The first swallows of 2016 returned here to their nesting places in the first week of April. Well known as harbingers of Spring, for me they represent the mystery of migration, the loyalty to place and the freedom of flight. They provide me with so much joy as I watch their constant activity and their aerial acrobatics in this quiet place. This year I noticed the arrival of one or two outriders to start with – while the main company joined them after nesting spots had been chosen and reserved. Three well-built sturdy nests were soon reinforced and tucked into the spaces between the rafters and the garage roof – out of the draughts and wedged in safely.
Watching the swooping pattern of the swallows’ flight feels reassuring and familiar as the adult swallows sail to and fro as they mind their eggs and call out to one another. They perch together on the roof and along the power lines while keeping the entire area under observation. This vigilance speaks touchingly of the instinctive way the adults work together to protect their young.
Before long the sharp cries of the baby swallows can be heard and the outline of small heads can be seen above the edge of one of the nests. Parent swallows increase the frequency of their feeding trips to the nest and we humans are in danger of being caught in their flight paths. The piles of bird droppings grow beneath each nest – black and white pools of guano – any use as plant fertiliser I wonder?
The young swallows from the first nest can now be seen perched along the rafter – peering down into the garage, uncertain whether to flex their wings or creep back into the warmth of their nest. For two or three days they hesitate and then one morning I find they have all left and a brood from another nest is putting a tentative questioning head or two above the ‘parapet” . Within days these too have flown and the nests are now being filled with further batches of eggs for a second swallow brood. No time can be wasted if our young adventurers are to be strong enough to fly to Africa in the early Autumn and to return to their English home next Spring.