Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Eavesdropping on swallows

Thursday's Guardian Country Diary describes the wonderful views of nesting swallows that we had from the kitchen window of our rented holiday cottage, at Budle Bay near Bamburgh in Northumberland.




The birds were nesting in a small outhouse close to the cottage's kitchen window, so we had excellent views of their comings and goings from dawn 'til dusk. They'd already raised their first brood and were preparing for the second. When they landed they spent much of  their time either perched on the top of the outhouse door, or ........







...... or, less often, on the roof...
Their nest site was in the far left-hand corner of the building, so we could watch them hurtle in and out through the gap that had been left when the door had fallen off its rusted hinges. 























It seemed amazing that the returning birds could hurtle through that gap, passing from dazzling sunlight into Stygian gloom, and still land safely on the metal pipe in front of the nest, which was only about six feet from the entrance. Their braking capacity is even more impressive than their flight skills.


They spent a lot of time reinforcing their nest, especially around the entrance hole that must have been damaged during the raising of the first brood.

There was a coil of old rope on the outhouse roof, that provided material for repairing the mud nest......


...... along with grass straw.

This bird has succeeded in pulling off some rope fibres.


The female was usually the first to return and called to her mate .....


... searching the sky for him.


It's interesting that the bird can't tilt its head back and look upwards - it has to lean forward and then swivel its neck to look skywards when it's perched.



Usually the male bird would make a couple of noisy passes ....


then land ......



.... then they'd mate ...........



.........renewing their pair bond........


When they weren't flying, much of their day was spent preening ....


.... taking care of flight feathers ....


but mostly dealing with feather parasites.


It must be like an oven inside the nest, which will be infested with ticks and lice, and the female faced another two weeks of egg incubation inside a mud oven during a heatwave....

















....but in the meantime there was time to just fly and feed.


4 comments:

  1. Gorgeous post, Phil. Interesting point about looking skywards. It's heartening to learn that birds sometimes have problems when birdwatching!

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  2. Hi Graeme, the kitchen made the most comfortable bird hide I've ever used - unlimited tea and toast....

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  3. What a marvellous post Phil, such good pictures too.

    Thank you for letting us enjoy the birds too.

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  4. I'd never really taken much notice of the social interactions between pairs of swallows before I had this opportunity, toffeeapple. It was fascinating to listen to the way they constantly chattered to each other.

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