Monday, 19 January 2015

The Cliff Swallow.

Cliff Swallow Nests. Patrick Tillet.

I was in touch recently with an American member of a photographic website I joined a couple of years ago, he had posted this picture of Swallows nests clamped to the structure similar to those of the House Martin. With an interest I made enquiries as to the species and learned that they are the nests of the Cliff Swallow. In addition to this info from Pat, he told me of the song by Leon Rene in 1940  'When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano' - you need to be a bit ancient to remember it - apparently a popular song in it's day and was written as a tribute to the annual springtime return of the Cliff Swallows to Mission San Juan in Capistrano, Southern California.

Mission San Juan. Robert. A. Estremo.

What is regarded by some as the miracle of the Swallows of Capistrano takes place each year at Mission San Juan Capistrano. 
As the faithful Cliff Swallows wing their way back to the most famous mission in California, the village of San Juan Capistrano takes on a fiesta air and visitors from far and wide gather in number to witness the return of the Swallows.

At dawn the birds arrive and begin rebuilding their mud nests, which are clinging to the ruins of the Great Stone Church of San Juan Capistrano. The arches of the two story vaulted Great Stone Church were left bare and exposed, as the roof collapsed during the great earthquake of 1812

After the summer spent within the sheltered walls of the Old Mission in San Juan Capistrano, the Swallows take flight again and leave after circling the Mission San Juan....A pretty inspirational story I thought.

Cliff Swallow. Copy Permitted.

An extremely rare vagrant in the UK, the first record of which was only a little over 31 years ago of a bird found on the Isles of Scilly in October 1983. 

Non of the three birders who initially saw the bird on St Agnes could put a name to it, it had flown past them with Barn Swallows, they were able to eliminate Red-rumped Swallow and had presumed it was a hybrid. But a fourth birder arrived to see the bird land and immediately recognised it as a Cliff Swallow identified from the species he had seen in America. This Cliff Swallow was last seen on the Scilly Isles 18 days after it had been first spotted and was seen by several hundred birders. 

I'd sooner be birding....And that's exactly what I'm off to do right now!  


Bob Bushell said...


Pat Tillett said...

Great post Pete! I live very close to the mission and as a child, used to go to the annual parade that marked the return of the swallows. The little town of San Juan Capistrano, that grew up around the mission is still a very nice place to visit (as is the mission).

Pete Woodruff said...

Bob....Yes, beautiful birds and story.

Pat....Good to hear from you. Thanks for your help on this one.

Kind Regards to you both.