Archive for April, 2016

The Swift Ballet

Some of my most treasured memories revolve around nature. Many of those involve birds. From the hummingbirds in my back yard to a very special day spent with my dad watching hundreds of ducks land on a small pond, I have had profound and fascinating encounters with these amazing winged creatures. Birds are the dancers of the animal world. I love dancing and watching dance performances.
Several years ago, Janell Bennett, owner of Sybaris told us about the chimney swifts that performed an engrossing nightly ballet before roosting in the chimney of a local residence. Mitch and I went and watched them. It was amazing. We only watched one time but I tucked it away in my memory. I was saddened to learn later that the house sold and the new owners capped the chimney. Certainly understandable but still sad.
Nature is resilient and I’m sure the birds found a new place to roost. I’ve thought about them occasionally over the years. Tonight I had the privilege to once again watch that dance. As my parents, sister and brother-in-law and my husband and I sat down for dinner at Luc in downtown Corvallis, I noticed a large group of birds that looked like swifts. They were flying around a chimney in the building that houses the Whiteside theater. I mentioned to the table that I believed they were swifts and that they would eventually fly down and roost in that chimney.
If you have witnessed this phenomenon you know the the swifts gather, fly around and flirt with the chimney for quite awhile ( an hour or two) before they dive into the chimney. It is amazing and fascinating but not something you need to watch for the whole time.
So all through the dinner I periodically checked to see what was happening with the birds. We got our server involved. There were several false alarms that the birds were heading down the chimney. We thought we weren’t going to get to witness the fly in. It was disappointing to think we wouldn’t get to see it after all the build up. By that time there were two of the servers engrossed as well. We paid our bill and as my husband signed his name on the credit card slip, the swifts began to descend. A sense of utter amazement permeated the air as 8 adults watched the swifts descend into the chimney to settle in for the night.
Normally that would be the end. In this instance, however, there was a slight variation. There was a small contingent of birds that hesitated as the rest of the swifts entered the chimney. We guessed that they might be younger birds or that they were the scouts or choreographers. Whatever their position, they were last to swoop in and during that last dance the unthinkable happened-a crow broke up the group and lit on the top of the chimney. He sat on top of the bricks, daring the swifts to try to get past him. By this time we were in our car, still with a view (although awkward for me) of the chimney. After a few minutes, the small band of swifts dove directly at the crow and made it fly away. The remaining birds quickly regrouped into a funnel shape and descended into the chimney, safe for the night. Mitch and I headed home, thankful that we had once again witnessed this beautiful ballet.

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