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As the sun sets over the Connecticut River, as many as 300,000 Tree Swallows gather on the wing in one huge, tightly choreographed flock. With dusk at hand, the aerobatic flock - now shaped like a tornado - swoops down into the tall reeds. It takes but 15 seconds for the 300,000 birds to vanish into the marsh, where they remain until dawn. Be sure to watch the video. There may be a roost near you. Ask your local Audubon.
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Tree Swallow Roost –
The Swarm in Connecticut
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
[Multiple Tree Swallows calling; waves lapping against a boat]
As the sun sets over the Connecticut River, an astounding natural spectacle unfolds. As many as 300,000 sparkling blue swallows—Tree Swallows—wing their way from miles around, to roost for the evening on Goose Island, near Old Lyme. [Multiple Tree Swallows calling; waves lapping against a boat]
The birds gather on the wing in one immense, tightly choreographed flock, a swirling mass that changes shape from one second to the next, like an immense silken banner or plume of smoke racing with the wind. With dusk at hand, the aerobatic flock – now shaped like a tornado – swoops down into the island’s tall reeds. It takes but 15 seconds for the 300,000 birds to vanish into the marsh, where they remain until dawn.
[Call of Tree Swallow flock]
Roger Tory Peterson, dean of American birdwatching, wrote of the swallows: “I have seen a million flamingos on the lakes of East Africa and as many seabirds on the cliffs of the Alaska Pribilofs, but for sheer drama, the tornadoes of tree swallows eclipsed any other avian spectacle I have ever seen."* [Tree Swallows calling]
Soon all of Goose Island’s swallows will disappear below the southern horizon for the winter. But witnesses will long remember the autumnal spectacle of the birds’ massed flight. [Tree Swallows calling]
Tree Swallows coast to coast are swirling down to roost this month. Maybe there’s a roost near you. To find out, start at BirdNote.org. I’m Mary McCann.
Call of Tree Swallow flock provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song recorded by G.F. Budney. Massive flock sounds recorded by O.H. Hewitt.
Producer: John Kessler Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org September 2017/2019 Narrator: Mary McCann
ID# TRES-04-2008-09-05 TRES-04b
*Peterson quotation taken from RiverQuest tour ad for swallow trips.