For longer than it’s been recorded, Swallows have been coming to San Juan Capistrano. The birds leave to fly home to Argentina in the autumn for winter and fly back to make their appearance in the spring.
Every year hundreds flocked together, forming a gray assembly of feathers like storm clouds soaring in the sky. The swallows even draw media attention, their story spreading far beyond this quaint little mission town.
These tiny birds would come to make their nests. Small mud-hives could be found clinging to everything from house eaves to nearby creek beds to freeway overpasses causing motorists to flip on their windshield wipers as they drove by underneath.
Been there, done that!
But nowhere were they noticed more than at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. All along the cathedral’s high stone walls that rise like a rocky precipice, which was badly damaged during an earthquake in the early 19th century—now became the perfect spot for swallows to create their clusters of muddy nests.
Then years later, the mission found themselves in a muddy mess. They were forced to do away with the swallow’s nests in order to stabilize and preserve the structure as the surrounding urban population grew making this famous bird’s sanctuary walls no longer homey. Slowly, the birds began to disappear. So much so that almost daily the mission officials say they were asked, “When will the swallows return to Capistrano?”
I find this hard to swallow!
It seems, not only had the swallow’s natural habitat been disturbed, but over decades, local businesses became dependent on the revenue they received from all the visitors who came to see these precious migratory birds. So the search was on for a solution.
First, they tried to replicate the nests by bringing in ceramic hives which turned out to be unsuccessful after experts had criticized the idea saying, “No cliff swallow would ever use it!” They also brought in swarms of ladybugs hoping they would lure the swallows back with one of their favorite treats. Well, that didn’t work either. So now what would they do?
You won’t believe this. They brought in an expert!
A biologist from the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma who had ties to the mission after lecturing there in the past, having spent over 30 years in researching the cliff swallow. It turns out that Charles Brown has a personal interest in these birds that became a lifelong pursuit. “They do everything as a group,” he said. “I don’t know of any other natural spectacle that’s equal to it.”
So as a last ditch effort, Mr. Brown made the suggestion to lure the birds back by playing a reproduction of their mating call through a large speaker hooked to an iPod placed against one of the mission walls, although he admits that his experiment is a long shot. “The landscape isn’t suitable for them anymore. It will be a struggle to keep them there.”
Apparently this habit is not hard to swallow because as the speaker squawked a luring mating call one late afternoon last month, a few remaining visitors at the Mission San Juan Capistrano noticed a dash of orange on a sparrow-sized bird. Yes, they came back!
Okay, this got my wheels churning.
What? Did you think I was just going to leave you with the birds?
Apparently, whether man or foul—creatures are habitual. To be effective, what things can we do to make the most out of our hard habits in order to be successful? Well, I found something to share with you that just might help. But please keep in mind these are not my words, but a condensed version from a man named Stephan R. Covey who sold more than 25 million copies of his book:
“Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”
• Habit 1: Take the initiative by realizing that our decisions are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in our life.
• Habit 2: Self-discover and clarify our deeply important character values and goals. Envision the best characteristics for each of our various roles and relationships in life.
• Habit 3: Plan, prioritize, and execute our week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency and evaluate whether our efforts exemplify our desired values that help propel us toward our goals.
• Habit 4: Strive to value and respect others in our relationships.
• Habit 5: Be a genuine empathic listener which compels others to reciprocate.
• Habit 6: Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone.
• Habit 7: Balance and renew our resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle.
So what do you think? Have you heard of the migratory Swallows of San Juan Capistrano? Do you think they’ll make a comeback to their natural habitat? Do you think that Life is going to the birds? (Just thought I’d throw that one in! LOL!) 🙂 What habits do you find helpful and effective in your daily routine?
Thank you everyone for dropping by and for all your wonderful comments!
We don’t have the same type of swallows up here (well we probably do somewhere in the state, but not near our home). Here we have lovely iridescent green tree swallows who dodge and skim along the water’s edge of our local reservoirs…and unfortunately they like to chase the bugs that float along the road crossing the water, skating all too close at times.
