Swallows are amazing birds, and I was privileged recently to have an amazing experience with them, owing to a fortuitous turn down a street we don't normally drive. We passed a local church that was surrounded by a cloud of flight, and quickly I urged my husband to pull into the empty, weekday parking lot so we could have a better look.
From the skies to the walls, in and out, a colony of cliff swallows was industriously building their mud nests along the bricks below the eaves of the church. The chirping and other high-pitched murmurs were a constant background to the frantic activity, and we watched the busy birds bring back mouthful after mouthful of mud and dirt to build up and cement their nests. In the air, their flight was aerobatic and precise, whirling and diving with grace and beauty.
Every beautiful story has a dark side, however, and I'm ashamed to share this one. Evidence was clear from mottling on the walls that the nests had been knocked down and destroyed over and over. While this is legal (the Migratory Bird Act offers no protection unless there are eggs are chicks in the nests, and there were not), I find it no less abominable that a church - an institution devoted to honoring God and all His creation - would destroy the life efforts of one of God's creatures. The birds were working to build homes to raise their families, and in a state where family is so very sacred, it is horrific to deny that to other creatures. Yes, there were droppings on the walkways, but wouldn't that be worth the opportunity to witness the miracle of life for another living being? Even more abysmal is the fact that the statement "Visitors Welcome" is so prominently displayed on every LDS church - but clearly that doesn't apply to other visitors God might send to share creation with his devotees.
I'm still grateful to have had the opportunity to see the birds myself, and I only hope that I wasn't the only one ashamed at how they were persecuted (funny enough, the Mormons moved to Utah because they themselves were persecuted). The colony did move on, and I hope they found another, more welcoming home to enjoy.