More Swallows / by Chris Maynard

 Swallow Bug.

Swallow Bug.

My home is a swallow haven. The tree and violet-green swallows get bird houses on the top of long poles in the field. Barn swallows get the barn. I supply them with feathers for their nests and in return, they swoop around snapping up mosquitoes and other insects. These birds, plus the bats that nest in my barn, seem to eat all the mosquitoes because I never see any mosquitoes near my house. A barn swallow, I read, was calculated to fly 600 miles a day and snap up a bug a minute.

When I watch one of these birds dart aside to get an insect, I hear its mouth snap shut when it captures one. But I never have actually seen a swallow actually catch a bug, just heard the "snap". When the swallows are about and I focus on a flying insect, waiting to see a swallow grab it, the bug always flies out of my sight, unharmed.

So I made this 20 by 30 inch piece of swallows catching bugs, using two mute swan feathers. With the white on white, it is hard to see the insect cutouts, just like it's hard to see the real bugs the swallows catch. But with a direct light, intense shadows form, bringing the outlines of the bugs into sharp focus.