Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Reward

Grassy bank of Brookville Dam

From the paved lot below, a huge earthen wall towers to the base of blue sky—its long, fenced border distant and topping a grassy bank, steeply rising, recently cut short by what must have been heroic actions on the part of a mowing crew, just days ago.
Broad and inviting, this immense wall of green holds back the waters of Brookville Lake, over 5000 acres of recreational wonderland—boating, fishing and swimming—soon appreciated, as summer swelters in this community of eastern Indiana, and families congregate to picnic below.
Certain the view from above must be worthy of the climb, we started the 180-foot ascent, slowly, but steadily up the grass—legs soon aching, calves taut, leaning hard against the steep slope ahead.


Small grasshoppers, an excuse to pause, reflect, catch our breath—
we peeked backward over our shoulders at several young men, now seeming quite small, gathered at the outlet below to throw a line into the surging escape waters.

Outlet below Brookville Dam

With each rest, our target a bit closer.
Less green.
More blue.

Brookville Lake from Dam

Until finally, from the long, narrow lane at the ridge, the broad surface of the lake unfolded on the other side to what must have been miles beyond, edged in the new green of spring, a winding shoreline.
Over its openness, swallows, dipping and diving in the air, almost at eye level—then abruptly scooting beneath the concrete supports where the intake tower met the sturdy rock wall, more than half a mile in length.

Brookville Dam intake tower

Carefully climbing a short distance down the stone slope, I tucked myself underneath the tower supports, and looked up.

Cliff Swallow nests built under tower

Just above me, their beautifully crafted clay pot nests, small, round doorways,
young faces peeking out.
And, as if I wasn’t even there, they went about their work—
fussing and feeding their families in their small clay pots.

Cliff Swallows, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

Brookville Dam from overlook

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Laure Ferlita said...

What an incredible view and a beautiful place to call home, but how do the babies fledge?! All at once, just leap and hope your wings work?

Kathi said...

Nina: Sweet! I don't think I would have had the stamina to climb that hill, but thanks for sharing the cliff swallows and their jug nests. Love them!

Laura: Yes, cliff swallows just go - no chance to practice flying, they just do it. Same as with tree swallows and purple martins.


RuneE said...

It was indeed worthy of the climb - and I'm glad you brought us along.

Reader Wil said...

Nina, how fascinating to see those birds flying off and on to feed the young ones! Thanks for showing.

Sylvia K said...

Marvelous! Love the birds and the little ones! And what a gorgeous place to walk! The dam is impressive, too! Thanks for taking us along!

Daniel Chérouvrier said...

R as a very rich post !

Ginnymo said...

You sure go to great lengths to get a photo!! Ha! Great photos and I loved seeing those Swallows!!

Jane Hards Photography said...

Glad to climb it virtually just for the view which indeed was a reward.

Tumblewords: said...

Oh, this is wonderful! Thanks for taking me along - the cliff swallows are amazing - I've never seen them but heard of them recently and here you are with the photos. How terrific! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Cliff swallows nests are amazing creations. What they can build with just mud is fascinating.

Arija said...

So well worth the climb just to watch those swallows. Beutifully captured and told.

Rinkly Rimes said...

I like the phrase 'Better than it ever gets'! I don't quite know what it means but it says it all! What a lovely area.

Bradley Hsi said...

Your journey to the Dam is comforting, but how you noticing the detail of your surrounding is amazing. If more admiring is how you record them in photos and words.

Roger Owen Green said...

a righteous post

Marie Reed said...

What fun surprises today! That grasshopper is huge! The swallows nest was a joy to view too!

spacedlaw said...

Beautiful nests!

NCmountainwoman said...

Amazing! Great photographs of the swallows. And I loved the shots from the dam itself.

I'm surprised that people are allowed to climb the earthen dam. Most of them do not allow foot traffic.

Leslie: said...

Quite the journey, but definitely rewarding. Thanks for sharing. :D

Rose said...

Thanks for being so brave to capture these great photos of the cliff swallows! I've always thought the nests of swallows were amazing creations. On behalf of the team, thanks for sharing.

I just saw your photo on Mary's blog; looks like you had a great trip birding!

Q said...

Dear Nina,
The reward was amazing. Thank you!
The Swallows are fantastic. I love the way they have adapted to man-made structures.

Janie said...

I usually find a climb is worth the effort, if only for the different perspective.
Beautiful views of the lake and outlet. I like the swallow nests, too. Nice that they're using the bridge structure as their cozy home.

Jay said...

I thought it was going to be a dam of some kind! We have one like it, all grassed over, near here.

My favourite photos are the swallows, and the tiny green cricket!

Adrienne Zwart said...

Nina, I'm so glad you thought to peer under the tower supports. I think the cliff swallows are beautiful and their nests are fascinating!