Posted by: atowhee | March 21, 2008

First day of spring welcomes swarms of swallows



It was a mild morning on the south bank of the Rogue River Valley.  There were plenty of the dark gray clouds that have been bringin rain, and on the mountainsides, snow.  But today they simply blocked most of the sunlight,  But the early migrants found it a day for action.  Almost as soon as we arrived around 9 A.M. we noticed swallows.  Dozens of swallows.  Hundreds of swallows.  Over Military Slough. Over grassy fields of Denman Refuge.  Over the oaks of Toubelle State Park. Over land, over river, over lakes.  Over and over they swooped past us.  Tree and Violet-green, the latter seeming to be more abundant.  In that crowd we did eventually manage to find one dusky Northern Rough-wing, and even later pick out the “swallow-tail” of the first Barn Swallow we’d seen this year.  Bill Hering and I checked to local “birds of Oregon County.”  Both the NRW and Barn were earlier than usual.

When we finally reached the Rogue, there were dozens of swallows circling and fly-catching over the rain-muddied torrent.  In quiet eddies we found two pair of Common Mergansers who’ll be nesting nearby soon.  The quiet ponds near the river held some ducks that will migrating north soon: Ring-necked, Wigeon, Shoveler.  Not all the many Coots will be sticking around either.  A handful of Yellow-rumped Warblers were about, starting to sing, probably already on their way north.  The Varied Thrush will leave soon.  The two Harriers and one or more of the Red-tailed Hawks could also have been ust passing through.

Besides eddying waves of migrating swallows, there were several kettles of Turkey Vultures.  One climbing the thermals onthe south face of Lower Table Rock had about forty birds.  As they reached a level some hundreds of feet over the river and higher even than the table-topped rock itself, they peeled off in a straight line northward.  Up, over and out.

There were numerous birds who were busy, but going nowhere.  Stickers.  A pair of copulating White-tailed Kites.  And that brief action followed some pretty fancy aerial foreplay.  Swoops and dives and fluttering, until the female located just the right branch.  

There were singing Western Meadowlarks and Song Sparrows.  The Acorn Woodpeckers whose laughter rings through the oaks along the Rogue all year long.  Flickers, Scrub-jays, Oak Titmouse.  A Killdeer who watched us closely as we crossed the meadow.  There was a singing Marsh Wren next to Military Slough.  Red-winged Blackbirds flashed their red stop signs from bending reeds.


Oaks, ponds beyond, Rogue River in upper right hand corner.  A birdy riparian spot north of Medford.


UPDATE: And beneath the oaks on a rocky hillside we found this flower, in profusion. I suspected it might be common butterwort [Pinguicula vulgaris].  But I was wrong in that guess. Local plant expert, Alex Maksymowicz, tells me this a plant common in the Rogue valley, here’s his ID of the flower: “Erythronium hendersonii (Henderson’s fawn lily), a very common spring flower in our area.” Six petals [correction]. Flower about an inch-and-quarter long. Blooming in profusion and in the woods.  Thanks for the info, Alex.


Picture credits: VG Swallow by Len Blumin. YR Warbler by May Woon.  Common Merganser pair by Louise Won.  Whitw-tiled Kite montage by Stephen Shankland.

Location:     Denman WA
Observation date:     3/20/08
Notes:     Kites were copulating.  TVs, swallows migrating northward.  Bill Hering and I found no shrike and surprisingly no Robins or Bluebirds.
Number of species:     39

Snow Goose     1
Canada Goose     25
Wood Duck     10
American Wigeon     20
Mallard     6
Northern Shoveler     2
Ring-necked Duck     35
Common Merganser     9
Double-crested Cormorant     1
Great Blue Heron     15
Turkey Vulture     120
White-tailed Kite     2
Northern Harrier     2
Cooper’s Hawk     1
Red-tailed Hawk     5
American Coot     60
Killdeer     1
Mourning Dove     2
Acorn Woodpecker     40
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     3
Western Scrub-Jay     3
Tree Swallow     600
Violet-green Swallow     800
Northern Rough-winged Swallow     1
Barn Swallow     1
Oak Titmouse     6
White-breasted Nuthatch     2
Marsh Wren     1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     1
Varied Thrush     1
European Starling     4
Yellow-rumped Warbler     8
Spotted Towhee     5
Savannah Sparrow     12
Song Sparrow     6
Lincoln’s Sparrow     1
Golden-crowned Sparrow     18
Red-winged Blackbird     60
Western Meadowlark     10

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(


  1. Tou Velle State Park
    Birds of Jackson County, Oregon?
    Erythronium hendersonii

  2. Six petals, it is a lily (monocot)

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