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Cave Swallows

Posted on Nov 13, 2015

After an enthralling day with the biggest invasion of Franklin’s Gulls across the Northeast and Atlantic coast since at least 1998 (more on that in another entry later this weekend) our collective hopes were high for more sensational rare birds with them. This Friday, one of the most memorable birding days in years, had all available Connecticut birders mobilized along the coast, looking for life and state Franklin’s while trying to remember to watch for many other target species. One of these was the Cave Swallow, a classic November vagrant in the Northeast since the early 1990s. Cave Swallows can be found in locally in southern Florida and Texas, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. For some reason they are now often drawn up far into the Midwest and Great Lakes region on strong southerly and southwesterly flow conditions in early November, weather we have had plenty of so far this month. All we needed was the subsequent powerful cold front to move through to push them back to the Atlantic coast on north and northwest winds, and we got it.

Cave Swallows were still being recorded around the Great Lakes today when Audubon Connecticut’s Director of Bird Conservation Patrick Comins spotted one at Stratford Point outside of his office around 3:30. I was recovering from seeing at least 14 (simultaneously) and perhaps 20 (cumulatively) or so Franklin’s Gulls, but I ran out of my office once he shouted over. Sure enough, we had two flying around that stayed with us through sunset. Here are some very difficult to obtain record photos.

Cave Swallow Stratford Point November 13 2015-7684

Cave Swallow Stratford Point November 13 2015-7671

Cave Swallow Stratford Point November 13 2015-7670

Cave Swallow Stratford Point November 13 2015-7661

Cave Swallow Stratford Point November 13 2015-7657

Cave Swallow Stratford Point November 13 2015-7689

It turns out that when winds are battering these quick and maneuverable swallows as they try to find some meals on the wing, zipping all around you and nearly hitting you and your friends in the head at times, they can be a little bit difficult to shoot! I have seen Cave Swallows at Stratford Point before, and they always seem to favor the grasslands immediately in front of the office building and along the tip of the bluff facing eastern Long Island Sound. This was the case today until we could no longer see them in the darkness. It is highly likely there will be multiple Cave Swallow sightings across many locations tomorrow and probably Sunday. There are a multitude of rare western and southern species that can be found because of these same weather conditions, flycatchers to warblers to raptors, all weekend long wherever you live in the Northeast. Good birding! I hope that I will be posting some additional terrific sightings in the next few days along with a round-up of more Franklin’s Gull action.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator