Monday, November 29, 2010

Cave Swallows continue...

Having been away in South Carolina for Thanksgiving (a great excuse to visit the amazing Congaree Swamp as well as relatives), this morning was my first opportunity to pay homage to the Cave Swallows at Congress Hall. Having heard that the birds didn't appear to be in good shape over the last couple of days, I feared the worst, but came away with mixed feelings. I met Stephen Bagen first off and heard how one of the swallows had fallen from a ledge and literally passed away in his hands in the frosty cold of early morning, while the plight of the swallows seemed to have been made worse by the presence of a chunky adult female Cooper's Hawk that was not to be detered from an easy lunch.

Adult female Cooper's Hawk at Congress Hall this morning. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

However, fortunes were mixed for the Cave Swallows, and it is nice to be able to report that at least six were flying seemingly quite strongly, further along the beach front near the Sea Crest Inn and enjoyed some warm sunshine as they preened from a nearby balcony.

A Cave Swallow sallies out after what few bugs may be lurking around the Seaside Goldenrod. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Picking up on Michael O'Brien's earlier comments on Cave Swallow molt timings, this young bird clearly shows the suspended molt that Michael mentioned; note the mixture of old, brownish feathers and new, blackish feathers on crown, wing coverts and in the primaries (inner two new). Note also how badly soiled the tail and primaries are, but this shows that the 'stacking' of birds seen in Doug's video was a good strategy and probably helped this individual to survive. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Things were quiet elsewhere, but Doug seemed to be having a reasonable day at the Hawkwatch Platform (a nice adult Bald Eagle passed over when I dropped in lunchtime), Lighthouse Pond remains full of ducks and Northern Gannets were constantly in view over The Rips - so there's planty to keep us all busy!!

Don't forget, Tuesday will be the last official day of the Hawkwatch for 2010 so if you are in the area, do drop by and see Melissa and Doug and thank them for a job well done (they might appreciate a doughnut too!).

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