30 Mar We’ve got Violet-green Swallows with big plans!
Posted from Seattle on March 30, 2013
In recent years waiting for a Violet-green Swallow family to get settled at our house has been a bit tortuous. Swallows dislike really bad weather even more than people do, and in miserable springs a male would show up in the morning in a stiff blowing 45-degree rain, wait for a female in vain for an hour or so, and then leave for better foraging near a low-lying meadow or wetland or a lake. (Swallows have no use for the astro-turf that our dear Seattle Parks Dept. and the UW have fallen in love with.)
This is the would-be Dad. My horrible photo doesn’t show its colorful bright green and lavender back.
This year we’ve got this warm weather. (Warm-dry weather can also be a problem for Swallows). On the 28th a big squad of Violet-green Swallows came into the neighborhood. They headed straight to our boxes, as always. It’s quite obvious they remember exactly where they are. There was much excitement and some mild fighting (Violet-greens are a fairly peacable species) and obviously a decision ensued as to who would be the male and who would be the female owners of the box.
This is the female. They didn’t sit as close to each other as is normal, I hope this isn’t an arranged marriage!
We have three boxes in front and two in back that may not be as appealing to the birds because there are nearby tree branches and roof areas that could be predator platforms. We’ll see which one they choose.
This used to be an abundant bird in Seattle. Nobody seems to know anything about why it is in a state of collapse in the upland neighborhoods of Seattle and the issue hasn’t gotten on the radar anywhere, although it was discussed for a couple days on tweeters, the birding chatline, last year. Bad weather is the simplest explanation for the decline and it is well-known that even before climate-forcing was an issue, Swallows lived or died by the weather.
We are delighted to be their hosts and wish them luck this season.
(If anyone has Swallows hunting for nest-sites, and wants to put up a box in a good location (close up under eaves to protect from Crows and Jays, no platforms for cats to watch and jump within 12 or 15 feet, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org This is not about selling you anything)
Here is shot of a flying male Violet-green Swallow by Marv Breece, who held the WA state Big Year record for years. This remains my favorite wildlife shot of all time. (I have a yardstick. I learned more from this shot than I usually do from a photo and I was forced to upgrade my view of the aesthetics of a relatively common bird that I thought I knew everything about. Also, the shot is cropped, but notice the bird has a shadow and a reflection that can be compared) Because the birds are small and fast and often are above us humans rarely see the violet, but this shot shows the violet and also shows the fighter-jet profile these cool little birds make in flight.