Most people have heard about the famous migration of thousands of swallows to San Juan Capistrano each spring. But what most people probably don't know is that some of those swallows take a detour and end up in Orem.
Thousands of swallows arrive each May to nest in the sandy hills just north of the Orem City Cemetery, according to cemetery caretaker Alan Sundquist. And although they are gone now, the birds' empty nests can still be seen from the cemetery."I've worked here 15 years," Sundquist said. "And they have been coming here at least that long."
He also said that their numbers have been increasing each year. "There used to be just a few, and this year we had more than 2,000."
Sundquist says that he likes the swallows because they eat the bugs, knats and other insects on the cemetery grounds. Even though they are there no longer than a month, he always looks forward to their return in spring.
After the swallows hatch their young and teach them to fly, they leave just as quickly as they came.
The swallows aren't the only birds that find sanctuary at the cemetery. Sundquist says there is a large population of robins that feed on the hill, too.
(May I interject the thought here that city cemeteries may just be the answer to Congress' search for new bird refuges.)
The cemetery is also inhabited by the dreaded blackbird, according to Sundquist.
And just like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock's, "The Birds," these critters are violently protective of their domain and their young, and they don't mind ruffling a few feathers to prove their point.
Sundquist recalls a graveside service that was being held close to a pine tree which shelters their nests.
"The blackbirds started swooping out of the trees and diving at the mourners," Sundquist said. "One bird actually dove at a little old lady and grabbed a hold of her hair. It scared her so much she dropped right to the ground."
The swallows and blackbirds usually appear between April and June and are mostly gone by mid-July. But that is not the end of the story. About that time the quail enter the picture.
Just the other day Sundquist saw two adult quail and more than 15 babies parading around the cemetery. According to Sundquist, these wild birds stay through the fall months.
During the winter months, the cemetery attracts hardier animals like squirrels and a large herd of more than 400 head of deer.
All of this just proves my own feelings and theories about cemeteries - they're for the birds.