The cliff swallows have returned in full force to our home for 7th year in a row. This is a post I originally wrote in August 2012 about my attempt to learn ways to prevent their nest-building activities at our home. Hope you enjoy this funny post, written as a military operation, about our visit to the Mission San Juan Capistrano, a place of world renown because of its swallow activity!
Operation Swallow Adios
Petrochelidon pyrrhonota (cliff swallows), AKA “Los Golondrinas”, have infiltrated the exterior of target structure (our home) for the fourth year in a row.
Subversive activity recorded:
- 1st Year – the invaders built five nests.
- 2nd Year – these intruders built twenty-three nests.
- 3rd Year – these interlopers built sixty-four nests.
- 4th Year (present day) – the transient forces have built one hundred sixteen nests to date!
- Exponentially, we expect next year’s invasion to top 250 nests (homing radar present in adult Petrochelidon pyrrhonota that previously nested in successful colony)!
Swallow viewing station at my house – invading forces and subversive activity at targeted environment!
THREAT IDENTIFICATION AND ASSESSMENT:
- Build-up of aggressor forces via air sovereignty and the air dropping assault of poop everywhere! Poop on:
- Gravel, pathways, walkways, driveways, patios, and all outdoor paved surfaces (nuisance minefield).
- Roof, exterior walls, windows, window ledges, fences, handrails (avenue of approach).
- Outdoor furniture, lighting fixtures, yard ornamentation, plants (pattern bombing).
- Poop at all ingress and egress of targeted structure (our home), effectively booby trapping target structure creating no safe area or weapons free zone (low angle loft bombing).
- Potential future threat: degradation of exterior stucco, total loss of sterile environment and ruin of garden and pool area ambiance.
INGRESS OBJECTIVE AREA:
In mid-March, “scout” Petrochelidon pyrrhonota activate their gyro-magnetic compass and arrive from their departure point in Goya, Argentina to reconnoiter target environment (our property and home) undertaking a feasibility assessment on the local surroundings, clearing the way for the flock’s invasion in mid-April.
INVADERS’ VALIDATING MOTIVES:
- Rural environment with no urban sprawl
- Open space with few trees
- Water source from pool
- Horizontal surface from multiple overhangs of targeted structure for nest-building, providing protection from weather and predators
- Low humidity preventing crumbling of nests
- Consistently warm weather providing a target-rich environment of multiple species of flying insects for food.
EGRESS OBJECTIVE AREA:
Around the 3rd week of August, the entire flock of parental units circle “Capistrano South” and retreat to Argentina, 6,000 miles to the south. After previously engaging in joint airborne training, newly hatched units have already left the nests for their long journey south.
Send operatives on a reconnaissance mission to discover measures to discourage Petrochelidon pyrrhonotas from building their nests under the eaves of target structure.
Operatives assigned to go straight to the regional experts in nearby rendezvous area to gather Intel and source information about the insurgents including assessing options for rules of engagement and repatriation to their country of origin.
THE OBJECTIVE AREA:
Mission San Juan Capistrano (Mission SJC for short) in San Juan Capistrano, California.
TIME OF ARRIVAL:
Operatives to arrive at Mission SJC towards the end of June, the peak of swallow season in So Cal.
Operative #1 – me
Operative #2 – my friend, Christin
Double-Agent #1 – groundskeeper at Mission SJC
Double-Agent #2 – docent at Mission SJC
DEBRIEFING (Double-Agent #1):
After seeking MRE’s (meals-ready-to-eat) at a local eating establishment, Operatives #1 and #2 arrive at the Mission SJC at 20:00 (ZULU) on a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon. Operative #1 is armed with:
- advanced geo-spatial intelligence and acoustic surveillance (iPhone video) of a recent coordinated air attack sortie (the insurgents dive, glide and perform low-level flying techniques when Operative #1 reconnoitered the targeted environment during a recent risk assessment inspection of the target structure); and
- reconnaissance photographic evidence of invading forces (also on iPhone).
Operatives #1 and #2 ambush local Double-Agent #1 and after vetting him, solicit advice. Operative #1 hands over evidence (iPhone video) to Double-Agent #1 for assessment.
Double-Agent #1 tilts his head sideways in a gesture of admiration (subversive activity) and exclaims, in a strong Hispanic accent, “how cute! They are so cute! I miss the swallows! You are so blessed!”
“But, they poop everywhere and we are concerned about our stucco,” Operative #1 responds.
“I will come clean the poop for you,” he volunteers.
Operatives #1, #2 and Double-Agent #1 laugh because we all know that he isn’t going to travel 90 miles south to clean poop. Double-Agent #1 leads us to the “Swallow Viewing Area” signage and points to nests in one of the eaves of the Mission SJC.
This cluster of four nests is a complete disappointment, especially after Intel reveals they are man-made (concrete) in an effort to entice the insurgents back to the Mission SJC.
