Friday, March 15, 2013

Another opportunity taken!

I took another opportunity today and it paid off! With spring edging up on us a little more each day, every stolen opportunity has the power to produce results. I took a stroll at the Rea Farm this lunch and was rewarded with a group of seven Tree Swallows and another swallow - a smaller, stumpy-looking thing with a squared off tail. In spring, first thoughts of such birds automatically turn to Cliff Swallow and I ran riot with the camera, not really looking too hard at the bird, but concentrating on keeping it somewhere vaguely in the field of view! When I got round to downloading the pictures I was in for a surprise - the bird turned out to be a Cave Swallow!

Cave Swallows have been increasing as a late fall visitor to Cape May in recent years but this remains a very rare spring bird here and it perhaps seems likely that this bird arrived on the east coast last fall and spent the winter somewhere down in the south-east. Tree Swallows are usually the first of the swallows and martins to arrive back in spring and it is always worth checking your local pond for their arrival in the next few days. If you find any, have a good look through to see if you can spot anything different.

Cave Swallow at the Rea Farm today. Note the rusty (not white) forehead which rules out Cliff Swallow. The gray wash to the flanks and relatively pale orangey rump suggest this is a Texan bird and not a Caribbean one, which is probably to be expected [photo by Mike Crewe].

Head on, the orangey flush to the forehead is obvious on a Cave Swallow, while the tail shows just a shallowly notched tip, which looks square-ended when fanned out. Note too, the lack of a dark patch on the chest [photo by Mike Crewe].

For comparison, here's one of the Tree Swallows present today; note the all white underparts (including the throat) and the well-notched tail [photo by Mike Crewe].