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NatureReflections November 24, 2005

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Nature Reflections

November 24, 2005

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Gray MerriamLegaleseGeneral information and opinion on legal topics by Rural Legal ServicesNature Reflectionsby Jean GriffinNight Skiesby Leo Enright

A rare swallow

by JeanGriffin

How many of you have heard of the Cave Swallow, let alone seen one? This fall has been unusual in the number of Cave Swallows seen in Ontario and the northern United States.

I saw one estimate of six hundred of these birds present in New York State, and there have been fifty or more sightings in Ontario.


The Cave Swallow, a close look-alike of the Cliff Swallow, historically was found only in Mexico and southwards, but over the last century has been expanding its territory. It now breeds in numbers in Texas and New Mexico, and there is a small colony of a different subspecies that nests in Florida. As it expands its breeding territory, it also increases its visits to other areas in the autumn season. There have been reports from Sable Island in the Atlantic, Nova Scotia, most northern and eastern states, and for a few years in Ontario, with this year being especially notable.

In Ontario most have been seen along the north shores of Lake Erie, but there was one sad little bird that found its way to Algonquin Park. Found resting on the pavement on November 7, apparently in an attempt to get the warmth from the tarmac, it was rescued to try to save it, but unfortunately it died overnight. What brought these birds to our province? Probably during the post-breeding migration they were carried by the warm winds that brought the storms from Texas, through the America mid-west, all the way to the northern states and Canada. Here it becomes a question of survival. Will they find enough food with a possible lack of insects as the cool season arrives? Will those that find food also find their way back south?

Named for its original penchant to build its mud nests deep in caves and isolated crevices that have minimal light, the birds have adapted to artificial structures such as bridges and culverts. The Cave Swallow can be told from all swallows except the Cliff Swallow by its pale rump. The Cave Swallow has a darker forehead and a paler throat than the Cliff Swallow. Also its tail is more squared at the tip than most other swallows. Since there were also a few sightings last year in Ontario, bird watchers are now aware that the presence of any swallow in autumn should be closely checked to see if it is this unusual visitor.

Observations: Joanne D’Aoust reports five River Otters on Pine Lake on November 15. Audrey Cooper, Cloyne, has had visits from some Evening Grosbeaks, jays and chickadees, some finches on the 18th, but all vanished when a hawk, probably a Sharp-shinned, appeared also on the 18th. Share what you have seen. Call Jean at 268-2518 or email (new address) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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