I am so excited as you’ll be on hearing this news during your East Coast stay: for the last 12 days the CLIFF SWALLOWS, our spring ambassadors, have arrived with full zooming wing actions!!! Remember when we thought we saw one flitting through the air over 3 weeks ago & how we thought that was too early for their arrival from South America? Well, now they are performing their dizzyingly zig-zag flights by the Riverside, Laurel & Felt pedestrian bridge by the dozens.
The biggest cluster is by the Felt bridge, which makes me wonder if they are still returning to their nesting grounds of many years ago. There used be 2 huge barns where the Gateway Shopping Center is now. The CLIFF & BARN SWALLOWS claimed those barns as their nesting homes. The sky used to be filled w/their small bodies soaring giddily through the air.
The Ross Store & other businesses have been trying for years to discourage the CLIFF SWALLOWS from nesting on their buildings by putting up prevention contraptions. The same efforts are employed over @ Shaffer Rd., which used to have huge barns as well, now replaced w/ apartments & industrial buildings. The SWALLOWS conclusion to the absent barn scenarios was: “Fine! WE deal w/this! WE adapt to the change & mount our nests on the new structures!!” which threw the building owners & maintenance crew into frenzy action tizzy of “No way are SWALLOWS nesting on our buildings!!”. This attitude can cause a dilemma, because as you once mentioned, SWALLOW nests are fully protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 w/some hefty fines attached for messing w/nests under construction.
True! SWALLOWS are messy nesters & wouldn’t it be wonderful if the UCSC Environment Studies Dept. addressed that issue & came up w/simple & effective nesting solution for homeless SWALLOWS & nervous building owners? That would be so wonderful! Sorry…I got sidetracked with history & wishing …now back to the here & now…
Occupied by their relentless insect hunt the SWALLOWS spend their wake hours in the air & farmers cherished them as their cheap pest control brigades. They also served the farmers as dependable weather forecasters. The farmers knew that high flying SWALLOWS meant good weather for the upcoming days & low flying SWALLOWS announced overcast sky/rain. I use them as my weather vane & shower any prediction doubters w/condensed insect behavior information: warm days make the air rise higher due to lighter air molecules thus easier for insects to gain altitude. Arriving rain/overcast makes the air molecules heavier w/moisture & insects can’t rise easily, so stay lower. SWALLOWS are the designated interpreters of the insects messages.
The first time I saw a flock of SWALLOWS fluttering around in a muddy patch, I thought they had a take-off problem : their wings were flapping hectically, their heads were lowered towards the mud, but finally they did lift off & flew to the bridge, fluttered close to nests under construction, dipped their heads repeatedly towards the nests, then returned to the mud patch. Watching their back & forth, it dawned on me that by applying mud from their tiny beaks they were building their nests. Their tedious seeming toiling flabbergasted & hypnotized me. We humans are traumatized by buying a finished house & building one on our own would surely test our sanity. & here are the SWALLOWS, who every year, after a long migratory trip, build labor intense nests, lay eggs, incubate them, spend a huge amount of energy on feeding their hatched brood, teach them how to survive & when all that is done, fly back to South America. How awesome is that?! Don’t you agree that is a truly amazing achievement! Plus they do it all w/such vim & vigor. As you can probably tell by now…SWALLOWS do have a special place in my heart!
Be sure to check out the SAN LORENZO RIVER BIRD WALKS SCHEDULE. Well have to go when you get back!
Sweet feather greetings to you from jane