Swallows return to Mission San Juan Capistrano on March 19
Few things in life are predictable, but you can always count on the swallows returning to the historic Mission in San Juan Capistrano, just as they’ve done for more than a century. Although their numbers have declined in recent years, the swallows’ return is still celebrated with frill and fanfare.
Each year on or around St. Joseph’s Day, March 19, the steadfast birds complete their 6,000-mile journey from their winter home in Argentina to their summer retreat in coastal San Juan Capistrano. The “scout swallows” precede the main flock by a few days, seemingly to make sure accommodations are up to par. The masses follow, arriving by the thousands, to the sound of church bells ringing and the welcome cheers of visitors witnessing the popular event. The cliff swallows methodically go to work rebuilding their nests under the eaves and on the arches of the ancient stone church, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and other locations in the valley. They continue to build nests and raise their young until October 23, when they take to the southern sky in unison and head back to their winter residence in Argentina.
Commemorating the return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano will be the Swallow’s Day Parade, the largest non-motorized parade in the country. It takes place downtown on Saturday, March 26, 2011 beginning at 11 am. After the parade, make your way to the Swallow’s Day Mercado, a street fair and market place where you can wine, dine and shop at over 100 booths and dance to live music.
Mission San Juan Capistrano is located at 26801 Ortega Highway, west of Interstate 5, and is open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm (closed Thanksgiving & Christmas Day). Phone: 949-234-1300.