It was because of this that we had a house guest once, a gentle little male with a broken wing (and ribcage). He did not make it, but for a while, he was comfortable and warm (on a very gray clammy day), where he nestled up and stayed curled on my shoulder.
I don’t know whether it was his “habit” to seek that height, but he did. Likewise, some would say my habit of rescuing injured animals is foolish. But as the Swallows of San Juan Capistrano prove… our sensitivity to the smallest of creatures has far reaching effects.
Or at least I like to think so…
Hi Eden! That’s interesting! I have never heard of iridescent green tree swallows. It seems that nature has a way with checks and balances. And the swallow apparently eats bugs. Yeah for that Eden! How sweet of you to take an injured bird in as a house guest! And I agree with you. Our sensitivity to the smallest of creatures do have far reaching effects! Rescuing injured animals is never a foolish thing. You are a kindhearted person Eden! Thank you so much for sharing your feelings with us and for stopping by! 🙂
I didn’t know that they’d run the swallows off – that was quite boneheaded, if you ask me. Where I live there are swallows, and they indeed return to their nests every year. One year my pair didn’t return, but now another pair has occupied the old nests and is raising young.
I would never run them off, because they eat mosquitos! Very beneficial creatures to have around.
And tying them into the Covey 7 Habits? Brilliant blogpost, Karen!! Loved it. 🙂
Julia Indigo recently posted..Carte Blanche
Oh Julia, thank you very much! I’m so glad you brought out that point about the swallows eating mosquitos. I didn’t know that. See when nature is thrown off balance, it affects everything down the chain. I just thought it was funny that they would use an iPod Julia to bring back the swallows. I hope it works! Thanks Julia for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! Always great to see you! 🙂
Great post, Karen. I like the way you use the story about the swallows to introduce “habits” as a topic.
And speaking of habits, one can’t go wrong when starting each day by powering up with a nutritious breakfast 🙂
Mike Schulenberg recently posted..The Versatile Blogger Award: My Turn
As always Mike, you bring up a great point! Yes, breakfast would be a great way to start off the day and add more power to our habits! Glad you liked those silly birds and thank you for stopping by! 🙂
I saw the swallows when I was a little girl. My family took a special trip down to Capistrano. It’s one of my favorite memories.
You know, there are thousands of “self-development” blogs out there, but Covey said it all and most everything else is rehash. Great storytelling, Karen!
Debra Eve recently posted..Three Ageless Athletes and A Confession
Well that’s very cool Debra! Yep, those Swallows have been coming like clockwork, until recently. My goodness, Covey seems to have struck a positive cord with most of you. I am so glad. And thank you very much for the complement Debra and for sharing your thoughts! 🙂
I’m pretty sure the swallows will be back. They’re pretty hearty creatures.
Fun post, Karen.
w/a Jansen Schmidt
Well Patricia, I like the way you think girl and we won’t give up on that thought! Thanks for you comment and for stopping by! Take care! 🙂
I have heard about the Swallows of San Juan Capistrano both before and after they ‘disappeared.’ There are many varieties of Swallow and their habitat is worldwide. I don’t think there is any imminent danger of their being an endangered species. Yes, humans need to be more aware of their impact on the flora and fauna around them, but it is likely the swallows would have moved on at some point anyway. It’s the way of the world. Very little of it is unchanging.
Habits? Unfortunately I have all kinds of habits that are not productive. LOL. The productive habits? Those are the hard ones because my biggest challenge is focus. My emotional reaction to something (anything) can disrupt my focus – bird! – making me all ADHD -squirrel! Covey’s number 1 is key.
