Sunday, March 8, 2015

Osprey and Swallows Newest County Arrivals

As area breeding birds continue their spring returns, the latest arrivals are two species of swallows and the high profile osprey. Like the fish crows a few days ago, the ospreys appeared suddenly and in good numbers. Theirs was not a gradual arrival; they arrived March sixth and seem to be settled in across the county already, at work staking out nest sites or refurbishing nests from previous years. Look for the large platforms of sticks on channel markers along the Catawba River or on towers along the high tension power lines.

Osprey by Phil Fowler

Tree swallows were reported from two locations for the first time this year on Friday. Yesterday I checked some area ponds and found three flapping and gliding over the water's surface, skimming minute insects off the surface or snatching them in midair. The tree swallows were joined by two Northern rough-winged swallows, new arrivals as well.

Look for swallows skimming low over lakes and ponds right now. Recognize tree swallows by their iridescent green upperparts and immaculate white underparts. This swallow readily accepts nest boxes in open country near water as nesting sites.
Tree Swallow by Phil Fowler

Northern rough-winged swallows are among the drabbest birds we have. Plain gray-brown upperparts and dingy paler underparts. They can be found at just about any small body of water including small retention ponds. Oddly, this species seems especially fond of choosing the undersides of parked tractor trailers as nest sites.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow by John Ennis

Purple martins and barn swallows should be the next swallows to appear any day now.