An Enchanting Walk with Scout and Four or Five Swallows at Fort Funston   

I have just returned from my walk at Fort Funston with our 100-pound yellow lab, Scout. I parked next to the hang glider clubhouse and took the trail behind the clubhouse, connected with the paved trail, went on a long walk to the end of the paved trail and headed back to the car. On my return to the car, from the paved trail I took the horse trail back in the direction to go behind the clubhouse and soon discovered that four or five swallows were following us. I have always loved birds and for years have enjoyed watching them. Two flew down low, close to Scout. My first thought was that maybe Scout was close to a bird nest and the birds were trying to distract Scout away. I realized that in spite of the fact that we were far away from the cliffs that these looked like bank swallows, although I could not be sure. I immediately moved close to Scout with my leash in case he might bother them. Much to my surprise and delight, it became clear that they were following Scout, diving down and flying close alongside him and then circling around. I tried to count them but they are so small and they move so fast that I could not tell if there were four or five. Scout just ignored them.  He showed no interest in chasing or even playing with them. The amazing thing is that they were completely unafraid of Scout and me! They continued to follow us, I guess about a quarter of a mile, circling around us, coming in low to the ground and then flying low to the ground for a ways and then coming back near us.  I must say they are delightful creatures.  I had first thought they were playing with Scout and then it became clear that they were circling around and flying low to ground to hunt for insects. It seemed to me that they were following Scout and looking for food where he was walking, as though he might be making the insects scurry around so that the swallows could see them.  What is also very interesting is that they were hunting for food in an area of sand and ice plant. This particular area has a few crisscrossing trails and the plants are iceplant, not the so-called "native plants." These swallows were a long way from the "native plant" areas. It made me wonder if anyone knows for sure what type of vegetation swallows do the best food hunting in. When I concluded that Scout was not near any nests, was not the slightest bit interested in the swallows, and that the swallows were totally unafraid of both of us, I relaxed and had one of the most enchanting walks of my life. I put today's walk up there (at the top of my mental list) with some of my other enchanting walks at our beloved Fort Fun, and as charming as watching the delightful pelicans who have returned to our beach. 

by Christy Cameron, July 19, 2000

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