Lynette M Burrows recently posted..Celebrating Daydreams and Heroes
Hey there Lynette! Say, how are you and hubby doing? I do hope things around your neck of the woods are much better! I am glad that you’ve heard about the Swallows. It’s a unique occurence, the migration of birds and animals. I just hope they come back Lynette. It was a special feature of the area. And no sweat girl. I’m in the same boat you are as far as habits are concerned. I write these articles with myself in mind first and then share them with you. LOL! Disruption of focus is my middle name! Glad you enjoyed the post Lynette! Thanks! 🙂
I hadn’t heard about the migratory Swallows of San Juan Capistrano – what a beautiful story. I hope they come back to stay and play year after year.
I took a one day workshop on the seven Habits of Highly Effective People and it was AMAZING! Seriously eye opening and the technique/chart used to help you priorities your big rocks first – ahhhmazing!
Natalie Hartford recently posted..Urban Word Wednesday: Shit Show
Well Natalie, you are a very “in the know” fabulousss person! I’m glad you enjoyed Mr. Covey’s class and that I could introduce you to the Swallows of San Juan Capistrano! Those birds really do get around! You’re sure that they haven’t been seen in a neighborhood near you? Maybe they bypassed San Juan Natalie! If you see them, please send them back! LOL! Take care girl and thanks for stopping by! 🙂
Interesting post! I’d heard of the swallows, but hadn’t thought much about them or knew their current status.
As far as the 7 Habits, a lot of them make sense, but some sound so vague, such as the last one: “Balance and renew our resources…” Ooh-kayy. Overall, though, some good advice. 😀
K.B. Owen recently posted..The Maltese Falcon: Beyond Bogart
Kathy, you are right about #7. I did edit Mr. Covey a tiny bit. His words I felt were too strong and I didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable and you caught me! I’m glad you thought it was good advice and that I could introduce you to the Swallow’s plight. Thanks Kathy for sharing your thoughts and for coming by! 🙂
Been there. Seen that. And I thought the whole thing was amazing. I haven’t thought of this in years, Karen. Thanks for sharing!
Diane Capri recently posted..How many times will he get away with murder?
Well Diane Capri, you sure get around girl! And I’m sure that you appreciate the beauty of the area and what part those Swallows play in the environment. I’m glad I could bring back a few good memories! Thanks Diane for visiting! It’s always great to see you! 🙂
We’ve had swallows try to build their mud nests of the side of our house, but we had to chase them off to build them in more appropriate areas. I hope everything works out for both the swallows and the town.
I make sure I sit down every day at the computer. And I even work most days, too! 🙂
SheilaSeabrook recently posted..The family that lies together, stays sane together!
He, he, he, Sheila, I know what you mean! Yes, those pesky birds can be a pain. LOL! But they’ve became such a great part of the landscape of the area. I love your routine Sheila! And I lke that you even get work done most days! Very effective! Thanks Sheila for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts! 🙂
Yes, I’ve heard of these swallows, Karen. Isn’t there an old movie about this place? (I luv old b&w movies – now I’m going to have to find it). I hope the birds will be all right. It’s so hard on all wildlife now because of the human habit of greedily gobbling up their natural habitat.
Now see, you live on the other side of the continent and you know about these special birds Alicia! I must say that I don’t know about a movie about the Swallows. I do know that Alfred Hitchcock made a movie called “The Birds” if that’s what you’re referring to. And it was in black and white which made it much more dramatic. I think all our habitats, whether man or fowl are in the process of becoming endangered. Your right, greed is involved. Thanks so much for stopping by Alicia and please say hello to Roy for us! 🙂
No, I’m sorry to say I’ve never heard of the mission or the city. Hopefully a solution can be found to benefit both the birds and the residents because it doesn’t take much to kill a town these days.
