Adult swallows are on the wing all day to feed brood
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.