Saturday, July 04, 2009

my turn at bat

It is 9 PM.

Or it was when I started writing this blog.

It is my time of day. The "busyness" that intrudes even into retirement winds down. The sunset offers the promise of respite from the summer heat.

Each evening I sit on the balcony of my little house on the playa watching the two parts of the day slide into one another. Neither night nor day.

And for a few minutes, I can watch nature's shift workers trade off their duties.

We have swallows -- or golondrina, as they are called in Spanish.

When I was here last year, the joists of the patio were honeycombed with barn swallow nests. O'Hare had fewer daily flights than the touch and gos of the patio swallows. Tippy Hedren would have felt right at home.

And you can imagine what the patio floor and furniture looked liked. Rocks in the Galapagos have more bare spots. Nitrate mining was a definite economic opportunity.

Not this year. Marta went to war with the swallows. They would build nests. She would conduct her own form of carpet bombing with hose and stick.

Marta and the swallows eventually came to an accommodation. Five or six swallows showed the tenaciousness of the Taliban.

Each evening the remnant swallows hunt almost like dolphins. They fly through the edges of the palm trees stirring up insects, who are then picked off by the other swallows.

But the gregaious day shift swallows are soon replaced by a solitary bat, who swoops around the margin of the same palm trees.

One of our blogging colleagues is a big bat fan, and quite the enemy of swallows.

Now that we have come to an accommodation with the swallows (an accommodation that Felipe would most likely equate with Munich), I have learned to appreciate watching their flight antics, their nesting habits, and their peculiar song.

And there is a lesson here. I have formed an emotional attachment to the swallows because I have come to know them. Their guano is still an issue. But it is outweighed by everything else.

The bat, on the other hand, is a cipher. I see it only briefly.

I have no idea what type of bat it is -- or where it spends its days. I do know that it roosts over the outdoor bar sink in the early evening. At first, I thought we had a family of mice sufficient to outfit Cinderella's coach. But it is just the solitary bat.

So, each evening, I will watch for the erratic flight of the bat. In hopes that I can learn just a little more about it.

And, with a little more familiarity, I just may come to think of it as a swallow of the night.


Larry in Mazatlan said...

Ah, retirement. You start to notice things and their details that you never would have up north. For me, I enjoy watching the pelicans down on the beach. A formation of three or four just gliding looks like a group of star fighters from Star Wars.


Steve Cotton said...

Larry -- I am still enjoying the luxury of just sitting and watching. The swallows will alight on the patio and just sit on the ground for long periods of time. I have never noticed before if other swallows do that. But it is enjoyable to get to know them better. Now about that bat --

Darrel said...

Tell Marta – “Good Job”. To whittle the attacking swallow forces down to just 5 invades is a moral victory if nothing else. When I was there this spring, the sheer numbers of invading forces was overwhelming and quite distracting. Two months later I still have a tendency to cover the top of my cup with my other hand. I’m sure I must have grounds for a traumatic stress syndrome claim and the related punitive damages. Maybe you can refer me.
How are these temperatures for your “warm days and cool nights” category. The Central Oregon High Desert yesterday had a high of 94° F with 9% humidity and low of 51° F last night. You go to bend with the fans on and get up in the middle of the night looking for a down comforter.

Happy 4th

F15's at 400 feet and 400 knots over Bend today at 11AM

Felipe said...

Tell Marta that if you knock down the swallow nests every day during the nesting season that in a couple of years they will get it, and quit trying to build at that location. Really. It takes persistence. Nasty birds.

Steve Cotton said...

Darrel -- Any stress disorders could not come from anything in the paradise that is Melaque. Our temperatures hover all day long in the 80s with matching humidity. Yesterday 88 was both.

Felipe -- As Darrel notes, my current recitation from swallowland is a bit romanticized. When they were in full invasion strength, nothing was safe from being guanoed. But I do not mind the few that have persisted. After all, I need to talk with someone -- or something. Friends from work are arriving this morning. Perhaps, they will distract me from the birds.

Islagringo said...

All the time I was reading this, the overture from Phantom of the Opera was going through my head! We do not have song birds on the island. Pigeons, mourning doves and those awful gackley black birds abound. I hear no melodic calling of the birds. Only awful shrieking.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

We have a nest on our porch too! I have enjoyed watching the process actually. Prehaps because it is just ONE nest and not many.

Anonymous said...

Happy 4th of July!

so, i assume that it is the problem with the guano that has caused marta to try to eradicate the swallows from the house, am i correct? here in miami there are areas where the trees are full of swallows and i love going by there and hearing their song.

i thought i had read all your posts but i somehow missed reading that you plan to stay in melaque till april-that's great so you can enjoy the cooler temps. is there any chance that you can stay in the house you are in now? i know the owner will be returning but since it's such a big place i thought maybe you could stay there together. just a thought.

hope you and jiggs are enjoying your morning and midnight walks. i heard it's supposed to be 100 here today. wish i could do a long walk here at midnight, but doubt that it would be a wise choice. i'll be at a water park today celebrating a grandniece's 1 st birthday and at the beach tomorrow for a big cuban family reunion. my last week here i will really have to cut back on my eating-but i love cuban food!

take care,

Joe S. said...

Re previous post & Putnam, the only recall I have left is the function on my cell phone. Thanks for the title. Be sure to report on the comfort or discomfort of your guests since they won't be acclimated.

Steve Cotton said...

Islandgringo -- We have only a few songbirds near the house, but I enjoy their song in the morning. Even the grackles are fun to watch as they figure out how to get water from the swimming pool. But they certainly are not melodic birds.

AMM -- One nest is not bad. It is the difference between having one classmate of the boys stay at the house and all of the boys from the school stay at the house.

Teresa -- When the swallows were nesting in force, it was impossible to sit out on the patio for any more than about three minutes before your clothes, drink, and dinner were decorated with guano. Not a good situation. For Marta, it was a lot of cleaning. Staying in the house after December is not an option. Jiggs is in the hospital over the weekend -- having four tumors removed from his neck. I will pick him up on Sunday.

Steve Cotton said...

Joe -- That one taste was where I learned to savor Faulkner. Be assured I will give full reporting on the visit. No CNN-hide-the-facts reporting from me.

glorv1 said...

Are those the swallows that return to San Juan Capistrano? :) Happy Fourth of July and a heads up for Mr. Jiggs.

Steve Cotton said...

Gloria -- The swallows that migrate to and from San Juan de Capistrano mission are cliff swallows, not barn swallows. I am not certain my swallows migrate anywhere. They have found a pretty good deal. Or, at least, some of them have.

1st Mate said...

You seem to be getting more poetic in your writing since you have been settling in and becoming more contemplative and relaxed. I for one am enjoying your posts more all the time.

With swallows, as with any living thing that reaches critical mass, everything from cats to bamboo, when there are too many they become a nuisance. Same with people.

Jan said...

Lovely story Steve. It really is nice to be able to enjoy your surrounding and the creatures you share your life with. We have definitely done this more since moving to Mexico. Thanks for sharing.

Steve Cotton said...

1st Mate -- Tomorrow's post may be a bit more prosaic. But, thank you very much.

Jan -- Retirement affords a lot more opportunities to simply observe what transpires around us.