[Tweeters] Swallows and a Swift

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Thu Jul 18 21:19:02 PDT 2013


Yesterday morning I was working in a garden in north Snohomish, a place I've worked for years, overlooking the Pilchuck River and Hwy. 2.

It was a coolish cloudy morning, and as I arrived on the scene, I came across about 4 Barn Swallows cruising just inches above the large sloped lawn. If they'd had the right implements, razor blades or something, they could've mowed it. As it was, they were snagging bugs down that low, occasionally right off the grass, with hardly a pause.

That took me on a trip down memory lane, when as a grade school naturalist in West Seattle, I watched a Barn Swallow repeatedly fly between the scissoring legs of the school janitor as he pushed a lawn mower around in front of Gatewood Elementary one morning. I remember thinking "showoff!" as I watched the swallow's aerial gymnastics. Looked like fun.

Back in Snohomish, the Barn's gained elevation as I walked down the lawn, joining a half dozen or so Violet-green Swallows overhead. They all cruised about for a few hours.

I had the thought earlier that this would be a good Black Swift morning, and sure enough one zoomed into this swallow scenario, did a few arc's overhead, and sped on as fast as it came. The swallows dinking around like city drivers going to the local mini-mall , the Swift more like a long-distance commuter moving at near highway speed.

Of course the Swift was a long distance commuter, from the mountains near, or far - who knows from exactly where.

That reminded me of of an email I received a few years ago from tweeter Jay Withgott (thanks Jay) about animals with Uni-hemispheric sleep. He was responding to my post about a seemingly asleep young Harbor Seal that I'd seen slowly dive below me as if on auto-pilot, as I walked down an Everett dock. Apparently some marine mammals and other creatures can catch some z's on one side of the brain, while the other side is awake- at least enough to move about , and be aware of dangers.

One of those other creatures might be Swifts, since they spend so much time on the wing. Seems like a Black Swift might be a candidate for this ability since they have, or are capable of, a pretty lengthy daily commute. Maybe at Swift speed they can go from Mountain to Sound pretty quick without snoozing on the wing. Who knows.

Safety Note: do not try Uni-hemispheric sleep experiments yourself, while driving. It probably would be as dangerous as texting your latest e-bird sighting while driving, searching the car floor for a dropped french fry while driving, or searching for that "Mozart's Greatest Hit's" CD in the glove box while driving - things that can lead to sudden impact. Humans probably should stick to that bi-hemispheric sleep thing we all know so well.

Jeff Gibson
posting from both hemispheres of
Everett Wa






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