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Cliff Swallows on the Move

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Cliff Swallows on the Move | Ray Pope, Anthony Gray, Teresa Botts, Cliff Swallow

Cliff Swallow at the Nest



Saturday morning arrived with the unceasing pitter patter of raindrops hitting my bedroom window. It would be a perfect day for a bed-in, but plans had already been laid for a day of bird watching with my best friend Anthony Gray. It would be at least an hour before we could ride around with the windows down.

At this time of the year most everything stayed close to cover, especially since mother nature had unzipped the clouds over Wilson County. We rode out four mile hill on the old road and Anthony said that it reminded him of his trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, last week where the clouds reached down earthward to kiss the ground around us. This went on and on until we left the parking lot of the Peking Chinese Restaurant, where one could feel the heat and humidity starting to turn it up a few notches. Some of the birds we saw that morning included the Rain Crow, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, many Carolina Wrens, Field Sparrows, and the Common Yellowthroat, calling out his "wichity wichity wichity" song around almost every turn in the road.

Headed west on Burton road, where I spotted the five White Pelicans a few weeks ago, there were more fishermen out in their boats, than there were wading birds. Coming out at the end of the road, we pulled through the Lone Branch recreation area to give it a listen. More quiet there than the other place with only a couple of men fishing from the bank.

As we headed north from there, we did spot a Red-throated Loon in the still backwater on the right side of the road. They are usually a lot further north and should already have almost grown chicks. I could only surmise that it probably had been injured in some way and couldn't fly with it's mate back to the breeding ground. A Loon will sit very low in the water, which helps with its identification.

This past Tuesday and Wednesday, several of us members of the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center made an overnight trip to Tunica, Mississippi to stay at the Fitzgerald Hotel and Casino. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, Teresa Botts hollered, "Ray, what kind of birds are those"? After getting off of the bus, I could see the mud nest of the Cliff Swallows glued to the walls, protected by an overhanging ledge.

The Cliff Swallow, ( Petrochelidon pyrrhonota ) is an American Swallow, also kin to the Martins. These swift flyers were mostly found out in the more western states and have been slowly habitating towards the east. Personally, I have only found them nesting under bridges located on our larger rivers and streams. Dr. George Robertson mentioned them in his article on Friday June 6th in our, The Wilson Post, "Birding By Boat." Many years ago I also found a nesting colony of Cliff Swallows under the bridge at Granville, up on Cordell Hull Lake.

When these Swallows are mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the return of the Swallows at the Mission San Juan Capistrano in California. For the past several years, these special birds have stayed away from there and now are calling the Chino Hills of Southern California home. I know that that must be a bust for tourism in the area as people would flock, pardon the pun, to the area just to watch the birds return by the thousands.

American Cliff Swallows breed in large colonies where they construct a conical mud nest where the female lays a clutch of, from three to six eggs. The adult Cliff Swallow is about five inches in length, with an iridescent blue back and crown, brown wings and tail, and buff colored rump. The nape and forehead are white. To have a colony of these close by, would surly put a damper on the annoying flying insect population at your house. These birds spend the winter down in South America, from Venezuela to Argentina.

I would love to hear from you as to what's lurking about in your neighborhood and at your feeders. You can write me at, 606 Fairview Ave., Lebanon, TN, 37087, or e-mail me at, rpope15@bellsouth.net

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Anthony Gray, Cliff Swallow, Ray Pope, Teresa Botts
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