Strength in numbers

There are flocks, and then there are flocks.

September in New England means that dozens of bird species are on the move south. Some, like Peregrine Falcons, travel singly. Others, like the Broad-winged Hawk, travel in bunches. Broadies stage one of the most spectacular migratory shows that can be seen in the's something that I've never truly witnessed myself. I have yet to see over 1,000 Broad-wings in one day, but there are days where over 10,000 are tallied in mid-Sept if the weather falls right. Last week I was fortunate enough to catch a fraction of that number in my hometown of Orange, CT. Though we're not talking thousands of birds, I did catch up with one kettle of 112 hawks.

Broadies and an Osprey

Another September phenomenon occurs in the Phragmites marshes of the lower Connecticut River. Each autumn evening a staggering number of Tree Swallows come to the river to roost. Numbers have been estimated as high as a half-million birds. It's hard to even imagine something like that. Hopefully some of the pics and video below will at least give an idea...but this is something that really needs to be seen to be believed.

a small fraction of the couple hundred thousand birds

all those specks in the sky...swallows

kayakers here for the show

This spectacle is only visible by boat. Cruises can be booked through Connecticut Audubon EcoTravel. In addition to the swallows we had great looks at 5 Bald Eagles and other typical species on the boat ride to the marsh.

- Nick


  1. Very cool! In WA you can sometimes see impressive numbers of Sooty Shearwaters. The best I've done was a couple weeks ago with 55,000 birds over about four hours, though estimates sometimes enter triple digits. In Oregon there is a fall swallow roost (mainly Barns I think) that has over a quarter million birds. Then there are the wintering waterfowl but they're just beginning to arrive.


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