Micro-Season: “The Swallows Arrive” 2023

We have entered the micro-season of “The Swallows Arrive.” This is the first micro-season of the mini-season of Clear and Bright. All the micro-seasons within Clear and Bright are:

  • The Swallows Arrive (Apr 04 – Apr 08)
  • Geese Fly North (Apr 09 – Apr 13)
  • The First Rainbow Appears (Apr 14 – Apr 19)

The 72 micro-seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai. While they are specific to Japan, they can be useful to people all over the world. No matter where you live, you can use these seasons as a starting point for your own exploration of the natural world.

To celebrate this season, we will learn about swallows and barn swallow migration.  Then we will read seasonal haiku by Basho, Buson, Shiki, Issa, and Reichhold.

In this season we are welcoming the return of the swallows from their winter residents.  This is the opposite of the micro-season of “The Swallows Leave” (Sep 17 – Sep 21) where the swallows migrate toward their winter homes.  

About The Swallow

The term “swallow” refers to birds that are in the Hirundinidae family within the order of Passeriformes.  There are 86 different species of swallows worldwide.(1)

Swallows are small birds “with pointed narrow wings, short bills, and small weak feet.”(2) Many swallows have forked tails with plain, metallic blue, or green, plumage. Swallows spend most of their time in the air hunting insects for food.  Swallows can nest in tree cavities, burrow into sandbanks, or make mud nests in man-made structures and will lay between 3 and 7 eggs per clutch.(2) 

Eight species of swallows are commonly found in the United States: the Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Cliff Swallow, and Cave Swallow.(1) Of these, only the Barn Swallow is common in both North America and Japan.

Photo by Elijah  Pilchard on Pexels.com
Photo by Elijah Pilchard

About The Barn Swallow

Barn Swallows are found around the world. They have blue backs, wings, and tails.  Their underparts are cinnamon-colored and they have dark red foreheads and throats. The males have bolder colors than the females.(3)  

It is often easy to notice a swallow in flight because they will execute tight turns and dives while searching for insects. Swallows catch insects in midair and can be found hunting in open spaces like fields, parks, marshes, ponds, and coastal waters. 

The population of Barn Swallow has been on the decline in recent years.(1,4)  In North America, the Barn Swallow population has “declined by approximately 38 percent since 1970”.(1) There are several potential reasons for this decline including climate change and modern farming practices which include greater use of pesticides that eliminate many flying insects.  All these factors contribute to a change in habitat that makes it difficult for the Barn Swallow to survive. 

Barn Swallow Migration

Barn Swallows are long-distance migrants, meaning they travel several hundreds of miles distances between their summer and winter homes. The North American Barn Swallows spend their summers in North America and winter in Central and South America.  The Barn Swallows of Japan, will winter in South East Asia, Southern Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia and return to Japan in the summer.  The following map by the World Bird Society of Japan provides a visual of the migration patterns. 

Barn Swallow Migrations Routes. World Bird Society of Japan
Barn Swallow Migrations Routes. World Bird Society of Japan

Seasonal Haiku

According to the World Kigo Database,  the general term “Swallow” (tsubame) is not connected to a specific season.  However, “Barn Swallow”, “Swallows in flight”, and “First swallow of the season” are spring kigo.  “Migrating Swallow”, on the other hand, is considered an autumn kigo. The distinction between what would be a spring behavior and what is an autumn behavior has a lot to do with your location.  For those in more tropical locations, the swallows may leave in the spring.

With this in mind, let’s read some haiku.


don’t drop your dirt
into my wine cup- 
flock of swallows. 
(translated by David Landis Barnhill


Warehouses in a row-- 
behind them is a road, 
where swallows come and go. 
(translated by H. G. Henderson


soundly, soundly
the plasterer sleeps -
(retrieved from World Kigo Database)


today they're flying
in the bathhouse town...
swallow swarm
(translated by David G. Lanoue)
taking flight
from the cloudburst...
a swallow
(translated by David G. Lanoue)

Jane Reichhold

home again
fluttering in the eaves
barn swallows
from the broken bell
the chatter of swallows
nest building

Haiku Invitation

This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references the birds in flight.

Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!  


  1. Heisman, Rebecca. “Swallows of the United States”; American Bird Conservancy
  2. “Swallow”; Britannica
  3. “Barn Swallows”; All About Birds
  4. “Barn Swallows Observation Guide”; Wild Bird Society of Japan
  5. “Swallow (tsubame)”; World Kigo Database

 Basho’s haiku was retrieved from Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations. . Buson’s haiku was retrieved from “Haiku of Yosa Buson Organized by Rōmaji, in alphabetical order; translated into English, French, Spanish” Terebess Asia Online (TAO). Issa’s haiku was retrieved from David G. Lanoue’s HaikuGuy.com.  Jane Reichhold’s Haiku retrieved from A Dictionary of Haiku


62 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The Swallows Arrive” 2023

Add yours

    1. Hi Sherry, thanks for adding this. It really is interesting to notice how interconnected everything is. The chimney swifts are another example of that. Thanks again for sharing and adding to the conversation.

  1. I haven’t seen any swallows yet, but the spring migratory songbirds have definitely arrived here – it’s wonderful to hear the variety of early morning birdsong!

