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Note Cards

"Cliff Swallow"

"Cliff Swallow"

Watercolor drawing  & mix medium of Cliff Swallows.  These birds migrate from South America to North America to have  and raise their babies.  The Cliff Swallow scouts arrive near the end of February to San Juan Capistrano.  Once hatched and fledged from their gourd shaped mud nest the parents prepare them for their long journey back to South America which begins in September.  Cliff Swallows consume thousands of bugs during their stay. 

The City of San Juan Capistrano and the Mission San Juan Capistrano celebrate their return every year.  The Fiesta Association a volunteer organization based in San Juan Capistrano has planned each year in advance for the past 52 years a Swallows’ Day Parade.  The Mission San Juan Capistrano celebrates the Cliff Swallows return on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19th each year. 

These beautiful birds, the Cliff Swallow are one of nine species of Swallows.  Some only migrate between Africa and Europe and others between South America and North America.  The Cliff Swallow is the only Swallow that builds the gourd shaped mud nest.  Please be kind, considerate and respectful to them, they are our guests.  Welcome them and learn about them.

Cliff Swallow

"Cliff Swallow"

"Cliff Swallow"

In Memory of a Cliff Swallow


By Monique F. Rea

©mfr 2009

Oh dear Swallow, you came to my door for help.

Your parents flew from the southern hemisphere early spring to find and build their summer home.

After circling, sweeping and chattering about the clear blue sky they chose the eave.

A week of multiple trips to the creek bank and back to the stucco veneer.

Their cheeks filled with selected mud.

Thousands of small individual mud pellets were molded carefully and pressed against

each other to form earthen gourd walls.

The colony of mud nests made your home more secure.

Before even the last pellet was placed to finish off the round opening not much bigger

than their girth, your mother settled in to lay her eggs.

Two days passed, your parents shared time incubating five eggs.

Each took turns providing food for one another.

Then that joyous moment arrived fifteen days later.

First one egg began to crack.

During the night, another bill poked through the creamy white shell.

Before dawn, number five shook off the porcelain like cover.

You hatched and joined your siblings.

Your mother kept the nursery clean.

She tossed out the broken shell pieces.

Your parents foraged for a variety of bugs.

You and your siblings wrestled to position yourselves at the opening.

Your parents jabbed into your mouth tasty moths and other flying insects.

You were surrounded with a symphony of chatter and chirps including your own.

The colony alive with raising young Swallows.

A week before the twenty-first day of your birth you fell from the nest.

Neither your siblings nor your parents could carry you back to the earthen nest high

above the ground.

Landing, helped by your wing flaps.

Now separated from the clan.

You are alone, frightened and hungry.

A strange tall moving branch with articulated twigs reached down and picked you up.

Funny sounds and caresses covered you.

Voice over the phone said, “I found a young Swallow who fell from its nest. What to do?”

Then the knock on the door.

You arrived in a temporary paper nest.

Your diet changed from flying insects to a scientifically formulated food.

Jabbed into your crop with care.

Your size was worrisome.

Not as should be.

Could you make the fall migration back to the southern hemisphere?

Only a month away before the journey.

Your flight exercises prove to be less than sufficient.

Middle of September is the last migrating window.

You will wait until next Spring to greet the returning flock.

Feeding on mealworms and vitamins now.

Morning sun shines through the window warming you and your new domicile.

Your Swallow chatter is wonderful to hear.

You enjoy taking baths in the small dish of water.

Months pass. Winter has arrived.

You haven’t grown any bigger little sweet Swallow imp.

Flying is not any better.

You are as content as can be expected.

It’s mid February.

I hope that you will be able to fly out to greet the flock that’s returning.

No…..something changes.

Your health declines but still eat vigorously.

Now your eyes are covered with the protective layer.

I hold you wishing you could have greeted and joined the others this Spring.

I make you as comfortable as possible.

Today, I know you are leaving and I am very sad.

You will always be remembered Cliff Swallow.