Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bank Swallows (WBW)

1. bank swallow nests-kab Bank Swallow Nesting Site on Lake Ontario 7-31-11

One of the first birds I saw when I arrived at the Camp on Lake Ontario was the bank swallow. we barely pulled into the parking lot and I jumped out with my bins to see which species was flying about over the water. To my utter delight it was Bank Swallows, a species I had not seen a quite a long time.  for the next five days I would see and hear them all day long. I never grew tired of their buoyant flight over silvery blue water and even bluer skies.

2. bank swallow-kab Bank Swallow in flight 8-1-11

Due to their small size and fast flight they are not an easy bird to photograph, but I did mange to capture a couple of shots where you can actually see the bird. Bank swallows are brown above and creamy white below with a brown breast band. They are our smallest swallow and they need vertical sandy banks to excavate and build their nests in.

3. nests-kab Nesting site close-up 7-31-11

Bank swallows live in colonies and nest, feed and fly together.

4. nest holes-kab Even closer 7-31-11

You can see from these photographs how the bank is constantly being eroded by the weather. Huge storms build on Lake Ontario buffeting the shore with huge waves, wind, and rain.  We had one powerful rain storm while I was there that totally reshaped the beach below the swallow’s nests. I loved the feel of the wind and the sound of the wild pounding waves, but it really does damage to the cliffs themselves. Still, just look at the beauty of these birds in flight. Often I would see 20 or more at a time as they bounded out over the water.

5. flying-kab Bank Swallows in flight 8-1-11


6. flying-kab 


7. flying-kab 


8. looking down-kab Bank Swallow Beach: View of bank from above 8-3-11

Here you can see the beach below. This is how it looked when I arrived. Over the course of the week I took to calling it Bank Swallow Beach. On the day I took this photo the storm came in. Oh, it was wild and wonderful and I loved it, but by the morning of the 4th this beach had been totally reshaped. That sandy, gravelly area below was washed away and the water’s edge was moved back to the line where you can see the debris. If you look closely at the photo you can see a bit of a brownish path emerging from beneath that green tree. I had walked down the path to the beach and partially stepped off that edge to take the photos of the Bank Swallow’s nesting site on July 31st. On August 2nd I had stood up above in this location and watched parents standing on the beach below while their kids played in the surf. By the morning of the 4th there was no beach left. Just water and debris and the cliff. I wondered if the storm has washed away any of the swallow nests but never walked back down the trail to find out. It was too slippery and covered in spots with very stinky mud and puddles. I did count at least 10 Bank Swallows on my last day here.

9. where is stood-kab Where I sat or stood to watch the birds on the shore of Lake Ontario

When I first came here in the 60’s the bank was much farther out. There was land here one could stand on. Over the years the weather has eaten away at the shore. The fence has been moved ever backwards and is in the process of being moved again. The orange flags denote where the new post holes will go. It is an ever changing world for us and the birds, one to which we must constantly adapt keeping all things in balance: The needs of humans to save their land, yet with regard for nature and the creatures who share this earth with us.

10. Lookout stump-kabMy Favorite Lookout Point on Lake Ontario 8-4-11

This is a beautiful vantage point for us and for the birds.

World Bird Wednesday

Click here to read my previous Post The Birds of AMOC Camp


  1. Wonderful birds to see and your images are lovely.
    Many thanks for sharing.

  2. Great photos and very interesting description of the erosion of the cliffs.

  3. Andrew and Mick, thank you both for stopping by!

  4. I'm not seeing too many Bank Swallows where I go birding in Utah. I kinda miss them. When I lived at Avimor, north of Boise, we had a huge colony right there and they were always feeding over the pond.

  5. Interesting post. We have swallows in this area which nest in holes on cliffs; I am not sure what variety they are. We also have barn swallows which build nests of mud under the eaves of houses and in open outbuildings. I like swallows!

    Storms can certainly reshape the landscape!

  6. Are those the Bluffs? Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  7. Wow, swallows are so hard to catch on picture!

  8. HI Katie...What a great site to see...those birds just flyiing about in and out of the holes !!
    I remember as a kid in living in Northern ME a sand pit where the Bank Swallows made there nest on the top layers..a most enjoyable site!!
    The waves can have a massive force...and man can hardly stand against it!!
    Thanks for your post ..it brought back a memory of watching these birds in such great number..a marvel as a kid!!

  9. They are quick movers and fly around very fast. You are lucky to get a shot, great sighting and congrats. I saw them during my Poplar Island trip this past Friday. They are cute birds.

  10. Birding is Fun, I saw Bank Swallows up through Ogden Canyon in the banks of Pineview Resevoir. You had to cross over the damn and walk down to this swimming area that my daughter knew about but I did see them there. I think they need exactly the right kind of soil to burrow into.

    Dimple, I like swallows also. Thanks for visiting!

    Boom and Gary, I do not know. I don't think so. This was along the shoreline of Lake Ontario near Olcott, NY. I don't even know where the bluffs are to tell you the truth.

    Ester garvi, yes they are! and all I have is a Nikon D80 with a 70 to 300 mm zoom. It's all I want to carry around with me.

    Grammie g, glad to bring back such happy memories for you. this place brought back many happy memories for me.

    Eileen, they are sure fun to watch though!

  11. Great flight captures Kathie. Not easy.

  12. Interesting to see where they have their nests and great photos to!

  13. Very nice photos. Reminds me of the bats I see after the moths and millers under the street light.

  14. Bank Swallows are so sweet! I love watching them, and your photos are superb!

  15. How cool is that! Very interesting post.

  16. I´m still waiting to see them. The ones you show have beautiful homes on the bank. Swallows are hard to catch. But you did.

  17. Great captures of the Bank Swallows and their homes!

  18. Great catches Kathie! What a great post, wonderful to see the bank excavations so beautifully. It looks like a dangerous climb down. Our world is certainly a dynamic place! Well written! ;-)WBW

  19. What a glorious sight the tenement block in the bank is. Love the way you have caught them in flight with even one feeding a fledgeling on the wing. Great shots Kathie!

  20. Greatly enjoyed your post, Kathie. When growing up in Germany I always marveled how these bird can tunnel into a sand wall to build a nest. We called the "Uferschwalbe" translated "shore swallow", but it's the same one as here to go by the latin name Riparia riparia. Makes me wonder about their origin. Did they migrate over the land bridge across the Behring Sea? I am sure they are not an introduced species.

  21. Fantastic post Kathie! Swallows are my favorite birds to watch fly. I consider them to be the "essence of flight" and you have captured them wonderfully. I know how difficult it is to capture one of these beauties in flight.

    Bank Swallows are listed as "threatened" in California under the California Endangered Species Act, mostly due to the practice of "rocking" banks to prevent erosion. Get more information on California Bank Swallows at www.BankSwallows.org

  22. Cooler than cool. Great stuff, Kathie.

  23. Wow, everyone! Thanks for stopping by to comment on my post! It was fun to experience and fun to write about.


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.