The 365 Commitment

The Swallows

On the coast of California, there is a rare bird known as the Cliff Swallow. They are a pretty bird, they usually have a bright flame colored set of feathers on their back. They are a song bird and love to sing beautiful songs and gather together in large community gatherings. There are places in the coast of California where you can see 1000s of them all nested together. They build these round shaped nests made out of mud with a small entrance for them to come in and out of. If you look carefully along bridges, cliff sides, buildings you will sometimes see a grouping of these mud homes in the coastal cities of California.

They are actually all over the place in North and South America, but I only have ever noticed them in California because I have grown up my entire life looking at their nests and admire their peculiar behavior. These birds live in a monogamous almost marriage like living situations where mother and father raise young ones and participate in a rather complex social structure. The birds all have roles in their social circles and when when a scout discovers a particular good place for food, then that is communicated very quickly to the rest of the group. I have watched them for hours and have come to the conclusion that they have their own language which is understood and taught to younger generations of swallows.

The bird is incredibly intelligent and this is magnified by the social group that they participate in. They are also incredibly fearless and at times very aggressive. I have often thought that if I were to be bird, I would probably enjoy the life of a cliff swallow. My favorite story about Cliff Swallows was told by Father John O’Sullivan who was the pastor at Mission Juan Capistrano in the early 1900s. One day in the small little beach town, he notices a shop keeper destroying the homes of a bunch of cliff swallows that had build their community of homes on the side of his building. O’Sullivan asked why he was doing this, the cliff swallows were in a state of panic flying all over the place and raising quite the alarm. The shopkeeper complained of the mess they make and all that. With that O’Sullivan spoke out loud to the birds and told them to come to the Mission and they could make their home there. The very next morning, he discovered a large group of Swallows busily building their nests up in the rafters of the Mission. From that day, you can still visit the mission and see the Swallow peaking out of their little mud nests all over the Mission.

A cool story and I believe it. Those swallows are pretty crafty and I would not doubt that they recognized a friendly soul when they saw him. The Cliff Swallow makes me think of the times we are going through right now. Now more than ever we need to be courageous and stick together.

Well I do have to make a small note. The Swallows did not stay at the mission. As the community surrounding the mission grew, there became better places for the birds to nest. The Mission staff have figured out how to lure them back, with recorded mating calls, fake nests and some other trickery. Now there are some Swallows that have come back. If you ever get a chance, visit them. There is one particular family of Swallows that I always look for and every time I go back they are still there.

Guy Reams

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