The bird blogosphere, or at least the bird blogosphere of the north-central-and-eastern United States, has been abuzz with early-returning Tree Swallows and a late-arriving cold snap.

Tree Swallow at dawn

Tree Swallow at dawn at Ausable Point, spring, 2006

Tree Swallows are always the last swallows to leave and the first to return. They accomplish this feat by being able to eat items other than insects. Berries are their main food when bugs aren’t out and about, but berries are few and far between in spring. By being back first the earliest-arriving Tree Swallows get first pick of nesting sites and will be more likely to breed successfully. It’s a gamble though, as those nesting sites could become their graves!

Monarch has a pair of great posts here and here with some sweet pictures and ruminations about early-arriving Tree Swallows. Laura Erickson has a warning about nest-box monitoring in cold weather here. The second half of Birdchick’s post here is also about early-returning Tree Swallows.

On Saturday Daisy and I watched Tree Swallows over the Mohawk River and Peebles Island from New St. in Cohoes. We didn’t see many bugs but the swallows were desperately swooping low over the water looking for what few bugs there were.

yes, this stick will do nicely

Tree Swallow with nesting material

Come on spring! Give the Tree Swallows a break!

Update: This just popped up on local listserves. Don’t read it if you cried during Bambi.

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.