Adult swal­lows are on the wing all day to feed brood

The Galloway News - - RUCKS N MAULS -

The sub­ject on ev­ery­one’s lips has been the weather. Wouldn’t it be nice to have this heat ev­ery year?

It’s not that long ago we had -8 de­grees and lat­terly we have basked in 28 de­grees or more. This huge swing in tem­per­a­ture must make it dif­fi­cult for our res­i­dent wildlife to adapt.

Like al­ways there will be some win­ners and there will be losers in terms of wildlife breed­ing suc­cess; from swal­lows to but­ter­flies only time will tell once peo­ple send in their records.

Swal­lows seem to have had mixed suc­cess.

Many birds were late arriving due to the late cold spell in spring. Some have just not re­turned to their tra­di­tional sites here at all. Per­haps they de­cided to stay fur­ther south to breed there when they hit that cold spell?

If we look at the re­turn date of our Cas­tle Dou­glas birds, they al­ways ar­rive be­tween April 20 and 27. This year it was the 27th, the same day as we had our swifts back, which nor­mally never ever ar­rive be­fore May 7.

The swal­low low (barn swal­low) is one of those ose iconic sum­mer mi­grants ev­ery­one very­one knows and loves.

Their deeply eply forked tail, glossy dark k blue up­per feath­ers with th creamy white be­low and a brick-red fore­head and nd throat make them eas­ily y recog­nis­able as they perch ch on wires chat­ter­ing to each other.

Swal­lows s can be found through­out ugh­out much of the e world and on the whole are so­cia­ble birds. It’s only when they breed that they de­fend a small ter­ri­tory around the nest, although sev­eral pairs may nest around the roof of one build­ing or shed.

As long as there is a plen­ti­ful sup­ply of food, mat­ing will be­gin soon af­ter they ar­rive and their pair bond is re-es­tab­lished.

The nest is a half-cup shape stuck to the wall with a com­bi­na­tion of wet mud, grass and saliva, lined with feath­ers. This year they strug­gled to find shal­low muddy pud­dles in car parks, as these are favoured spots for swal­lows and house martins to col­lect the mud for nest build­ing.

This spring was so warm, dry and sunny I had to fill their favourite muddy pud­dle daily for more than a week so as they could gather enough nest­ing ma­te­rial. Then it was just a case of leav­ing out a hand­ful of feath­ers, which I had re­moved from an old down jacket. Not all swal­lows are pam­pered like ours. In the case of our birds, four eggs were laid, but it can be any­thing from three to six. The eggs hatch in about two weeks when the task of find­ing in­sects to feed the hun­gry mouths


The pair will be mak­ing around 400 vis­its to the nest per day as the chicks near to fledg­ing. When feed­ing young, swal­lows fly from be­fore dawn un­til af­ter sun­set, tak­ing rests in­fre­quently.

Many will raise a min­i­mum of two broods a sea­son. Their sta­ple diet is in­sects, which the adults catch in flight. You will of­ten see them feed­ing low over wa­ter, oc­ca­sion­ally skim­ming the sur­face and tak­ing a drink as they do so.

As the sum­mer pro­gresses, many of the young from early broods will con­gre­gate on wires, a sure sign au­tumn is ap­proach­ing and the long mi­gra­tion will soon start.

They will roost com­mu­nally in large reed beds, feed­ing con­tin­u­ally un­til the last light dis­ap­pears. Of­ten they share the roost site with star­lings, although they won’t roost side by side.

Swal­lows leave in Septem­ber Sep and Oc­to­ber and em­bark emba on a 10,000-mile odyssey across ac Europe, over the Sa­hara desert and a down to South Africa.

It’s dif­fi­cult to say how many will sur­vive the trip. Tens of mil­lions leave and mil­lions won won’t make it. Many die from ei­ther star­va­tion st or ex­haus­tion.

We only know where these birds go and how their pop­u­la­tions popul are far­ing thanks to th the work of re­sea re­search teams acr across Bri­tain an and Europe.

Those that m man­age to re reach South Af Africa will stay an and feed un­til sprin spring when they start the long re­turn jour­ney. They ar­rive a back on our shores arou around April and May.

Bird on a wire A swal­low at sun­set.

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