A three-day girls’ weekend in Tennessee was full of lots of laughs and some new bird sightings. We took a scenic drive in the Smokies around an eleven-mile loop called Cades Cove; a 2500 acre sheltered valley with a mixture of forests and meadows, and an outdoor museum of pioneer life in the 1800’s. We toured a corn mill and checked out a pioneer cabin. The cabin had two inhabitants. Not characters in dress, but two barn swallows!
At first, I thought they were trapped in the house (especially after our recent trapped titmouse experience.) We soon saw that they were building a mud-based nest and protecting their territory. Here they are sitting on top of a door, and the nest is on the wall behind them. I was able to get within two feet of them before they would leave their claimed site.
What a treat to be able to get so close to these beautiful, colorful birds. A close inspection will reveal which is the male and which is the female. The breast color of the bird on the right is ever-so-slightly darker than the female’s on the left. Notice also how proudly the male stands in each photo showing his color and dominance. Their flight pattern, similar to the tree swallow, is fast with a quick dipping motion about every five feet.
The next room revealed a small nest in a corner nook of a low ceiling. Mama bird flew away when we entered, and hung out on a nearby branch.
Several times, she and her mate tried to re-enter, but rounded back to a nearby branch when they saw us in the room. I snapped a picture of both mama and papa. If you compare pictures, you’ll see they both perched on the same branch, he landing just a bit lower than she. After a half-hour consult with my National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, I determined that they were Eastern wood pewees. The female, plain grey. They male, more brown on the wings with a wash of pale yellow on his lower belly. However; a new birding friend told me that they are in fact Eastern phoebes, not pewees. So glad to know. Thank you Georgann! Isn’t he beautiful?