    1. I agree! I noticed my first robin the a couple of weeks ago and I heard an American Woodcock the other day. For me, that is a sure sign that the seasons are changing. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Wonderful post, Mark. Although we have barn swallows here in No. Calif. year-round, the others migrate and return in spring. Every year for about a decade, I have recorded in my calendar the day of the first returning swallow. It was this week. So your post was not only very interesting, but very timely. I love the swallows.

    1. Hi Jet, That is pretty amazing that this ancient Japanese calendar and your experiences in Northern California aligned. In the northeast we have a ways to go before the swallows arrive. But we do have a few spring arrivals, which is very nice to see. Thanks for the comment and I hope all is well.

  3. a parade for
    swallows’ return

    and also a 5/7/5

    children dressed as birds
    eager for swallows’ return
    hopping up and down

    The Mission of San Juan Capistrano in California (about an hour south of me) has been the spring/summer home for cliff swallows for centuries. Their return is celebrated both on March 19th (Return of the Swallows) and March 25th (Swallow Day Parade). Though it takes place a bit earlier than this Japanese micro season, this event is the USA’s most famous as it has inspired songs, books, and more including over a hundred years of celebrations.

    1. Eavonka,
      Love the ‘ku especially the little kids hopping up and down–just makes me smile.
      .In Hinckley, Ohio (about 1 1/2 hour east of me) they celebrate the turkey vultures returning on March 15th. I don’t know if they have a parade or not, but I can only imagine what that would look like. 😉

      1. Oh my gosh, a celebration of turkey vultures makes my imagination go wild! 😂

        Thanks for that, Nan.

    2. Hi Eavonka, Thank for sharing about the swallow celebrations in California. I really like “a parade for” even though I didn’t originally know what Capistrano meant. Nevertheless, the haiku was written in a way that I would have looked it up if you hadn’t explained. Thanks for sharing and I hope you have a good weekend.

  4. barn swallows dip and dive
    for dinner
    –open field
    ~Nancy Brady, 2023

    feeding frenzy
    at the feeder
    –sparrows hover
    ~Nancy Brady, 2023


    The last time I volunteered at Old Woman Creek the barn swallows were flying hither and yon in the field with the bluebird boxes, snagging insects out of the air. I suspect that many of them had snagged some of the bluebird boxes as this season’s home.

    1. Hi Nan, I really like “dip and dive for dinner”. The alliteration is fun to say! I so enjoy watching swallows hunting for insects over fields. The aerial maneuvers are just impressive.

      1. Thanks Mark. They really move quickly. I love watching the swallows versus the muffleheads each summer. The muffleheads are so thick they look like smoke in the sky and the swallows just scoop them up.

      1. I love to watch them. Dip and dive is a good way to describe them as well. Thanks!

    1. Nicely done with this one! I like subtle reference to the struggles that the swallow is having finding suitable habitats within the reference to their flight patterns. Thanks for sharing!

      1. I really love these microseasons and the way you present them. Thank you Mark.

  5. I look forward to these posts, Mark, and appreciate all the effort you put into them. And it doesn’t hurt that I adore swallows! Here’s my contribution:

    buffet in the sky
    birds skimming mouths open wide
    more mosquitoes please

    1. Hi Tracy, Thanks for the kind words! I am glad that you are enjoying the posts.
      I laughed a bit reading your haiku with the last line “more mosquitoes please”. Delightful!
      Have a good weekend and thanks again!

  6. Great post Mark – thank you. I saw my first swallow of the season two days ago (Devon, UK) my heart is always lifted when they return to our shores. Thanks again 🙏

    1. The return of the migrating birds always feels like a special time for me too. The seasons are slowly shifting and we are entering the time of renewal and growth! Thanks for your comment and I hope you have a good weekend.

  7. Thanks for this fascinating post. Here’s my poem inspired by watching the swifts last summer.

    Black ticks on bright blue,
    swifts flung across the sky
    like boomerangs.

    1. Hi Tracey, Thanks so much for your comment and adding to the conversation.
      Those swallows do look like boomerangs sometimes dont’ they!

    1. They haven’t arrived in northern Vermont yet either! I have seen many of our early migrators, but I haven’t noticed a swallow yet. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  8. Very lovely post, Mark, as well as the masters’ and all contributors’ haiku. I’ve always appreciated the imminent return of swallows and swifts, especially yesterday as warmer temperatures brought out the gnats and my arms were a’ flailing. Soon I’ll be not so deftly dodging them swooping in the park, as they swiftly swallow pests. I rarely note the first few arrivals, but they are SO noticeable in autumn as they flock to migrate. Huddling on the roof in cool autumn mist when I lived in the country. Now, thousands flock in and around the neighbors chimney in the city, and then silence after they leave. 🙂

    1. Hi Mary Jo, That for sharing this great observation of the shifting seasonal activities of the other than human world! I really like your noticing how you often aren’t so aware of the arrival of the migrators, but they are really notice when they get ready to leave. I think I have that same experience with geese. I hope you have a great rest of your week!

  9. In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, we eagerly await Hirundo: the barn swallows. (I have a long poem, but not a haiku yet, about them.) But they are usually here by now, and I’m starting to worry. We have a great barn for them with many previously inhabited nests. Any thoughts are welcome!

    1. Hi Marjorie, Thanks for the comment. Sorry to hear that the swallows haven’t returned to their nesting spot yet. One thing that I might try to get more information about the barn swallows in my area would be to log in to inaturalist.org and see if there are other sightings in the area. Next, I might reach out to my local nature center and see what they are noticing. Good luck and I hope the swallows were just delayed a few days!

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