The dawn chorus is at it’s peak now with the winter migrants joining our regular performers. And some of the long distance travellers are now here, including the Swallows, Swifts and House Martins. Swallows are one of the first real signs that Summer’s on it’s way for me, so I’m always pleased when I see one at last, or hear their ‘screeching’ calls. The 15th of April is traditionally Swallow Day – when they’re first spotted in the South. But I’ve noticed over the last couple of years that it takes a little longer to return to the sunny Midlands from their starting point in Africa.
It always fascinates me that they come home to the area where they were born. I think I’d want to stay in the Southern Counties after travelling over 200 miles a day and crossing the Sahara (some avoid the desert and the risk of starvation). We started to understand the scale of these small birds’ big journeys, thanks to John Masefield, who first ringed a Swallow chick over a century ago in Staffordshire. His bird was then discovered over 6,ooo miles away in South Africa opening our eyes to migration.
It’s been a mild Spring so there should be plenty of insects around for them. They’re fast flyers and can turn in an instant to catch a fly, which is just as well because they’ll feed their young around 400 times a day. They also drink on the wing, flying low and literally skimming the water with their beaks, making a pond or river near open pasture the perfect place to watch them drinking or catching midges.
“Low flies the Swallow, rain to follow.”
This old weather lore can predict showers, and there’s some truth in it too. As swallows eat on the wing, they follow the insects they feed on as they’re carried high by warm air currents – when the weather is fine and pressure’s high, they fly lower with low pressure.
If a swallow chooses your home to nest on, according to folklore you’ll be lucky, and your house will be safe from fire! You’ll be especially lucky if one flies into your house. Why not bring a swallow into your home for a bit of extra luck? I found these great prints by Ella Quaint online at Felt:
But remember that we can’t presume it’s the end of the cold weather just because the swallow’s home:
“One swallow does not make a spring, nor does one fine day”