Lockdown Birding Part 10

Just fledged Barn Swallows in the rain (Martin Kelsey)

Wobbling on the flimsy, pliable tip of the twig, amongst the mulberry's soft, lime-fresh leaves,  the newly-fledged Barn Swallows had certainly picked a challenging day to leave the nest. Shafts of heavy rain stung diagonally, driven by the fierce southerly wind. Just a few hours earlier, they had left the snugness of their feather-lined mud-cup nest, deep in the shelter of my toolshed. Uncertain of balance, they shuffled along the twig. They bore a rather glum expression, thanks to their huddled stance and wide, soft gape flanges. The latter reminded me of the face of a sad clown.

A novice landing on too small a twig (Martin Kelsey)

From time to time, a parent swallow arrived with food, settling for the briefest of moments alongside the youngster, plunging its bill into the wide gape before launching itself off the twig again. The lucky fledgling exuded a  satisfied shimmer. It was extraordinary how the parent swallows were managing to find and bring in flying insects under such atrocious weather. They worked hard, zigzagging low over the meadow that I could see from the balcony. Only close to the vegetation might insects lurk. A Crag Martin almost carressed the canopy of a holm oak in similar pursuit.

I feared for the young birds' survival, but this morning, I watched them again. The three of them were sitting in the same mulberry tree, which grows in a sheltered position and has easily accessible entrance for the parents. The very same branches were used last year by young swallows from the same nest. I am sure that their parents had escorted them there, as a safe place to sit on their first few days out.

Today I was struck too by the agility and confidence of these young birds in flight. Three weeks ago they were embryos inside the egg. I was now watching them swoop and glide like their parents, rushing close past my face and then banking alongside the trees, before sweeping upwards to their perches. Only there did inexperience betray them with a fumbled landing, a brief jerkiness before resuming their stoic composure. 

Comments

Mark and Pam said…
Hi Martin and Claudia,
Enjoyed reading about your Crag Martin's and the newly fledged Barn Swallows. We are still looking forward to seeing our first hirundines of the year! We used to have nesting house Martin's on our house and enjoyed watching the fledglings right under the windowsills. Sadly numbers in our village have dropped dramatically over the years with very few nest sites left.

We are keeping up with our daily walk under the current lockdown. It's been a constant joy to observe the daily changes in the flora and fauna on our local patch. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps have now been joined by Whitethroats and Linnets amongst others and the most unexpected visitor being a Nightingale in full song for the last few days. This is our first Hampshire sighting for many years as traditional nesting sites have declined dramatically locally. Its been a real thrill.
Hope you are all keeping well
Kind regards Mark and Pam
Thank you for your comment Mark and Pam! Excellent to hear about your Nightingale. Take care! Martin
David K said…
Swallows have arrived in the Peak District UK and so have house martins although not seen one yet. When we moved in to our house 18 years ago there was a house martin nest next-door and I put up a nest box under our eaves. You can guess what happened next.
Nothing! except our local house sparrows took a liking to the gap between the top off the box and the gutter and have nested every year.
Am happy with that but would love to have the martins back.

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