Cliff swallows drink in mid-flight at Texas Lake Wildlife Area west of Cullison.

When daytime temperatures soar to 108 degrees like it did today, birds need a lot of water. And at Texas Lake Wildlife Area, cliff swallows were lined up by the dozens on electric lines near an open pool in the main lake, where they could easily quench their thirst and pick off insects flying near the water at the same time.

Time and again, the birds lined up and zipped along the water surface at about 50 mph, expertly watering in mid-flight. Taking in small amounts with each pass, they often circled and hit the water in repetitions like runners taking laps. Sometimes, their beaks dipped the water. Other times, closeup slow-motion showed they were eating small insects just above the water surface.   The natural pool was alive with action in the same way as the city swimming pool in town. It was a good place to keep cool on a hot day, and the birds flew non-stop. It was challenging to catch the swift birds in a camera frame, and even harder to stay with them as they skimmed the water. But the occasional lucky frames made an interesting study of  swallow agility – today’s best catch when everything else was lying low. See the video here: