Friday, April 28, 2006

Flying Tuxedos

There's a beautiful old field near the top of Moose Hill Street that is part of the Audubon sanctuary. There are about a dozen bird nesting boxes on posts scattered around the field.

Now, when I see bird boxes like these, I think of bluebirds. I've set up several boxes over the years, hoping to provide a home for bluebirds. I grew up on Long Island in New York, and while the bluebird is the state bird, I never saw one in my youth. I can still remember when I was a small child my mother reminiscing about the beautiful bluebirds of her childhood on her family farm in Hempstead, New York, and there has always been a special place in my heart for these birds. Bluebirds were not common in those days, especially on Long Island with it intensifying development, but I always hoped I would see one. I was in my twenties before I saw my first, and that was upstate. They seem more common these days, and here in eastern Massachusetts, I see several every year. I like to think that the efforts of those who set up nesting boxes have helped.

So, when I stopped by this field this morning, I was hoping to spot a bluebird, but it appears that every one of the boxes is occupied by tree swallows. These swallows are no great dissapointment. Now, house sparrows or starlings would promote some anger or sadness, but tree swallows are fun to watch. I do wonder, however, if swallows and bluebirds compete agressively for nesting sites. In any case, I've always thought these were sharp-looking creatures with thier trim tails, pure white bellies and sparkling iridescent purple-blue backs; a sharp contrast that always makes me think of flying dancers in little tuxedos.

And how they fly! Some birds - like the lumbering great blue heron I saw slowly flapping overhead - make flying look like a chore to be done to get from one place to another. But if birds can feel joy, these tree swallows are full of it. I watched as swallows (The males?) would launch from their perches on top of their boxes, circling the field as they climbed. In the air above the field they would swoop and zoom, at one moment chasing each other, and flying with each other the next. They seem to revel in the sheer fun their avian superpowers provide.

This exuberant display under a bright blue Spring sky offered a lift of spirits at the end of what was otherwise a difficult week.

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At 11:33 AM, Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

You have described exactly how I feel about tree swallows...they show how joyful they fun it is to fly. Cute little show-offs!


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