Readers’ wildlife photos

Joe Dickinson continues with some new photos of the swallows of Capitola, California (see his earlier post of May 20), along with some bonus birds and mammals. His notes are indented, and the email was sent nearly two months ago.

Here is an update on the Cliff Swallows of Capitola (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota).  Interestingly, at least one new nest was added quite late in June.  The first picture is from May 13; the second from June 26.  Compare the mud daubs to below the completed nest to confirm this is the same spot.  The new nest was completed a week later, but the light (always a problem) was so bad, thanks to heavy fog, that I did not get a presentable shot.  I have yet to see juveniles out of the nest (recognizable because they lack the white forehead).  However, I think I see more than two adults coming and going from some nests.  Do last year’s offspring stick around to help their parents with younger siblings as happens with some birds?  Maybe one of your readers knows if swallows do that.

Now some diverse shots from a walk yesterday morning around the Sant Cruz Small Boat Harbor.  A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) perched high in a eucalyptus tree.

An acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus).

And a couple of sea otters (Enhrdra lutris) that I take to be a mother and almost grown pup (on the left).

And just the other day, Stephen Barnard also sent me photos of swallows, though a different species. His notes:

This is the latest batch of Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) siblings to have grown up under the roof of my front porch. There have been least three successful nestings over the summer. The normally shy birds are so used to my comings and goings that they ignore me and the dogs.

The second photo shows their nest made of mud. The black piece is a metal brace for my porch roof. The birds cleverly use the edge of the brace and the protruding bolt heads to anchor the nest.

Here’s a photo I just took of them in the nest. These swallows are fully fledged, agile fliers, but they hang out together and with their parents for quite some time. I see them not only around the nest, but also out by the creek.



  1. Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Nice photos, thanks!

  2. Randy schenck
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Really like all the photos of the swallows and their nests.

  3. Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Very nice, and thank you for sharing. Swallows are incredible birds to watch, and they are adorable too.

  4. nicky
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Oooh, these swallows, cosy safe nests, made by their own saliva (and mud and ‘other stuff’).
    Wonderful, heart-warming photographs!

  5. rickflick
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Charming birds! It must be hard to catch these speed demons on the wing. Especially while catching bugs with the gaping mouth.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Tree Swallows, Violet-green Swallows, Cliff Swallows, and Barn Swallows are common here, and occasional Northern Rough-winged Swallows, feeding on mayflies and other insects over the creek, sometimes in the hundreds. I’ve managed to photograph all of them in flight, with greater or lesser results, except for Barn Swallows — and they nest right over my front door. It’s not from lack of effort on may part, although I have given up.

      I think the long forked tail of the Barn Swallow, unique among swallows I believe, gives it a super-avian in-flight agility that makes it nearly impossible for me to lock focus, even in ideal conditions (mayfly “hatch”, strong upstream wind, good light).

      Another interesting thing about the Barn Swallow is that they have a special relationship with humans. I’ve seen figures like 99% of their nests are in manmade structures. I don’t think we get much out of it except the pleasure of their company, and they do make a mess. There must be a word for that.

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

        Commensalism. (More or less…)

  6. Bruce Lyon
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    For Joe’s question about multiple birds going into cliff swallow nests, helping behavior has not been reported in cliff swallows (or other swallows either I believe). There is lots of hankypank in cliff swallow colonies though so perhaps these other birds are females trying to lay parasitic eggs or males seeking extrapair matings?

  7. Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Otters look very relaxed and the swallows all business, thanks…

  8. Stephen Barnard
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Found this interesting article on barn swallows:

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that’s been a fascinating discovery!

    • rickflick
      Posted September 2, 2017 at 6:05 am | Permalink


  9. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    I REALLY enjoyed these photos. Thanks!

  10. Diane G.
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Joe & Stephen!

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