Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ducks and Cave Swallows

I ran into Barry Noret on the east end of Lake Creek Trail this morning and we spent about 3 hours birding the area. I'm so happy to see a nice diversity of wild ducks on the creek and in the Parmer Village drainage pond. When I arrived at the pond this morning there were Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, and a single male Ring-necked Duck. Here's a photo I got of the Ring-necked Duck. It's the dramatically patterned black and white and grey bird with the golden eye. The other ducks are 1 male Gadwall (brownish gray with a black tail) and 2 female Gadwalls.

Ring-necked Duck and Gadwalls

After checking out the pond Barry and I walked down underneath the Parmer Lane bridge where we found 2 wings from a Green-winged Teal. My guess is that a coyote caught and ate this bird. Maybe a fox or bobcat could have as well? Looking downstream across the fence line on the other side of Parmer Lane, we were excited to find a large group of Wood Ducks. I estimated at least 20. This was the most Wood Ducks I've ever found here in the neighborhood. And seeing the males in the clear morning light was a real treat. Too bad they were too far away for photos.

I've posted about the wintering Cave Swallows under the Parmer Lane bridge a few times lately, and one reason I wanted to walk underneath it was to see their nests. The Cave Swallows are still around. Yesterday evening I counted 17 returning under the bridge as the sun set, and I saw 4 or 5 leave the bridge this morning as we approached. Cave Swallows build mud nests similar to Cliff Swallow nests, but usually with a much wider opening.  They are not breeding this time of year, but they roost in their old nests.

I was surprised to see that most of the nests looked like Cliff Swallow nests to me -- totally enclosed except for a round entrance hole. (The majority of swallows I see around this bridge all year long are Cave Swallows.) Here's a photo of several of the nests:

Swallow Nests - 4

And here's a photo of a single nest that looks much more like a Cave Swallow nest to me:

Swallow Nests - 2

But after some reading, I learned that Cave Swallows will use abandoned Cliff Swallow nests. And some Cave Swallows actually construct nests that look like Cliff Swallow nests with the single round entrance hole. So I'm curious to learn if the Cave Swallows are using and maybe even building these Cliff Swallow-like nests. I'll have to watch them under the bridge later this year when they start to breed!

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