The Swallows of Lake Merritt

One of my little markers of the season is the swallows. Sometime in April (maybe I’ll pin the exact date someday, I first saw them April 9th this year), swallows appear at the lake and begin nesting.

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The channel is where I first noted them: Northern Rough Winged Swallows nest in light fixtures and drains under 280, and now the 10th st bridge. They have a strange and unique chattering call. I watched as one sorted 3 inch sticks to carry up into the darkness of a drain.

Cliff swallows built these amazing little mud nests on Laney College buildings and on the 12th bridge (maybe they’ll start new ones on the 10th as well), this year in 2018 (and maybe previous years, if so I missed it) on the Oakland Auditorium building. Cliff swallows seem to get up high into the sky too, you might see then swirling high above Laney.

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Low tide you can sometimes see them come get the mud for their nests. Rough Wings seem to stick closer to the surface, zooming back and forth over the water, though you’ll see Cliff Swallows doing it as well. In fact, standing on the 12th street bridge (as of mid May) you get a pretty good view of them as they skim across the surface.

Violet Green Swallows also come to the lake but they are on the northside (cliff and northern rough wings can also be found in other places around the lake). If you find a large lawn like the ones over by the Bellevue Club you’ll can find them zooming about.

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