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19/04/2014 at 11:12
a sound of summer without a doubt sadly most modern houses are not catered for them and house martins plus as you say less insects about too lets hope we can reverse this trend as wespeak they are winging their way back here some noted on south coast already m led to believe
19/04/2014 at 11:15

I heard swifts screaming overhead earlier in the week 

19/04/2014 at 14:32

I thought I heard swallows twittering away above me over the last couple of days but could not see them.  Maybe they were flying really high and on their way somewhere.  It seems rather early..........but maybe. 

19/04/2014 at 14:43
I saw a swallow fly over my garden last Saturday we don't get many swallows in Ewell but swifts are often seen.
19/04/2014 at 15:01

I think the problem is that there are now fewer nesting sites for swifts in that we have relatively few old and crumbling/badly maintained properties here in the UK than in other parts of Europe.  Swifts and housemartins don't have the same type of nests - in that the latter make nests in much the same way as swallows do, whereas swifts nest in nooks & crannies in roof spaces rather than making a nest of their own with mud etc. on the outside of a wall.  In warmer countries, such as those round the Mediterranean, not only are there proportionately more older properties than we have in the UK,  but it seems to me that people there don't have the same need to make sure their homes are well-insulated & maintained in order to reduce fuel bills.

Saw swallows round here this past week - one pair has "returned home" to one property locally, whereas the others must have been in transit to somewhere further North.  I usually make a note of the first time/place I see them each year - last year the first sighting (by me) was 21st. April.

 

One thing that's always puzzled me  - ref swallows etc - is where did they nest before we built houses etc?  I see sand martins' nest-holes in sandy/pebbly riverbanks and assume that rocky outcrops would have been suitable for swallows - but did swallows etc begin to flourish when they had more available nest sites with the advent of mankind's creation of permanent settlements?    Where did they perch before there were telephone lines & roofs?  I've never seen one fly out of a tree!  Anybody know the answer?

p.s. just been out in the garden for a bit - saw two swallows on the telephone wire - definitely a pair 'cos they were "at it" (!) already.  Also disturbed a sitting wren - which I didn't know had its nest in the ivy on the wall near the back door.  I was trimming away some of the new growth on the wall and she almost flew in my face - her wings brushed my forehead!  I didn't look too closely to count just how many eggs, but  hope she goes back soon.   The nest is only about 5ft from the ground.

21/04/2014 at 18:14
I have started to look towards the sky, I know the Swifts will be back any time now. I just love them, and to hear them screaming across the sky is what summer is all about. And of course the RSPB Swift count, I always do that.
21/04/2014 at 18:33

Little bit early yet, for swifts.  The ones that nest on the house usually come at the beginning of May. 8 May to be precise last year.

To the person who wondered where house martins and swallows used to nest; on cliffs.

21/04/2014 at 19:07

Hi Welshonion (or are you a leek?!) - if you re-read my previous post you'll see that I wondered whether swallows have actually been helped to expand in numbers due to the availability of more nest sites - i.e. buildings.  We see lots of swallows and housemartins round here, though the sandmartins I see each year nest in the banks of the River Trent.  Did you watch Countryfile the other night?  They had a section about British birds and the fact that modern farming practices have caused a considerable reduction in many species over the past half-century.  I've been interested in this sort of thing since childhood - a very long long time ago - and the only birds which I see now - but didn't then - are buzzards.  Lots of birds which were common in my childhood - e..g. skylarks, thrushes, cuckoos, plovers and so on are rarely seen or heard round here these days, and the TV programme's content showed that it's a sad-but-true fact in the UK these days.

 I had what you might call a "magic moment" a couple of months ago when a red-footed falcon decided to take a rest on my back-garden fence.  I always have my Bird Book and binoculars handy, and it took quite a while for me to establish just what it was. Luckily it stayed put for quite a while before flying off somewhere, so I was able to look at it for about 20 minutes.  Never seen one before - they are apparently rare visitors here - and I probably won't ever see one again. 

Just in case you were wondering - probably not, but I'll explain anyway - my Board Name is that of one of my much-loved (now departed) whippets.  I used to sign off with "Ma" - and that's how David K and Frank (aka Palaisglide) might refer to me.

