Saturday, August 10, 2013

rain, swallows, kingbirds

Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Bird of The Day: Tree Swallow
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: none
Invisi-bird status: Still a few chicks that haven't fledged. Number actually seen by me: zero.

So my prediction that the rain would trick me like it did last Friday was wrong. However, I felt so badly about bailing on last week's shift because it was raining when I got up that I decided to go anyway. Hah! The rain lasted all day.  No need for plover wardens. Mother nature was doing fine at keeping people away.

It's that time of year again. The swallows are flocking. The annual sign warning drivers to look out for swallows in the road is up. Below is last year's sign. It was raining too hard to get a good shot of this year's sign. In any case, there were indeed swallows in the road. There were also starlings, American robins, semipalmated sandpipers, mourning doves, turkeys, purple finches, and a toad in the road.  The road was clearly the place to be.
Last Year's Swallow Warning Sign
I'm used to seeing peeps of various species in the puddles on the unpaved part of the refuge road, on the road to Nelson Island, and other dirt roads in the area, like Stackyard Rd. and Patmos Rd. What amazed me was semipalmated sandpipers on the paved road. There were plenty of them foraging in the salt pannes (which I will forever spell the correct way regardless of the spellchecker and the MassBird listserve conventions -- salt pannes are wet, salt pans are dry -- you could look it up). Shorebird migration is barely underway, so there weren't enormous numbers of semipalmated sandpipers yet. There were a few lesser yellowlegs and two greater yellowlegs too, but they seemed to know to avoid the road.

Sandpiper in the Road
Tree swallows swirling around in the rain are hard to photograph. I even tried to record video, but my feeble equipment cannot convey how the sky looked all full of swallows, eastern kingbirds, and rain. The mixed swallow and kingbird flock over Stage Island pool attracted a least tern, who tried to join in the action. An eastern kingbird got into a pitched battle with the tern, harassing it and being harassed back. The swallows ignored the whole thing.

Sky Full of Swallows and Rain
Sometimes groups of the swallows landed on trees by the side of the road and rested for a few minutes before swirling back up into the larger flock.

Swallows in Tree
Three turkeys crossed the road by the speed limit sign near the S-curves. I got their picture once they made it to the other side. You can't really see the third one at this angle, it was smaller and had its head down.

Starlings were doing the massive flocking thing too and blocking the road. At one point there was a giant flock that included American robins and common grackles too.  Smaller flocks of robins took to the road in several spots as well. Everything seemed to be flocking except the mourning doves, who always stand in the middle of the road anyway.

I took a photo of the mixed starling/robin/grackle flock through the wet windshield  to capture more of a sense of how rainy it was.
Starlings with Some Robins and Grackles
It's amazing how much the wet pavement looks like wet sand, but I can't imagine what there is of interest to semipalmated sandpipers on pavement.

Uh, This is the Road, Not the Beach
I couldn't get a photo of three purple finches in the middle of the road, nor of various gray catbirds, brown thrashers and northern mockingbirds walking across. So many birds walking instead of flying--maybe the swallows and kingbirds were taking up all the air space.

The best sighting of the day was a not even a bird. A toad hopped across the road from the marsh side to the dune side and obligingly posed for a photo. I brake for toads.

Toad in the Road

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