Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Enough swallows to make a summer

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Tree Swallow, Randall's Island
sure, one isn't enough, but Randall's Island now has enough swallows to make a summer

I went to Randall's Island yesterday. Swallows have taken over the northeast shore. Everywhere you look, there are Barn Swallows. I counted a couple of dozen at least, all swooping around, too fast for me to photograph.

The Tree Swallows were fewer and more cooperative.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Tree Swallow singing, Randall's Island
Tree Swallow singing to claim a nesting area

The Parks department has put up some nest boxes, and the Tree Swallows have moved in.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Tree Swallow, Randall's Island
the happy homeowners

Of, course, if there's a nest, the birds must be getting ready to fill it.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Tree Swallows mating, Randall's Island

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Tree Swallows mating, Randall's Island
Ah, Spring, Spring! Great is the Spring, and so forth! -Basho

The nest boxes are right out in the open in an area with unrestricted access (that is, no fences; you're meant to walk along the shoreline); one of them is about 25 feet from a picnic table. The swallows aren't especially shy birds, I don't think, but if you visit, do give them a little space.

There were a lot of other birds as well. A big shoal of Brant was in the East River, along with a few Laughing Gulls, and there were Killdeer and a Spotted Sandpiper on the shores of the Bronx Kill (the bit of riser that separates Randall's Island from the Bronx). And some remarkably sharp-looking Savannah Sparrows.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Savannah Sparrow, Randall's Island
King of the world, Ma!

In the freshwater marsh neat Little Hell Gate Inlet, I found Red-Winged Blackbirds (of course), but also Common Yellowthroats, a Yellow Warbler, and a Warbling Vireo singing loudly (of course).

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Warbling Vireo singing, Randall's Island
Warbling Vireo, just like it says on the label

A splendid day in a splendid Spring migration. The Spotted Sandpiper and the Laughing Gulls were my first of the year, bringing me to 155 species in the county. I didn't get to that number until September last year.

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