 

So - Cheers!  Ma.

21/04/2014 at 20:08

Our local bird blog - Pembrokeshire birds - has cuckoo hearings, but I haven't heard one for several years.  Saw one once, many year's ago in Bucks.

Well done you for spotting a rarity. Red kites fly often over the house, they nest just over the bank/sloping field on the next-door farm.  They seem to be spreading southwards at a rate of 5 miles a year. Wonderful to watch them.

We still have thrush and skylarks, but not plovers recently.

Apparently the greatest threat to swallows is their being eaten by humans in the countries they migrate to.  Not much on a swallow I imagine. 

21/04/2014 at 20:17

In Pembrokeshire, a small proportion of House Martins nest in sea caves, or beneath over-hangs on sea cliffs. Colonies can be found, for example nesting in/on sea cliffs to the south of Ceibwr; at Nolton Haven and on the Castlemartin coast.

Thought you might be interested in the above extract from a scientific document on the Pembrokeshire Birds Blog.

There is also mention of swallows nesting in sea caves.

21/04/2014 at 20:44

Hello again - I've only seen red kites in Buckinghamshire - they've not got this far north yet.  I gather someone near High Wycombe used to feed them regularly from his back garden & thus more chicks survived than might otherwise have been the case.  Used to hear a cuckoo regularly when I was a child - would even make a note of it when it changed its call-sound.  Until a few years ago I'd hear one on the local common but now have to go in the other direction to a wooded hillside where I've heard one for the past few years - but that's the only place.

Ref swifts - I read somewhere that they only nest in tall buildings as they need quite a bit of space below in order to achieve a safe take-off.  The birds of prey round here (not owls, unfortunately) seem to be doing well - we used to have a barn owl nesting where I spent my childhood.  The farmers are being encouraged to put some wire netting or similar a few inches below the surface of cattle water troughs, so that owls which accidentally fall in can then get out again & don't drown.  The cattle can still drink easily - the troughs fill in much the same way as a lavatory cistern (with a ballcock float thing) so no problems with the water level for them.

There are peregrines nesting nearby too - I once saw one in the garden here - it was plucking a woodpigeon!  For some reason the peregrine eventually flew off & soon afterwards one of the local foxes came through. It was before I made the garden fox & badger-proof.  It crept around the carcase for a while - looking up into the sky from time to time - before making off with a more-or-less "ready meal"..Made me laugh, as the dead pigeon was breast-upwards on the lawn & looked just like an oven-ready chicken - plucked, but not drawn & dressed! 

22/04/2014 at 15:50
Hi Kate I see from the BBC website that bird's are being shot in Malta,Chris Packham is trying to put a stop to it but when people think they have the right to shot any think how can you stop them.
22/04/2014 at 20:34

Old chippy............yep........it's "The Season" again.........despite all attempts over the years, the hunters of Malta still think they have the right to kill everything which flies over their island.........strange how the EU manages to impose enormous fines on other EU members for the tiniest infringement of the law, but Malta carries on regardless.  Not only are they active in daylight hours but shoot stuff round the clock.

What a farce that "sanctions" can be used against various countries but I don't see anything mentioned in this instance.

Tourism is important to Malta.........worth considering ?

 

    24/04/2014 at 10:06

Hi all. What Chris Packham and his team are doing in Malta is absolutely amazing. I'm so grateful to them for bringing this to the mainstream media. If you would like to know more then visit his website http://www.chrispackham.co.uk. You can also follow him on Twitter. Kate

29/04/2014 at 21:49
I live in Hungary and our Swifts arrived at the end of March. They are back in the old barn and already have chicks but unlike what you said about going out early morning and back at dusk ours are in and out of the barn all day long.
05/05/2014 at 21:34

I saw my first Swift of the year tonight.spring is on it's way.

05/05/2014 at 23:52

Yes, I saw my first Swift this afternoon.  Same day as last year!

06/05/2014 at 07:21

Still not seen any here yet (Welsh/ Gloucestershire/Hereford border).  Usually lots of gangs of three screeching though the air. 

06/05/2014 at 13:23

I'll eat my words (above).  A gang of five screeching overhead this morning, so they have arrived at last.

06/05/2014 at 13:54

Excellent!

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