What is the key for my productivity and ability to keep a routine? Sounds silly but that would be adequate sleep. That’s the easiest thing to skimp on when I need more hours in a day. Unfortunately I wind up being less productive…but it doesn’t stop me from trying to find those extra hours. 🙂
Kristy K. James recently posted..Another Memory Dies
So true Kristy! Towns are hurting in so many ways today. And it sounds like this new idea of reproducing their mating call could just do the trick. Let’s hope so. The Swallows were there first! And no, your suggestion/idea does not sound silly at all! Sleep can make all the difference in the world when it come down to productivity! If you find those extra hours Kristy, please share how! Thanks for stopping by today and sharing your thoughts! 🙂
I bet all the people like me who planned to go see the swallows one day are sorry that they never got around to it. I had heard that the swallows didn’t return to Capistrano, but I didn’t know why. It will be interesting to see what the swallows do now.
I need to work on balance, for sure. Thanks for another great post, Karen!
Lynn Kelley recently posted..CLOSED HEARTS – Sequel to OPEN MINDS
Oh Lynn, have you not visited San Juan? Even though you may have missed the Swallows, you and your hubby must make a day trip to the area! There’s Dana Point and San Clemente. It’s a beautiful area! And I have hope for those little Swallows! Your the second person today that said they need to work on being balanced. I think most of us, including myself, need to work on that one. Let me know if you’re able to master it Lynn and share your secret with us! Thanks for commenting and for stopping by! 🙂
I think we are all creatures of habit and very resistant to change. I become much less productive when my daily routine is altered or interfered with, but I learn to adapt and overcome the obstacle, as I’m sure the swallows will do as well. Leave it to an Okie from Tulsa to solve the problem!
Tim L O’Brien recently posted..“My God Man, What is the Answer?”
Tim, it’s crazy how one thing can disrupt our routine and completely throw off our day. I think the trick is to stay focused. But that’s harder said than done. “Leave it to an Okie from Tulsa to solve the problem!” There are apparently lots of smart Okies in Oklahoma Tim! But I only personally know one! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for stopping by! 🙂
Balance is the one I need to work on!
Thanks for the inspiration Karen 🙂
Coleen Patrick recently posted..Leaning into the Leap
Hi Coleen! I’m in the same boat with you girl! I’m still working on being balanced. I hope we achieve that balance someday Coleen. Sooner the better. LOL! 🙂
I’m worried about those beautiful birds, too…Though I have to say, animals never cease to amaze me with their ability to adapt. *fingers crossed!* My hubby and I have an “exotic” bird, that shouldn’t be indoors. (Long story regarding how we got him. ;)) He’s affectionate, flies around the house, takes showers with us, and even feeds the dog popcorn. In a perfect world, all animals would be cared for and allowed to live in their free, natural habitat. If only, right???
Love those habits. One I value is prioritizing my passions. Doing so makes me a better person to be around, among many other awesome perks. 😉 Great post, Karen!
August McLaughlin recently posted..The Bodacious Blogger’s Essential Ingredients
That is hilarious August! The bird takes showers with you? And feeds the dog popcorn? That’s funny. Ah yes, in a perfect world. I just would like to see the Swallows come back. Afterall, they were there first. Takes discipline to prioritize. But you seem to have it together girl and are very productive. And may I also add, effective! Thanks August for your comment for for coming by! 🙂
I’m worried about those birds, Karen. If they’re lured back to a lanscape that isn’t suitable for them anymore, they’ll suffer. If modifications can’t be made to the landscape, then the town will have to re-identify itself–and let the birds find a spring home that’s a better fit.
As for habits and success, Covey’s #1 is key. Me? I’m still working on it.
I’m worried too Pat. If they’re not returning to San Juan Capistrano, then where are all those birds going? And hey, we’re all works in progress Pat! Thank you so much for your comment and for stopping by! 🙂
I think establishing a routine is key to developing a habit. Doin it first (when we get up or come home from work) also helps. I didn’t know about th swallows – I don’t think we have them in Ohio.
No Swallows in Ohio Jen? Say what? Oh, that would be ducks or was it geese? Yes, I agree. Establishing a routine that forms a habit and doing it first makes it much more effective. Sounds like you know what you’re talking about. Thanks for sharing that and for letting me know about the mobile service mishap. It’s a process, but we’re working on it! Thanks Jennette! 🙂