Near our house there’s an open-air swimming pool I go to on summer evenings, to cool off and do some easy exercise. Quite often I’m the only person, and if I swim as sleekly and efficiently as possible, no chopping and churning, I can be rewarded by fast-darting swallows swooping down and scooping up water in their beaks. Their skill and accuracy in calculating the dive just right to drink without drowning (while avoiding collision with the human pool-creature) is a joy to see.

I keep finding touching examples of the cleverness and brightness of swallows. Here is Henry Williamson, in Tarka the Otter, referring to their ‘sun-songs’. Thoreau also has some marvelous and humbling observations on these beautiful birds, one on their sociability, and the other on their table manners.

‘The aerial masons were about to build their nests on the rafters of shippen and barn; they flew in pairs, singing their sun-songs.’

 

Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in the two rivers, illus. C.F. Tunnicliffe (Harmondsworth: Puffin Books, 1976 (1927)), p. 142

Photo credit: Anna Demianenko at unsplash

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