The Sunday Post (Dundee)
Our noisy, nesty neighbours always return
ONE swallow does not a summer make, goes the old saying.
I find myself wondering just how many it takes – because we see hundreds of them.
They are a sheer joy to watch as they swoop and dive around the farmyard – and goodness only knows what we’d be like for midges if the swallows and house martins weren’t here to thin them out a bit.
The second broods must just have left their nests because we seem to be surrounded by their teenage antics.
They narrowly miss coming a cropper as they show off their new-found flying skills to their pals.
But they’ll be heading off in a week or two on their amazing journey to Africa, where they will spend our winter in the warmth.
Next year, they’ll return to bring up more of their babies in the mud nests which festoon our old cart-shed, gable ends and house window ledges, as well as anywhere else they can get mud to stick.
We’ve always had a few of these summer visitors, but they seem to breed more and more every year.
With all the prime real-estate in the old-style sheds, and the nooks, crannies and eaves of the farmhouse now inhabited by the older birds, the younger generation which returned this year have extended their habitat into the newer farm buildings.
Their search for new places to make nests caused a problem for us one year. The livestock trailer we use to move animals about between the farms had two rows of vents along the sides.
Unthinkingly, we had left them open during the time the swallows were eyeing up new nesting sites.
Taking a quick check inside before we hitched up the trailer to move some cattle, we heard the noisy chatter of a brood of baby swallows and saw their beaks peeking out of a nest, perfectly built up in the corner of the trailer.
The cattle found themselves walking to their new field because we didn’t have the heart to risk a caravan trip for the noisy occupants.
Before the birds fly off this year, it would be nice if they leave a legacy of summer before they go – giving us a few weeks of good, dry weather over harvest-time.
While it’s wonderful to watch them swoop low over the ripening barley, it would be even better to see them do the same over the harvested stubble before they seek out their winter sun.