Posted by: atowhee | December 17, 2016

SWALLOWS IN A SNOWY LAND

Update, Dec. 18: second year in a row for Barn Swallows on Salem CBC…here is note from compiler Tim Johnson: “Harry,

How exciting. A few were found in the Salem CBC circle last year, but I hadn’t heard reports of them being in the area this year.  Glad you could find some.
Unfortunately, the black-headed grosbeak that has been visiting my feeders for the previous 17 days decided to lay low on count day. That could have been the first-ever report of a black-headed grosbeak for the Salem Christmas Bird Count.  At least we have one to report for count week.
Tim”
In Alan Contreras’ Northwest Birds in Winter reads “rare in winter, but one or two seem to linger into mid-December in the region west of the Cascades and in most years…”  Could it be this bird has a wider variety of food sources than we imagine?    Or are there many more tiny insects in the air than we ever notice?
 
Dec. 17

I got to participate in the Salem, Oregon, Christmas Bird County today.  My sub-team was doing lakes and gravel pits and riparian areas in southeast Salem. The temperature stayed below freezing and most small pools and ponds were frozen so ducks and geese were concentrated.  Larger open bodies of waster were simply ducky.

At the Riverbend gravel operation on south Lancaster we stopped to survey the waterfowl.  A few Hooded Mergansers were the highlight…until something streaked through my field of vision as I scoped across the water…then another  midget passed through the field of view.  My gawd, swallows!

Turns out we had at least 7 Barn Swallows flying back and forth low over the open water.  Were they finding food?  Can they survive on berries and fruit like Black Phoebe?  Barn Swallows do occasionally eat berries or seeds.  Yet, unlike a warbler, they cannot eat insect eggs or hiding spiders, any prey Barn Swallows catch must be on the surface of water or bare ground or on the wing.  They cannot glean for food like a chickadee. I checked eBird for five counties in central Willamette valley and Barn Swallows have been reported here in every week of the year except early December so it is an uncommon but not unprecedented occurrence.  The calculus of calories in this cold weather must be very demanding.  Can they possibly eat enough to be able to fly to eat more? I admire swallows and wish this little hardy gang the best of luck.

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  1. […] For information on the Barn Swallows we found, click here. […]


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