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San Juan Capistrano celebrates annual return of the swallows

March 19, 2012 | 10:17 am

Swallows' Day
The air may still be chilly from the weekend’s winter storm, but San Juan Capistrano is gearing up for spring by celebrating the annual return of the swallows.

Monday marks Swallows’ Day for Mission San Juan Capistrano, where lore has it cliff swallows arrive each year after wintering 6,000 miles away in Argentina, just in time for St. Joseph's Day. Although the birds have hardly been seen at the mission in recent years, they nest in small numbers elsewhere in town in the eaves of a college, a shopping mall, and underneath freeway overpasses.

The Orange County city will hold its annual Swallows' Day Parade and street fair Saturday, featuring more than 400 horses and 11 marching bands. The theme of this year’s festival, according to organizers, is celebrating the Old West.

PHOTOS: Swallows' Day at Mission San Juan Capistrano

The swallows depart San Juan Capistrano for their winter home in October, around the Day of San Juan, and are said to circle the mission bidding farewell.


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Photo: Mike Gastelum rings the bells during the Festival of the Swallows at Mission San Juan Capistrano in 2009. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times