Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Why, if I picked a day to fly, this would be it!"

The barn swallows fledged today.  They built the entire nest--a small mud cup above the boys' bathroom door in the Children's Garden at Red Butte--in less than twenty-four hours.  One day it was just a small blob of mud and the next day it was complete.  Usually I think of natural processes as being very lengthy.  How long for a stream to carve the slim, twisting slot canyon or a glacier to carve the u-shaped valley?  But nature moves quickly as well.  Summer still reigns, but already all over the Garden seeds are growing.  Some are fruit, like pears.  Others, like the service berries, have already gone to the birds.  The oak trees have miniature acorns and the milkweed has fluffy pods under each leaf.  And only a month or so ago a pair of barn swallows built a nest.  I saw the female sit on it each day as I used the bathroom and hundreds of the children I teach discovered it and eagerly led me by the hand to see their discovery.

I've been watching another nest as well.  The Cooper's Hawks rebuilt last year's nest and this time they were successful in raising two chicks.  For the past few weeks, while the parents were hunting, its' two occupants frequently peeked over the edges.  I stood underneath the nest and high above me one would stand with his white baby feathers.  He stood silhouetted in the sunlight.  I was always the first to end the staring contest.  Mom or Dad sometimes sat nearby on a branch.  Recently, when I come by no chick peers down at me.  But today while walking across the Wildflower Meadow four hawks flew across to land in the trees at the edge.  Four hawks with the characteristic banded tails of the Cooper's Hawk.

Meanwhile, the barn swallows hatched and grew.  Nakedness was replaced by feathers and the nest became more and more crowded.  This morning they seemed to be standing on top of one another.  The parents flew constantly to and from with food.

About midmorning I noticed an unusual number of swallows zipping and diving high above the Children's Garden.  I checked the nest and only one bird remained--not ready to go.  But every other swallow in the Garden celebrated the day of flight as the new birds flew acrobatics all afternoon.  I wished to be one of them!  I rushed a boy to the bathroom for an emergency trip this afternoon (he didn't make it all the way) and while he used the bathroom I watched the last bird .  It stood at the edge of the nest stretching its wings, but not ready to test them.  Other swallows flew in to chirp at the last chick, but still it didn't go.  I wanted to be there when it flew.  After all, what could be more magical than a bird's first flight?  At last I left the nest to go to other places in the Garden.  But when checking it this evening the mud nest was empty and quiet, as was the air above the Garden.  What a wonderful day for flight!  Clear sky, strong sunlight, and a wind blowing up the mountain.


Miss Wesel said...

That is beyond cool! It seems like all is right with the world if a bird is taking its first flight.

Jacque said...

Rachel, I think you should seriously consider professional writing. I am so taken with your posts. You have a gift.

JD said...

What a great thing to witness! Great to have the blog back.