Spring is in the air. How do we know? Cliff swallows have returned to Yosemite Lakes, just like they do each spring at the Mission San Juan Capistrano in Southern California.
Cliff swallows nest in colonies, building cone-shaped mud nests under bridges and building eaves. To see them, walk along Blue Heron Trail to Corral Drive. As the weather warms up, hundreds stream out of the culvert like Star Wars fighter pilots and fan out into the air over the lake. Changing directions erratically, they twist and turn in unison as they follow the invisible path of flying insects they eagerly devour. Stop awhile, enjoy the display.
Violet-green swallows also make Yosemite Lakes their seasonal home. These gorgeous birds nest in tree cavities, perhaps even in one formerly occupied by an acorn woodpecker. They boast a luminescent cape of green and purple feathers. Their sleek little bodies measure only about 5” in length from tiny beak to tail tip; notably, long, pointed wings extend beyond the length of their short tail.
The male, with its bright white face and cheeks, has a head that resembles a golf ball resting on chunky shoulders. With its back turned towards you, that head can turn 180 degrees and stare you down with bulging, over-sized eyes. Unlike the aways-in-motion cliff swallows, violet-greens will rest a spell on a branch or wire, grooming themselves or just enjoying the warm sun. I’ve found a small group along Revis Way.