Return of the Swallows Festival at Chabot College

Our thanks to professor of graphic arts, Mark Schaeffer of Chabot College for the flying cliff swallows below. (vi/2008)

Hola to all

I had a bad experience at Chabot today, Sunday (4/19/09) at about 9:30 am. I’d like to share it with you.

Right after my basketball session at the gym, I went out to check on our Cliff Swallows, as they are busy building their nests.

Up on the southeast corner of the gym, one cliff swallow (golondrina) was trapped inside the mesh/netting placed there so the swallows won’t build their mud nests there. How it got inside is beyond me, but there it was, inside, attempting to get out. It could not. It was not able to. It died. You may go see it, if you would like to.

Why did it do that? It’s called the homing factor, whereby living things have to go back to where they were born. We also call it homesickness. Pretty strong in this case, I’d say, no?

Anyway, there was nothing I could do. Being careful to not hit the swallow, I threw rocks at the mesh, attempting to make a hole. Not possible. I had no long pole, as the gym is quite tall. I gave up, and watched one of our cliff swallows die.

Actually, the ‘bad’ experience was more of a sad one. It was a helplessness that sombered my Sunday.

You ask 'why?' It’s only an 8 ounce bird, one that makes an ugly mess with its droppings/guano, endangering our life (oh, my God!). [By the way, no one person in the American continent as died from guano contact – I have researched this quite a bit. And I challenge anyone out there to prove me wrong].

But, back to why I reacted so, if it’s only a ‘dumb, pesky, dirty, pesty’ small bird. For the same reason that a firefighter will rescue cats that can’t climb down from a tree. Or that people will take to the vet a hurt bird found on the street. I am sure that you have heard/seen other cases. It’s called being human. We read about other examples at ‘’, ‘’, ‘’, ‘’, and others.

I wasn't happy. So, here is what I decided to do. I went to my workbench and dreamed up a ball with hooks on it, and with a rope tied to it. In the future, if I see a bird trapped inside the mesh, I am going to throw it up, hook the mesh, and pull, ripping it apart to allow the swallow to escape. Yes, I have decided to destroy college property if needed.

I imagine some folks will not be pleased with this. Don’t care. But, I will report my forced activity to the President’s Office.

With that, and with the hope that you are doing your bit to protect our Flora and Fauna - thank you! - I hope you have good week.

Teach on!

P.S. * please - remember, reduce, reuse, recycle, renew, refresh, recover, restore, respect, refuse, rot, rethink
>>> Francisco Zermeno 04/19/09 9:02 PM >>>

Hi Francisco,

Thank you for sharing the sad episode. I wondered if the trapped swallow desperately tried to escape and return to the nest where his/her chicks and mate were waiting. Then I had to stop thinking because I couldn't bear the thought. I will break a net, too, if I ever see it happening.

As sad as what happened last Sunday was, at least I haven't seen a chick that had been killed with a blast of water so far this year. I found two dead chicks on the ground last year and tried to figure out what could have caused it.

In Japan, swallows returning to their hometown is considered so auspicious that people and businesses don't do anything to disturb them. In fact, I know an old Japanese lady (about 75 years old) who grew up watching swallows come back in the spring to nest in her family's house in a seaside town in Chiba Prefecture. The family accommodated them to the point that swallows started nesting inside their house. They just put newspapers to keep the floor clean and never disturbed them. According to this lady named Sawako, who lives in San Leandro, people say that swallows coming back is always a good sign because somehow they never return during the year when there is a family misfortune such as an illness or death among the family, as if they can sense it. Mysterious and interesting story.

Birds amaze many of us with their intelligence, delightful movements, and chirps and songs. Listening to the sound of chicks coming from a nest is one of the most exciting things for me. They also contribute to ecology and our well-being by pollinating flowers and helping produce crops and eating harmful insects including mosquitoes. Even wasps are precious from that perspective.

Thank you also for sharing that story of a male swallow that tried to save and stayed by his mate after she got hit by a car. The images of the pair haunted me for at least one week. I started seeing more humanity among animals than in human beings.

Best regards * Hisako Hintz - Tuesday - April 21, 2009 2:42 PM


Swallows Art

Ir a Chabot Green Team Weekly Mother Earth Tips
Volver a Español

© jfzc16.ix.09