Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Avian acrobats

The weather the last few days has been absolutely wonderful. This afternoon, Tea, Koba, "Our Grandmother," and I sat out on the front porch for a little while enjoying everything -- the sunshine, the warm air, Kitten purring in my lap (he has decided that he loves being held now), thirty or so chicks pecking around the yard, and the birds singing in the hazelnut orchard. Suddenly, in swooped the avian acrobats -- the swallows.

Swallows are one of my favorite birds. If I could fly, I would fly like a swallow -- death-defying, hair-raising, and just plain fast -- that would suit me perfectly.

Have you ever watched a swallow? I have spent quite a bit of time watching them since they returned for the warm seasons -- I don't know where they were in the winter, but they weren't here. But now they are all over the village. There are several that live in the trees in one yard that I pass on my way to and from school and another group who have taken up residence under the eaves of the porch of the lower house. I have lots of opportunities to observe how they fly.

They remind me of two things -- roller coasters and stunt pilots.

As I walked home from school yesterday, I watched two swallows playing in the air over the road and the yards on either side. As they pitched and rolled and swerved and swooped while chasing each other, it looked like they were strapped into some invisible high-speed roller coaster -- complete with corkscrews and loop-the-loops. Then they split up (the coaster must have ended), and started flying independently, but still playing around in the same space. This is what reminded me of stunt pilots. They flew low over the ground at each other, breaking away at the very last second when they would have collided head-on. Then they banked hard, back over the road and climbed straight up, up, up -- then suddenly stalled, wings still spread, tilted on end, and fell toward the earth, pulling up out of the dive just in time to glide inches above the road.

If bird-species each had a theme song, the swallows' song would be Kenny Loggin's "Danger Zone" straight out of "Top Gun."

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