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An open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond

Wet, cold weather likely cause of swallow deaths

Tree Swallow are dying because of our cold, wet weather. There have been email reports of birds found dead. This species feeds exclusively on flying insects. Searching Google for an explanation of why some insects fly above water, say in a pond, where you often see swallows feeding, I came up with nothing definitive. My guess is that the water at that moment is warmer than the air, creating a layer of warmer air that attracts insects. Don’t quote me on that. In any case, a cold rainy day will ground insects. Swallows can starve. Purple Martins have the same problem, although I’ve not yet seen reports of returning martins. 


Our hummingbird feeder awaits its first visitor. As you can see in the photo, it’s a good thing those birds haven’t arrived yet.


New book -- Peterson Guide to Bird Sounds

Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America, Nathan Pieplow, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, softcover, 593 pages, index, illustrated, $28 — This is part of the Peterson Field Guide Series. The book contains spectograms of 520 bird species. A spectogram is a visual representation of sound. I would not find this book helpful. However, it makes reference to more than 5,400 audio files of these birds available streaming on the web at Those I would find helpful.  


Beaks, Bones, & Bird Songs: How the struggle for survival has shaped birds and their behavior, Roger J. Lederer, Timber Press, hardcover, 280 pages, index, with photos and maps —  Lederer has taught biological sciences, including ornithology, at the college level. His subject — behavior as guided and created by evolution — is one that interests me significantly. The adaptability of birds is fascinating, how the world’s 10,000 bird species fit so perfectly into 10,000 slots. How did it come to be that five different species of warblers can feed in the same coniferous tree, each at a different location? Lederer doesn’t answer that question, instead  exploring a broader set of subjects that describe challenges birds face and solutions they find. It is a good overview of bird life. His web site is at


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