Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19th and the Return of the Swallows

March 19th is the feast of St. Joseph in many Christian traditions,
and it is the day when the swallows make their legendary return
to the mission at San Juan Capistrano.
But it turns out the swallows no longer return there
in the numbers they once did.
Indeed, many people report seeing only one, two or none at all.
Apparently urbanization has pushed them into the nearby mountains
in search of a better food supply.
Or perhaps the swallows were merely unenthusiastic
about the ritual clanging of the mission bells,
the multitudes of tourists, and the raucous Swallows Day parade;
so they set off for greener pastures, so to speak.
I read a quote once that said
institutions established to preserve ideas usually ended up destroying them.
An irony that seems to have happened here.
But the swallows are still appearing elsewhere.

Here is a video link showing them building nests near Capistrano:

and here are some returning in Apollo Beach Florida,
probably a good indication of what it once looked like at the mission:

We had barn swallows where I grew up, and of course, purple martins.
And we have purple martins and other swallows in Virginia,
although here along the Elizabeth River shoreline,
the trees are probably too thick for most swallows to feel welcome.

Even so, it's reassuring to know that on St. Joseph's Day,
the swallows are still returning somewhere, and
 they are beautiful harbingers of Spring.

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