"We'll sit on the deck and watch birds," my cousin Janis promised when she invited me to a backyard barbecue Saturday. "At least, I sure hope we'll have birds."
|Meals on Wheels for baby Barn Swallows.|
Those are the usual entertainment at her home on the rolling grassland north of Penn Cove. They're cunning and dramatic. And the field next door was recently cut and bailed, laying a fast-food banquet for raptors.
To sweeten the invitation, Janis and her husband, Pat, included our mutual friends, Craig and Joy Johnson, who paint, write and photograph birds. Click for Craig's website.
|Food for the soul.|
So imagine my surprise when the show wasn't some big predator in the sky but a buncha little babies right in front of us on the roof!
A whole family of fledgling Barn Swallows was lined up on the gutter, begging for food. Mom and dad were working their tails off, diving and swooping all over the field and delivering nonstop protein to four starving mouths!
This is about as sweet as it gets. First, babies are irresistible. Second, the dedication of those two parents would make anyone teary. We never saw them take a break. Every 60 seconds or so, they were back with meals-on-wheels for the kids.
|Did I say I was hungry?|
One big bee was pretty worked up and lurched around in the air. We all sensed it was considering whether to attack one of us while the adult swallows briefly tried to recapture him for round two.
My heart sank when my camera battery died. But we saved the day by transferring my big 400 zoom to Pat's Canon digital camera, and kept right on shooting.
Then our hearts soared when the whole swallow family took wing and cris-crossed the field, swooping and banking sharply. Clearly, the little birds could fly with the pros. But maybe they weren't the A-team as aerial hunters. They'd rather line up on the roof and beg for handouts, and the parents were glad to oblige for now.
|Now don't drop it, for crying out loud.|
"Something's always happening with the birds," Janis pointed out. Friends visit from the outside world and don't always get what island life is about. They're still caught up in their jobs, stress, lawns and shopping malls. They have no birds or wildlife to bring joy to their lives.
|Birds of a feather - Janis, Pat, Craig and Joy.|
"While a manicured yard might fit a certain vision people have of how things ought to be, it's often the opposite of what nature really needs.
"On the island you see how nature works and how important it is to our well-being. It is healthy and meditative, and a healing force."
It's where I want to be.