Swallows lured by ladybugs and tourists lured by swallows descended on the old mission as townspeople welcomed both sets of visitors.
"We feel so lucky," Douglas Gies of Atlanta said Thursday. "We were worried about all the bad weather you all have been having here, but this is great."Over Mission San Juan Capistrano's two-century history, the sparrow-sized swallows learned to build their round mud nests under its tiled eaves. Romantic artists enchanted by the legend that the swallows return each Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, have written, painted and sung about it.
The mission, which gets no support from church or government, lately has been depending heavily on tourist dollars to restore some of California's oldest buildings. Most of the original mud walls, built by Indian artisans at the behest of Spanish missionaries, have crumbled.
The birds keep making the 7,500-mile migration from South America anyway. They also nest in strip malls, offices, construction sites and underpasses - anywhere mud and bugs are handy.