Thursday, May 15, 2008

not so swift, fella

Michael Dickson has bats. I have swifts. I would say I have the better part of the deal, but I also like bats. Swifts you can enjoy while the lights are still reflecting on the stage. Bats hide their antics in the night.

Not just any swifts. I have Vaux's swifts.

I would love to post a photograph of my local swifts, but the name describes the problem: they are swift. And that is just the start of what makes them fascinating.

One evening in early summer several years ago, I was working in the back yard and heard what sounded like the high, rapid sonar-like twitter of a bat -- or several bats. I looked up and saw fifteen to twenty birds literally zooming in wide arcs around the block where I live. As the sun began to set, I watched one bird tumble like a skydiver. It then hovered over my chimney, and fell in. I was amazed as the rest of the flock followed suit. I was landlord to a flock of swifts.

Every evening they would put on the same show. And I never tired of watching them as they swooped through the air catching a smörgåsbord of insects and "ballooning" spiders.

I even met two of them over the years up close and personal. (And, when on the ground, they are far easier to catch than Todd's hummingbird.) They fell into my firebox and made their way into the house. I set them free and closed the damper.

I already shared with you that I have been thinking a lot about solitude this week. Last night I was sitting in the hot tub enjoying a delightful evening as the sun set. And I noticed the swifts for the first time this year. I was literally being lulled watching the swifts circle -- when it hit me: I need to get a photograph for my blog. And I heard a voice say: "sit. relax. shalom." But I need to write something about this. "sit. relax. shalom." But my camera -- "sit. relax. shalom."

And I did. I watched as the sun continued to set and the street lights came on -- just in time for the bats to clock in. One swift went down the chimney. Then a second. But no more.

Are they the pioneers of the season?

Or the remnants of the flock?

I don't know. But the two of them are back, and I feel that much more at peace for sharing the moment with them -- and knowing that there is hope in the cycle of nature.

I keep discovering that I must learn the lessons of solitude and relaxation now -- not when I retire. Mexico does not need another graduate of the school of busy-ness.

If you would like to know more about Vaux's swifts, here is everything you could possibly want to know about swifts .


Anonymous said...

como te va con el espanol? quizas debes estudiar en tu jacuzzi. asi puedes aprender y relajar al mismo tiempo.

relaxing is not easy for some of us. i am one of those who is always on the go, but i am happiest that way. my idea of relaxing is hiking up a mountain. however, i go slowly so i can enjoy the scenery and take pix while some of the people i hike with just want to rush to the top.

nice post on the swifts. i relaxed just reading it ;-)


Todd said...

Me, I have vermilion Flycatchers.
They are beautiful bright red birds.

But, I think they got their anti paparazzi training in Hollywood.

We have quite a few here in the Corazon, sometimes I think they will even land on my shoulder. But bring out a camera and they all vanish.

Well, except for one, he likes to tease me. He will pose, and then when I almost get close enough he flies away, Laughing!


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

Beautiful post on your swifts.

Eight years ago my husband and I left behind our hectic life in Southern California in exchange for a much more relaxing one in Salem, Oregon - on ten lovely acres of rolling hills and a beautiful view of the valley below. He retired. I continued working. I still look forward to coming home each day after work to savor the lovely peace and quiet of Robbins' Roost. One of those joys is watching the red hawks soar above.

The first time my septuagenarian mother came for a visit, after being here for about three days she confided in me, "Your place is beautiful but I couldn't live here. It's just too quiet".

Go figure! Shalom.

Alee' Robbins

Steve Cotton said...

Wow! Bird lovers everywhere.

Teresa -- The spanish is not yet going. I am just finishing my speaking schedule. Perhaps I can start honoring my study promise next week.

Todd -- I look forward to seeing the vermillion flycatchers again. I have not had much luck photographing them -- unlike the hawks on the coast who will primp and preen for any photographer.

Alee' -- It is odd how people react to both quiet and noise. When my brother comes over from Bend, he complains about the racket in my neighborhood. I don't even notice the fire engines any more.

Anonymous said...

If ANYONE has a problem with quiet - they have but to move to Mexico - the sounds are as rich and vibrant as the colors.

The most interesting thing about this, and I have musical credentials, is that all the 'noise' of Mexico blends together in a most harmonious way - and if you miss that - well life is a melody and when you add instruments it only gets bigger and better. ;-)
Stay Tuned!

Juan Calypso

Steve Cotton said...

I have always enjoyed the sounds of Mexico. But I know that a large group of my friends are going to be horrified by the music that is Mexico. I trust they will visit with an open mind.

Cory said...

Down at the University (UofO) there is a tall chimney on one of the old buildings where 1000s of Swifts dive in to stay the night every night in early spring. It is fascinating to watch.

Groups gather to watch the display and the Audubon Society gives out information about the birds.

Also entertaining is the hawk that stands on the edge of the chimney patiently waiting for the first few to dive. For him one or two makes a good meal.

Steve Cotton said...

There is a school in northwest Portland where the same phenomenon occurs (sans the hawk). Crowds gather each evening to watch them.