|"Usurper," reduction linocut|
The vernal equinox has come and gone and bird geeks like me are eagerly scanning the skies and the shrubbery for arriving migrants. A couple of weeks ago I made a quick trip south to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge to enjoy the spectacle of sandhill cranes on a migration stopover. It's an annual rite of the season, but while there's nothing like the calls, dancing, and flight of cranes, it's the arrival of swallows that says "spring" to me.
Once or twice as I drove around the refuge I thought I caught a glimpse of a swallow, but I was never certain, since much of my attention was focused on avoiding a run-in with other bird-gawking drivers.
I haven't yet seen a tree swallow here at home but I expect them any day now, swooping, chattering, and generally bringing a ruckus back to my winter-dormant walking route.
They'll also be creating a little drama for folks who have put out bluebird nest boxes, because such boxes are often usurped by tree swallows.
Bluebird (intended) Box 03, of which you see a corner here, is attached to a fence post on my walk route, and while there are plenty of bluebirds around I have never seen it host anything but tree swallows. The male swallow stands guard and his chatter – half cheerful, half scolding – is a daily confirmation that regardless of human intention he is exactly where he is supposed to be.