Thursday, September 20, 2012

Swift Musings...

This morning, walking the dogs at the park, I saw the most amazing thing.  Of course, when I need my camera, I don't have it with me, so this is a stock image I got off the internet.  I was in a perfect position, right under the chimney, to get some great shots, too.  Buggers.


One section of the park is the cultural center of town, with the community theatre, quilt guild, arts and crafts gallery, and the pottery building.  It's a little enclave for the arts. 

The pottery building has this very tall, elegant chimney and every May, about four thousand Chimney Swifts come from South America to nest in it, returning to warmer climes in September.  The community center has a Swift celebration thing for the kids, though I've never actually seen the birds as they only fly in and out at sunrise and sunset and I'm never at the park at those times.

So, today, the boys and I are crossing the edge of the field, three-quarters of the walk finished, and just approaching the pottery building where we usually skirt the perimeter and wander through this beautiful grove of trees that surround the theatre. 

For the first time in months, it's overcast and there's a slight dampness to the air.  I can't resist the pleasure of tilting my head to the sky to feel coolness on my face instead of the scorching sun.  Suddenly, there's this...well, the only word that works is explosion...of birds that erupt straight out of the chimney stack right before my eyes.  Bird smoke.  I stared in total amazement as they burst upwards, in the thousands, and immediately went into a huge spiral, each bird joining in until it was nearly a solid black mass wheeling around the chimney.

My first thought was Shit! Where's my effing camera!?  My second thought was What are they doing?  After several minutes the spinning mass of birds began to change.  One at a time, the birds at the top of the spinning mass began peeling off, diving through the center of the vortex at Mach 4 or so, right into the chimney.  No slowing down, no hesitation, no putting on the brakes.  It was like watching a well-orchestrated ballet, with a large dose of death-defying kamikaze tossed in for thrills and chills.  In less than ten minutes, the whole inexplicable display was over, and there wasn't a bird in sight.

What set them off at 10:30 in the morning, well after sunrise?  Why did the whole colony of thousands explode out of the chimney?  And wow, how cool are these birds to be so incredibly dexterous and agile they're able to swirl and twist and dive-bomb, and not once crash into any of their fellows, spinning all around them?  Nature.  There's just nothing like it.

And really, I guess I've just got to take my camera with me everywhere.  Never know when there might be an unexpected and amazing explosion...

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