Last Saturday D. and I went to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge to attend a program about the return of the swallows that nest every year in the refuge and raise their young.
As a kid I used to see Bugs Bunny cartoons where Bugs would sing "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano." Supposedly the swallows would return to San Juan Capistrano from their wintering sites in South America every year on the same date in early spring. The town created a festival around their arrival (and someone wrote a song about it too). Well, the swallows don't do this solely in San Juan Capistrano, they return in the spring to towns all up and down California.
At the refuge, naturalist Roy told us about the barn swallows and cliff swallows that live in the refuge, and what makes them unique. Barn swallows have a forked tail and make cup-shaped nests of mud mixed with vegetation attached to buildings, usually under eaves. Cliff swallows have tails that are straight across and make rounded, gourd-shaped nests solely from mud built on vertical, cliff-like structures. We looked at swallows nesting by the old pumphouse in the refuge, and also at some cliff swallow nests on nearby Dumbarton Bridge, at the edge of the refuge.
Here's some pics I took.
A view of La Riviere Marsh from the refuge's Visitor Center.
There were lots of yellow blossoms in back of the Visitor Center.
A marsh wren has built a nest in the old pumphouse (now a picnicking spot).
A marsh wren egg has fallen onto one of the picnic tables in the pumphouse.
Pipe left over from the salt-harvesting days rusts, abandoned in the marsh.
A barn swallow nesting on the side of the pumphouse.
A juvenile barn swallow perches just below its nest.
This cliff swallow nest on the understructure of the Dumbarton Bridge has been taken over by another bird, which built its own nest inside the swallow's old one.
A row of abandoned cliff swallow nests, some of which have been taken over by other birds.
Another view of La Riviere Marsh before we head home.
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D. took the following pics.
Another view of the marsh wren's nest inside the pumphouse.
A barn swallow perching on the railing outside the pumphouse.
Another look at the juvenile barn swallow.
This cliff swallow at the Dumbarton Bridge arrives at its nest with a beakful of insects for its babies.
A black phoebe has a veritable feast of insects to choose from in La Riviere Marsh.
Wild morning glories run rampant at the edge of La Riviere Marsh.
Back at the Visitor Center, a buckeye is in fragrant bloom.