Morning of the Swallows

Despite the chilly air, low overcast and intermittent thunderstorms, I opted for one last visit to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area before we head to Ohio.  As it turned out, my decision was rewarded with one of the annual avian spectacles in the Missouri River Valley.

As I drove slowly through the flooded landscape, thousands of swallows wheeled above the refuge, strafed the pools or rested atop cattails that rise from the shallows.  Barn swallows were by far the most numerous species, joined by large flocks of cliff and tree swallows and a smaller number of northern rough-winged swallows.  Just back from South America, the barn swallows will soon disperse across the Missouri River watershed, favoring open country with man-made structures in which to nest.  Other highlights on this gray, wet morning were marsh wrens, soras, green herons, great egrets, a trio of Forster's terns, a northern waterthrush and, of course, bald eagles with their growing youngsters.

As spring gives way to summer, we will hardly notice the swallows that grace our parks and farmlands, thankful for their insect consumption and admiring their agility but taking these common summer residents for granted.  But when they first appear in massive clouds, having journeyed from the Tropics to raise their young in the American Heartland, they certainly get our attention and command our respect.