Thursday, April 14, 2016

Twilight Flight

Twilight over Lecce
What is that song about the birds? When the swallows come back to Capistrano. We have discovered the same thing here in Lecce I think. The courtyard is home to at least three kinds of birds. There are the ever-present pigeons. One is nesting across from our kitchen window, and the females are constantly being hassled by the males – they just do not get that “No means NO!” message. Then there are some pretty little black white and red songbirds that hide in the flowering plants cascading down the buildings around the courtyard. Then there are the swallows.

The first warm day when we could sit out on the terrace with a glass of wine before dinner we noticed them filling the skies overhead. They perform an intricate aerial performance every night, trying their best to eat all the flying insects in the area. I am assuming that the twists, sharp turns, and dives are not for my benefit but are using their amazing flying ability to catch insects. Good thing, because there are lots of little insects here and they do not use screens on the windows, so I cheer those swallows on every night. I found it so interesting to watch the swallows perform their aerial ballet every evening.
Sparrows Over the Terrace

One pleasant evening, we were sitting out on the terrace with another glass of Italian wine, and Regis started to get concerned about the swallows swooping closer and closer to her as she sat. I suggested that since we all knew she was a perfect insect magnet that the sparrows were just taking advantage of this fact, but I also noticed that they were indeed coming closer and closer to us, seated on the terrace. Often two or three would sweep down and around the courtyard and then back up into the gathering  twilight.

Suddenly I noticed that one of the swallows swooped down but then disappeared into the wall opposite us. I began watching closer and caught another arc down and then disappear into the space above one of the windows of the apartment across the courtyard. I realized that some of these insect eating birds were roosting for the evening right in the courtyard. The windows all have large stone headers above them and there is a little gap of about an inch above the header. As I watched at least two swallows zoomed down and crawled into these tiny spaces over each window. Then one of them flew low over our heads and into the space above the window used as the door into the apartment from the terrace. Those swallows were not using Regis as a bug attractor, they were upset about us being so close to their nightly roosting spot, and were nervous about trying to get in with us so close. We elected to give them a few minutes of peace and went inside for a while.
The Sparrow's Home

After a while we returned to the terrace for a quiet evening glass of wine and discovered that the aerial display was not over. Now another insect predator had taken over and two bats flicking around the courtyard were snatching up any insects left alive by the swallows.

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