Cave Swallow, Petrochelidon fulva, Stewart Park, Ithaca, Cayuga Lake, Tompkins Co., NY, 24 November 2004.
All pictures were taken by my son Jay and me and are © Kevin J. McGowan. They were taken with an Olympus D-40 digital camera through Swarovski 10x50 SLC binoculars.
Discovered by Roger Sleeper late morning of 24 November 2004, three Cave Swallows were seen actively foraging along the south end of Cayuga Lake most of the rest of the day. The day was dark and drizzly, but the winds had been from the south all day. Long anticipated here, they became annual at Cape May, NJ in the mid-1990s, and nearly so recently along Long Island and the Ontario Lake shore near Rochester.
The light was bad and the birds were fast, so none of our photos is very good. But, they do show the definitive characters for Cave Swallow: pale rump, square tail, buffy throat, chestnut forehead patch, pale collar, and black cap. The undertail coverts and the sides beneath the wings were the same buff color as the throat. The dominant overall impression is of a dark-capped bird with a pale face, a light collar, and a rusty rump. Cliff Swallow should show the same general shape and rump, but a more dark-headed (not capped) look, with a significantly dark throat. Check out my Cliff Swallow page for some comparison shots of birds sitting (and stuffed). For much nicer Cave Swallow photos, see Angus Wilson's page at http://www.oceanwanderers.com/CaSwNY02.html, and Richard Crossley's photos at http://www.crossleybirds.com/gallery/album07?page=1.
In life, the pale face, collar, throat, and rump were quite easy to see. When the birds passed directly overhead I could see that the throat and undertail were slightly darker than the belly. I never saw a truly dark throat on any of them, and it did not appear dark from the side. I also don't think I saw the reddish forehead patch, although other people I was with did. What I did see was a dark forehead, quite darker than the throat, and not appreciably lighter than the dark cap. The tail was short and square. The back was dark; I did not see the white streaks.
I don't have the slightest idea if all three swallows are represented in these photos, but I personally never saw any differences between them.
This photo shows the chestnut forehead patch, the black capped appearance, and the buffy throat (darker than the white belly).
This one shows the forehead patch, the pale collar, and the pale rump (even if the perspective makes the wings look like a swift's).
The apparent dark throat in this photo is probably just an artifact of the lighting and shadow. The following two photos show the throat straight on, and it was darker than the white belly, but still nowhere near as dark the way a Cliff Swallow's throat would be.
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