallows have a nice long tail that makes them easy to identify.  Tree swallows are quite white underneath, making them the second-easiest to identify.  Rough-winged swallows?  Well, if they are sitting, they are easy enough to identify.  Swallows don’t sit very often and seem to do that most often at dusk or when I’m blinded by the glare of the rising sun.  On the rare occasions when that doesn’t happen, I still have more barn swallows than any others.

Soon enough, I won’t have them at all until next April.  Summer is winding down.


Scott said...

Rough-winged Swallows have been overwintering at the Philadelphia Water Department's waste water treatment plant on the Delaware River in the city. The Christmas Count for our valley has been recording them for the last several years, though I've never gone down to see them hawking insects from the water being cleaned at the plant.

When the migrating Nighthawks show up in a week or so, I'll know summer's really winding down. No sign of them yet.

Carolyn H said...

Scott: I'm already starting to hear reports of big numbers of migrating nighthawks. I think I will start looking for them over at the snowmaking pond. they might be moving early this year, though the reports I've heard are still from New York (but that's not far away!)

Interesting about the over-wintering rough-winged swallows. The power station on the Susquehanna near me is a popular spot for swallows, and the released water is, I believe, somewhat warmer than the river water, so theoretically that area might be able to support wintering swallows. I'll have to check that out and see if I have them here during winter, too. Thanks for the tip!