Tag Archives: San Juan Captistrano

Habits Are Hard to Swallow

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!


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