NATURE NARRATIVES: Silent sunrise, speedy swifts

By Melissa Walker
       The sun rises in silence in late summer. The dawn chorus has concluded for this year, and I miss the birdsongs that accompanied each sunrise in May, June and July. Fortunately, the sun manages to rise without the birds' exuberant encouragement, and its bright rays illuminate summer's bounty. The tiny spring flowers of the chokecherry have changed into shiny purple berries that seem to drip from the burdened branches. The now-quiet robins and squirrels, and an occasional wandering black bear, find the ripe berries irresistible. A close look at the shrubs along the foothills streams of Bear Creek, Cheyenne Creek and Camp Creek reveal that many of the berries have already been consumed.

Chockecherry flowers.
Melissa Walker photo

       As the sun's rays lengthen in the early days of September, I often go to the Garden of the Gods to watch the summer evening drama of the white-throated swifts. About an hour before sunset, hundreds of the black and white birds swirl through the air, circumscribing huge circles around North Gateway Rock and Gray Rock. The birds are preying on high-flying insects before night falls. All of a sudden, as the sun nears the western horizon, the swifts rush to perpendicular cracks in the towering red sandstone cliffs, then disappear into their rocky communal roosts. It is a summer phenomenon that only lasts until late September when the Swifts disappear from Colorado Springs, flying totally away - southward - on their migration journey. The swifts are one of nature's many wonders that make each day seem so much more than simply a date on a calendar.

Walker, a long-time area naturalist, posts regular entries in her online blog at naturenarratives.com. She has given her permission to reprint selected pieces in the Westside Pioneer.