Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Day Shift - The Tree Swallow

There’s a fine line between “Wow! that’s cool!” and “Run for your lives!”

While I couldn’t be a bigger bat enthusiast and have spelunked, paddled and hiked to the remotest places in the continental United States to see swarms of bats, I recognize that there are still some out there that are squeamish about the night flyers. For some, the sight of thousands of bats flying overhead might provide the inspiration for nightmares for weeks. In fact I still recall my little sisters paddling in circles at dusk on a lake in upstate New York. Bats harmlessly swarmed about their heads. The nocturnal navigators sought the insects that hovered over the sisters’ heads and the poor creatures had the added obstacles of canoe paddles waving through the night sky and young girls screaming. I love that memory.

The swarm of creatures above me on this cold December day cascaded through unseen air currents and undulated and burst in all directions like a daytime Forth of July spectacle. By my estimation there were over 10,000 of them and if they had purpose I could not discern it. Shifted to daylight hours and set on a cold Florida day, this loose formation of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) strikes fear in few. They serve a similar purpose in the grand scheme of things. They feed on aerial insects as bats do, but you can see them in the sunlight. They have no teeth or leathery wings and thus do not suffer the prejudices of their nocturnal mammalian counterparts.

As benign as they may seem, it is absolutely imperative to keep your mouth shut during such air shows. It’s not that speaking would frighten a flock of thousands. They make enough peeps, chirps and squawks to rival an airboat. It’s the “precipitation” that rains down on me on this cloudless day.

I could care less. It’s worth it to see such a display. I only wish my sisters were here to see it as well.

1 comment:

  1. When I lived in PA. and had to cut the grass, I continuously had 8-10 Swallows buzzing around the tractor grabbing everything they could get their beaks on. Three and a half acrea of bugs thrown into the air made a Buffet for the weak or unsuspecting. - FLPirate