Sept 2015: How swallows swarm

It’s an annual event on the southern Connecticut River: tree swallows swarming. I was invited to see it by the local outdoorsman Steve Fagin, who gave me no more details than that it was an “unbelievable spectacle.”

“You’ll have to see for yourself,” he told me as we drove to Lyme, Conn., on Sept. 9 with two kayaks vibrating on the roof-rack of his tiny Mazda.

We unloaded at a Lyme boat launch, and I followed he and his wife in a tandem kayak up the Connecticut River to the marshy edge of Goose Island. We could hear cars speeding on I-95 over the Raymond E. Baldwin Bridge south of us, but they were soon drowned out by sound of tens of thousands of swarming swallows, bringing to mind scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and of the evil flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Steve wrote about the outing for local newspaper The Day. Here’s a 3-minute video I edited together of the scene:

As explained by local newspaper The Day:

Between now and early October, up to a half-million tree swallows collectively roost each evening on a phragmites-filled island in the southern Connecticut River. While the number of birds is astounding, what’s spectacular are the evening rituals they go through. … The birds fly up to 35 miles an hour and are natural aerial acrobats as they grab a last drink from the river and snack before bed. Some nights, they put on an aerial show, a ballet of sorts. Other nights, it’s a more intense funnel down into the marsh.

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