It was a comfortable evening near the end of June. Around the outlet of the pond, where the stream tumbles down and flows below the road, over a dozen tree swallows (perhaps two dozen, but they were impossible to count) were circling and wheeling close to the pond, between the trees and above the road. They were silent, yet agile, making frequent, rapid changes in course that hardly changed their velocity. They spent much time gliding and turning, then flapping in bursts to gain lift, assisted by their considerable forward speed.
Dimples appeared repeatedly on the surface of the pond, signs of something on the surface, or breaking through the surface from water to air. The swallows were not merely exercising, so the spreading circles must have been caused by an ongoing emergence of insects, probably something that was aquatic while immature but airborne as adults. Having taken to the air in hopes of procreation, they had become the prey. Too small for me to see above the water, the swallows seemed to find them easily, grabbing one and then coming back for more, and more, and more again. In the few minutes that I watched, the flurry of flight did not let up.
There must have been hundreds, maybe even thousands, of lives lost in this encounter of swallows and prey, yet all I could see was the magnificence of birds. So fast, so quick, so certain in their flight, with pointed wings and sleek bodies, the swallows were simply beautiful in my eyes. And I wondered: has there ever been predation more graceful than this?