A male tree swallow's steely blue back glistens in the sun. In a nest in the middle of a pond, the swallow and its mate are lining their grassy, twiggy nest with feathers. They have completed major construction. Now the home must be readied for the female to lay four to six eggs, just so.

Staffers at the Nature Center at North Mountain Park in Ashland are getting up close and personal with the small, insect-eating birds, courtesy of a spy-cam feed to a TV monitor on the site.

It is magical, says Linda Chesney, stewardship coordinator for North Mountain Park. When people see them, they're like, who filmed this?

But what people are seeing is a live feed.

The nest-building swallows will be on view along with other birds as the Nature Center, the Klamath Bird Observatory and the Rogue Valley Audubon Society celebrate International Migratory Bird Day with a free morning of family-oriented activities Saturday at the Nature Center, 620 North Mountain Ave. in Ashland.
— Though this is a first-time local event, it is a major public activity nationwide, Audubon volunteer Denny Niebuhr says.

The event runs from 8 a.m. to noon. Featherless bipeds who drop in will have a chance to learn about migratory birds with Bureau of Land Management and Klamath Bird Observatory biologists and naturalists from North Mountain Park and Audubon.

Visitors will be able to enjoy free coffee ' shade-grown of course, the kind that doesn't wipe out bird habitat in Latin America ' to watch biologists studying birds and to participate in bird walks. Kids can even take part in an educational Bird Olympics.

Other spring migrant birds have arrived at the park, including western kingbirds, yellow-breasted chats, Bullock's orioles and many more. Many are building nests and getting ready for nestlings.

Tree swallows like those on the spy cam are cavity nesters that have no place to live if dead trees are removed. In an area without dead trees, their population can be determined by the number of nest boxes. Each tree swallow captures thousands of mosquitos, which it brings to its nestlings as often as 20 times an hour.

We think that this celebration will appeal to birders of all ages and skill levels, says Chesney. Non-birders, too. If a person had even a mild interest in nature, they'll find it interesting.

Guided bird walks are set for 8:15 and 10:15 a.m. Visits to mist-netting sites where birds are captured and banded will take place each half-hour. Melissa Pitkin of KBO, formerly Education Director of the Point Reyes National Observatory, will explain the process in which birds are banded for future identification and released unharmed.

Scientists say banding provides information that cannot be obtained in other ways. Every band placed on a migratory bird in the United States contains a serial number and the address of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Bird Banding Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

The theme for this year's event is conservation of colony-nesting birds such as the Great Blue Heron. The big birds are popular with birders and casual nature-watchers alike because of their visibility and beauty.

They can frequently be seen at North Mountain Park (among other Rogue Valley locations), where there are two active nests. Chesney says that's thanks in part to hundreds of volunteers who participated in ongoing restoration efforts at the park starting in 1999. The great blue is the largest and most widely distributed North American heron.

An unusual activity planned for Saturday is the Big Sit. In this event, people inside a circle 17 feet in diameter try to identify as many birds as possible. Any number of people can take part, coming and going as they wish. The event continues for four hours.

Bird Olympics for kids will go on all morning. Binoculars and field guides will available all day. Walks in the varied habitats of the park will be led by John Kemper and Barbara Massey, expert birders and local authors.