Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly: Cliff Swallows

On my last trip out to the Katy Prairie area — maybe three weeks ago, now — I was barreling along Highway 290 when I noticed several swarms of what looked (at 70+ mph) like swallows swooping and diving around and beside some of the highway overpasses. I was running too late to stop on the way back, but I did make a mental note of exactly where I had seen these birds so I go back and find them later.

A few days later, I found myself with no lunch plans and no leftovers in the office fridge, so I hopped in the truck and headed back out in search of the swallows. Sure enough, I found two colonies of Cliff Swallows nesting under the highway bridges.

Cliff Swallows - 5/21/2009
Cliff Swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

There were dozens of adobe-looking nests plastered to the concrete wall of the freeway overpasses, high rise rooms with a view. Some were obviously new and intact, others appeared to be refurbished models with a cracked edge or two, and still others were just the old broken shells of abandoned nests from years past.

Cliff Swallows - 5/21/2009

Cliff Swallows - 5/21/2009

Almost all of the intact nests seemed to be occupied, with some swallows sitting alertly inside watching the nonstop comings and goings of the other birds. At any given time, there seemed to be at least two or three dozen swallows in the air around each colony, performing acrobatic feats of flight that left me dizzy every time I tried to follow them with my lens.

Cliff Swallows - 5/21/2009

Cliff Swallows - 5/21/2009

I haven't had a chance to return in the three weeks since I first visited these colonies, so I don't know if there are babies in the nests now or if they've already fledged and moved on, but I sure enjoyed the half hour or so that I got to spend watching their frenetic activities.

Cliff Swallows - 5/21/2009

As always, you can click on any of these images to view them on Flickr, and then click the "All Sizes" button above the image to see the larger versions.

For more great bird photos from around the world, check out Bird Photography Weekly #42.

Bird Photography Weekly


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I've only seen Cliff Swallows once- they sure a pretty.

Little Brown Job said...

Fascinating stuff, what an amazing find!

MaineBirder said...

Excellent, sharp photos of the activity! Awesome photos!

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Wonderful photos! I just recommended your blog on Twitter. Keep up the beautiful work.