DEBRIEFING (Double-Agent #2):
After snapping a few pictures as evidence of this discovery, we thank Double-Agent #1 and head back to the entrance to meet up with Double-Agent #2 (the docent of our guided walking tour). Prior to beginning the reconnaissance mission (walking tour), we engage Double-Agent #2 in a request for assistance, explaining our objective and handing over surveillance photographic evidence.
Double-agent #2 recommends knocking down nests after invaders have flown south for the winter. Operative #1 advises Double-Agent #2 that this technique has been deployed for the last three years running, with no success. Double-Agent #2 counsels that Operative #1 should create a ruse by covering the entire exterior eave area with netting, wiring or some other type barrier. She explains that this will:
- prevent future build-up;
- run purposeful interference;
- develop a passive defense system; and
- initiate a state of readiness for next year’s onslaught.
This will, hopefully, result in an overt peacetime psychological operations program returning the targeted structure and environment to a neutral state.
Double-Agent #2 then turns her attention to the assembling group and introductions are made all around. Our small group of 5 (docent/Double Agent #2 makes 6), is curiously comprised of three “Carol’s”! And, we are all, obviously, from different generations. This has never happened to Operative #1 before!
Is this a sign?
Just as we are ready to start the tour and walk to our first destination point of interest, a young couple joins us. Double-Agent #2 welcomes them, but introductions are not repeated.
TOURING MISSION SJC:
First stop: statute of Father Junipero Serra, Mission San Juan Capistrano.
For the next hour, our group is led around to various points of interest within the Mission SJC compound and given a briefing of the development of the Mission system in California (Mission SJC is the 7th of 21) and the development of the “Mission Culture”, a combination of the Spanish culture and the native American Indian culture. Our tour is very interesting, but strangely, no mention of the swallows is made.
We end the tour at the remains of the massive Great Stone Church, which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1812 and never rebuilt. The remains of the sanctuary are in beautiful stark relief against the clear, bright blue June sky and we (Operatives #1 and #2) remain behind to take pictures of this awe-inspiring structure.
Remains of the massive Great StoneChurch, Mission San Juan Capistrano
A SURPRISE ENCOUNTER
Someone taps me on the shoulder and I turn around. It’s the young woman who joined our group late with her companion.
“Hi, Carole. You probably don’t remember me. I’m Rebecca…”
“OMG!” I exclaim, grabbing her by the shoulders and giving her a big hug. She is a beautiful, statuesque young woman and towers over me, so she has to bend down to hug me back; I start to cry. “Of course I remember you! I didn’t recognize you! How old are you now?”
Just then, Operative #2 chimes in “I turn around for a minute and you’re hugging someone and crying!”
Rebecca is 25 and I haven’t seen her for about ten years. As a very young girl (4 to 5 years old), she and her family lived in our old home that was destroyed in the 2007 wildfire. Her family lived in that house while building a new house in town and Charlie and I were their neighbors, living in the smaller house next door. Once their new house was complete, they moved to town and Charlie and I moved into the larger house and lived there for 18 years before its destruction. Rebecca and I spend a few minutes getting reacquainted and made plans to reconnect at a later date.
While the mission (reconnaissance to discover measures to discourage the swallows return to our target structure) at the Mission SJC was somewhat ineffective, the day was a resounding success:
- Had a wonderful adventure with a dear friend
- Learned more about California history
- Reconnected with an old family friend.
All-in-all, a really good, awesome day!
The ruins of the Great Stone Church at Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Upon returning to home base, Operative #1 continued on-line research and submits the following additional report of Intel gathered post mission:
- Every summer for centuries, the swallows returned to Mission SJC and this annual return was touted a “miracle”, bringing droves of tourist from around the world to witness this annual spectacle.
- Sometime ago, Mission SJC underwent major structural repair. At that time, all the swallows’ nests were removed. Since that time (the 1990’s), the swallows have not returned.
- Young swallows return to the place they are born and raised. The current generation of swallows has no “imprint” of Mission SJC as their home, and therefore, does not activate their “homing device” back to Mission SJC.
- The urbanization of the village of San Juan Capistrano around the Mission SJC is a deterrent to the swallows return.
- “Swallow culture” is standard operating procedure for the village of San Juan Capistrano and its inhabitants, so the fact that swallows no longer return to the Mission SJC is kept secret, under wraps and “on the down low” by the locals.
When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano
When the swallows come back to Capistrano
That’s the day you promised to come back to me
When you whispered, “Farewell,” in Capistrano
‘twas the day the swallows flew out to sea.
– Leon Rene´
More pictures from our visit to Mission San Juan Capistrano:
Beautiful flowers in the gardens at Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Corridors and hallways at Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Inside Serra’s Church.
Swallows from my office window.
Mission Bells at Mission San Juan Capistrano.
P.S. Be sure to click on the “evidence” link in the story above to view a video of these amazing creatures invading the targeted environment (our home)!
(other bird and swallow posts)
- A Wing and A Prayer
- Bird Bath
- Exaltation of Larks!
- Live Life
- Make a Place Beautiful
- Sweet Baby James
- The Best Nests in the West
- The Birds and the Bees
- The Swallows Return to Capistrano South
- Use What Talents You Possess