Friday, February 11, 2011

Wallowa Country's Flying Cigars

Wallowa country's flying cigars . . .

Nearly the last to arrive
.. and among the earliest to leave,
.... the swifts of Wallowa country
..... are barrometers of the aerial insect bloom.

Vaux's swifts are the once ubiquitous,
.. diurnal, aerial insectivores
.... of Wallowa country forests
...... and the seasonal "chimney swift" of the valley.

Great swirls appear in mid May,
.. in Wallowa and LaGrande,
.... eventually disbursing to the forests
..... to find their own hollow trees to nest in.

It is amazing to watch the vertical
.. swirling flight of roosting flocks
.... enter and leave a chimney
..... and consider they are flying straight up and down.

I have watched a Vaux's swift
.. flying at high speed, directly
.... into an old pileated woodpecker hole
...... knowing he has to make a right angle turn, to fly down.

White-throated swifts do the same
.. in the hard and rocky canyons
.... at much lower elevation...
...... entering little holes in basalt at high speed.

Black swifts are much more scarce
.. and have their own peculiar niche
.... nesting behind vertical falling water
....... which is a rare enough commodity.

Once, after struggling to the top
.. of Twin Peaks, I was nearly peeled
... from that precarious summit,
...... by a close pass of hyper-speed black swifts.

The last several years, I have played host
.. to a nesting pair of Vaux's swifts,
.... in an un-used chimney at home,
...... perhaps harbingers of luck like Europe's storks.

--r.anderson 12Feb2011