Within the past week our area has seen an influx of tree swallows. The numbers are not quite as high as they will be in another month. But the flocks we are seeing are more than a trickle; they represent the beginnings of a major northward push. I saw my first swallows here in DC on Saturday at the National Arboretum. I then saw a lot more of them on Sunday at Hughes Hollow in Montgomery County, Maryland. Other reports of tree swallows have been appearing on birding lists all over the region.
Tree swallows are among the earliest songbirds to migrate north in the spring. They are typically the first swallows to arrive. Like eastern phoebes, they able to migrate early because their diet is varied enough to survive short cold snaps. Unlike other swallows, they will eat seeds and berries if insects are scarce or unavailable. Thus if it should happen to snow the day after spring begins, they have a backup plan.
Cross-posted at Blue Ridge Gazette