Regular birding buddy Dave and I got great looks at four species of Swallow in one morning, all within the Parker River NWR. There is a Purple Martin colony at the main lot as you enter the refuge where volunteers maintain a cluster of gourd-style nest boxes. Purple Martins rely on such man-made facilities and have for centuries. Native Americans used actual gourds and these nest boxes harken back to that practice.
The volunteers try to keep House Sparrows from grabbing a nest box but apparently one managed to slip through. House Sparrows are an invasive species and push out native species. I caught this one defending his claim as he flew out at a passing Martin.
We then went to the southern tip of the island to see if the Bank Swallows had returned to nest near the shore. One of the sites is a bank inside the plover/tern nesting area so we had to look from a greater distance than normal.
It was hard to get a good shot of a Bank Swallow as they zipped across the sand but here are a couple of photos. Notice the distinctive collar. It makes it easier to identify them in flight.
Heading back to the middle of the refuge, we checked the maintenance sheds for Barn Swallows. They nest in the buildings annually and are used to human activity. They have a deeply forked tail and the males have tawny bellies with a rusty throat.
And finally, there were some Tree Swallows around the maintenance area as well. These are the most common swallows in our area. The males have a blue-green back, while the females are brown. They aren’t that gregarious during breeding season, as you can see below. But they gather by the thousands in the fall before heading to the south coast and Mexico for the winter. (The caption for the second photo could be: “I’ll park my butt where I like!”)
The mosquitoes and other annoying insects are coming on strong now. These birds are doing their bit and eating well in the bargain, but it is a losing battle. We have entered the season where I carry repellent along with a spare battery. And then there are the ticks…. Ughh!!