Ooops. No "American" in those tree swallow. Just tree swallows, and maybe
they were Canadian, anyway. Sorry about that slip of the keyboard.

On Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 4:22 PM, Karen Edelstein <> wrote:

> Joe Wetmore and I just returned from several days in the Provincetown, MA
> area. On Monday, while we were hiking to High Head Beach (North Truro)
> along the Cape Cod National Seashore, we witnessed what seems to be a
> fairly lightly documented phenomenon in that area: the massing of American
> tree swallows on their migration south. While the locals we later talked to
> mentioned that they frequently see a lot of tree swallows along the Cape in
> the fall, what we serendipitously encountered was really intriguing.
> On our walk, as we crested the dunes and could see the ocean, we noticed
> large clouds of birds swirling overhead. The white bellies, calls, and
> flight patterns were a fast clue that these were tree swallows, these birds
> were surprisingly round. Well, fat. The birds all landed on the beach in a
> group, not far from the surf line, each one perched on the highest ridge of
> sand in the vicinity. The flock numbered about 3000. All sitting on the
> sand, facing south. Occasionally, they would startle, and most take to the
> air, only to settle down again.
> A naturalist on our whale watching trip later the next day congratulated
> us for seeing these birds, since he knew of few birders in the area who
> talk about these migration massings. When I checked eBird later that night,
> the records there resonated...sitings of 80, maybe a few hundred there.
> Ebird kicked my report back, in fact, asking me whether I'd actually seen
> 3000. The whale guide indicated that a little bit south in Wellflleet, he
> sees an estimated 100,000 there some years.
> After doing a little reading, it made sense. The swallows are gorging
> themselves silly on the lipid-rich bayberries that grow along the dunes,
> fattening up to fuel their long flights to southern wintering grounds.
> Bayberries are their second preferred food after insects. The following day
> at Race Point, we saw more flocks along the coast, looking from a distance
> like black haze moving along the shoreline, then coming in waves to the
> shrublands in back of the dunes, presumably to eat more.
> While this was just dumb luck to have seen what we did, I bet it would
> make a great research project for some enterprising student. I just count
> myself as fortunate, particularly when I thought the swallows living around
> the Finger Lakes had been gone for over a month already.
> Karen Edelstein


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