May 8, 9 am.
What a beautiful morning for a walk out into the wetlands. I have chosen to visit the northern area where the swallows are abundant. It is already warming up though there are some big puffy clouds in the east. I want to check on some bird boxes that myself and a friend put up along the trail. As I approach, the singing of so many birds is everywhere, but there is also a massive movement of many large golden insects of some sort. As I get closer and some of them land, I realize they are dragonflies. ( When I went home and did some research, I found that these appear to be immature Saffron-winged Meadowhawks, Sympetrum costiferum) They must have just hatched from their water nymph larvae stage. Really there are hundreds of them, but there is no way to capture it in a photo. I have to be satisfied with taking a photo of a single one the that has landed in front of me. What a delightful dance these dragonflies are doing.
Of course, there are many birds that will make these large insects a meal for themselves and their young too. As I watch, out of the trees flies two Western Kingbirds, Tyrannus verticalis. They are calling and chattering loudly, but they are after the dragonflies. This bird is aptly named I think because it loves to chase all other birds away from wherever it is sitting, which is usually a high perch on a telephone wire or tree. One lands on the fence and I am able to get a quick photo of it with food in its bill. The soft grey head and back with a lovely lemon yellow belly makes this bird from Mexico or Central America, a nice one to spot.
Of course, the swallows are enjoying the dragonfly hatch also and begin to swarm above me with their dark blue backs and wings. The Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor, seem to be the most common swallow here at this site. I notice that 2 pairs have moved into both of the bird boxes we have put up and I am pleased. these swallows are cavity nesters and need holes in trees or they will readily use a homemade box too. There are some swallows nesting in cavities in both the Valley Oaks, Quercus lobata, and the Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia and still are choosing to nest in the boxes. Maybe there aren’t enough cavities to go around. Next year we hope to put up more of these boxes to encourage more of these and the Violet-Green Swallows, Tachycineta thalassina, to nest here.
I am able to peek inside one of the boxes and snap a photo of the four precious eggs and feathers of a Wood duck female that this swallow has used to cradle them!