Friday, May 25, 2007

The Wrong Swallows and The Cooper's in the Backyard.

Gorgeous, but it's another Tree Swallow and I'm on the trail of the elusive Wisconsin Bank Swallow.
I've been out to see the burrows of the Bank Swallows before, thought I've never actually seen a Bank Swallow itself. In the past I've always had a guide. Today I'm trying it myself. Not easy to get around on the country roads when you haven't lived here since birth. Take 26 out of town, then left on County trunk N, right on Vogel, and right on County Line. Not that hard--unless you miss Vogel and find yourself on the way to Edgerton, the next town over. A learning experience, I turn around and look for Vogel again, then County Line.

There they are! You don't notice the burrows right away as most of these have optimum placement, just in the shadow of the overhanging lip at the top.

There are a number of burrows. Though no more than two dozen. Before they began to disappear there were colonies of 3,000 burrows. But never here, the bank is too small and Bank Swallows were never numerous in this state. They aren't even in the book, BIRDS OF WISCONSIN. Another reason they'd be nifty to see here.
Amazingly round for something that's eyeballed and eroding. They go in anywhere from one meter to three and then according to report they open up into a little chamber. Considering the size of these birds and their beaks, that's a lot of dirt removal.
Some seem to have grass growing in front of them. I wonder if that's good for cover or whether that means that they aren't being used. It seems that a new burrow is often dug for every new clutch in a season.
I keep an eye peeled. Checking the wires, checking the trees, checking the burrows. Nothing yet. Rule number one, if you're only looking for one thing and that's it, you are bound to be disappointed. Okay, there are likely all sorts of terrific things around if I just look.

What's that on the top of that Spruce? That's the top of that Spruce. I notice the sky is a clear intense blue. That's terrific.
The Spiderwort has come out in the last day or two and I have to admit it's pretty terrific too.

Up close even better.

There's one! Unfortunately he isn't brown with a brown band across his chest. He's blue, like most everything else today. The sky, the flowers, the birds. Perhaps the Bank Swallows didn't come back this year. Or perhaps they're just shy and here I am standing across from their burrows.

Or has the house construction just behind their bank scared them off? Probably not, it seems that like the Red-tails, a few are beginning to adapt and have begun using "cavities" in man made structures.
I've called it a day, opened the truck door, and am leaning down packing up when I see something light on the wire from the corner of my eye. Like an idiot I stand up in a flash for a better look. It's a swallow, and it's BROWN and it's-- gone. Maybe tomorrow or the next day. You can only have so many terrific things in one day after all. Or that's what I thought then.

The Cooper's in the Garden

Around 6:30PM Wisconsin time, I was walking out the back door to plant a bush. The bird screams were incredible, all kinds in all pitches. I turned around grabbed the binoculars, started searching the trees, glanced down....Whoa! There's a hawk standing in the neighbor's garden. Back to the house for the camera.

And he just stood there looking at me, orange eyes glinting. On the park side, was an oblivious group watching a kid's soccer game, on the tree side were all the neighborhood birds screaming their heads off, then there was me on the third. Mr. Cooper's let me take one photo, picked up his dinner Grackle and took off with all the other Grackles and even a Crow on his tail.

He took off low, but soon whipped through the tree branches took a sharp turn and high tailed it for the next stand of trees, the other birds in hot pursuit. Things got much quieter after that and not nearly as terrific, but there is always tomorrow.
Donegal Browne

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