Readers’ wildlife photographs

Faithful contributor Joe Dickinson sent some lovely photos of cliff swallows from California. His notes are indented:

I’ve been watching cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) building nests on a bridge in Capitola.  Most of the nests are up under an overhang where they are always in deep shadow and, although I can get to deck where they are pretty much at eye level, they are 15 – 20 feet away.  So, I have to use a rather a long zoom to get close shots.  That combination of factors (plus birds almost constantly in motion) results in photos that are not always as sharp as I would like.  Still, I think they are interesting.  I will continue to monitor once or twice a week to see if I can catch feeding activity and/or nestlings.

First, a shot showing location and general layout of the portion of the colony to which I have the best access.

The next four shots show the same nest on three consecutive days and then four days later.  In the second image of this set, you can see the bird on the right adding a fresh daub of mud.

Here I was focusing on the head poking out when another swallow flew into the frame.

This is a better view of a beakful of fresh mud being added.  Generally, at least in later stages, they enter the nest, turn around and work from the inside.

This nest, near the other end of the bridge, is out in the sun.  It will be interesting to see how successful it is.  I would think it would get rather warm inside.

This is the same nest three days later.  Notice that an entrance tunnel has been extended down almost to the metal strap that supports the nest (just above the bird’s head).  Compare to where the head is poking out in the previous photo.

Finally, I found a patch of mud from which building material is being collected.


  1. Randy schenck
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Excellent photos. Swallows are among the great nest builders.

  2. Posted May 20, 2017 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Swallows are remarkable birds…Even King Arthur believed so!

  3. Posted May 20, 2017 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Mud under the bridge?

    • Posted May 20, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      The mud was about 20 yards further downstream where the creek widens into a small lagoon.

  4. loren russell
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Those cliff swallows take me back a long ways — we had 100s of them nesting under the eaves of our dairy barn. My father loved them and complained about the Dutch neighbors who thought they were gross and poked the nests down. “I hope he likes mosquitoes,” my father said..

  5. Karen Bartelt
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Beautiful swallows. I’ve never seen this species.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    This fairly screams out to have the Inkspots sing “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano.”

    • Posted May 20, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Well, I did use the “Swallows of Capitola” in the subject line of my email to Jerry.

  7. Posted May 20, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Such lovely birds! Interesting how they use their tails to prop themselves on the vertical wall, much like how woodpeckers do for trees.

  8. Posted May 20, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Somehow, my original photos 6 and 7 were replaced by duplicates of 5 and 5, so the captions don’t match.

  9. Posted May 20, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful photos!

  10. Diane G.
    Posted May 21, 2017 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    Great photos, great subjects, Joe!

    I never cease to marvel at how birds like these little mud sculptors, or the orioles with their elaborate woven pouches–even just the species that weave the typical cups of grasses, spiderwebs, etc.–manage such sturdy, intricate feats of construction with only their bills and, in some cases, saliva, when I couldn’t begin to make anything as sturdy and functional with my two hands, opposable thumbs and all…

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