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Mar 26, 2015

Tree Swallows: "...cheerful series of liquid twitters"

 Photos by Dave Kemp 
The Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) in the top photo, photographed by British Columbia photographer Dave Kemp, seemed to be giving more than "...liquid twitters" to each other, followed by disinterest or disdain in the second photo.   "...cheerful series of liquid twitters" is how my almost 40-year-old Audubon field guide describes the voice of the Tree Swallow.   Although somewhat dated now, this field guide is still a favourite of mine, notably because of the anecdotal nature of the bird descriptions.   Following is part of what my 1977 version of The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds (Eastern Region) has to say about this small blue and white beauty. "This bird's habit of feeding on bayberrys enables it to winter further north than other swallows.   Although most on the east coast winter in the Carolinas, a few may be found on Long Island or Cape Cod.   It is the first of our swallows to reappear in the spring.   It sometimes breeds in unusual situations: several pairs once nested on a ferry boat that shuttled across the St. Lawrence River, foraging on both  the American and Canadian sides.   Tree Swallows often enjoy playing with a feather, which they drop and then retrieve as it floats in the air.   They gather in enormous flocks along the coast in fall, where they circle in big eddies like leaves in a whirlwind".   Rather charming narrative, what not?
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