Saturday, 26 September 2009

A Sad Summer For Our Swallows.

Very sad news from our nesting Swallows, when we moved in they had a brood on the go and it wasn't long before the chicks could be seen peering over the nest. I was very excited as I hadn't been up close to a swallows nest for many years, I guess back in the late 70's and early 80's they were common to see and a bit taken for granted so having a pair nesting in the barn here was a great lift, especially after leaving the Kites, Buzzards and Owls at our previous cottage in Skirmett near Hambleden behind.

We left the Swallows to bring up their young until one morning I opened a separate part of the barn up and found a young bird sat on my mower handle, it soon took flight and shot past me and out of the door. It was soon circling above calling to it's parents who started feeding it on a TV aerial. They could often be heard calling to each other and this continued for 2 or 3 days until it disappeared, there were also no signs of any other young. A week or so later the adults moved to a nest a foot or so away and began again, I'm unsure if they built another nest or whether they tided up last years nest and it was by luck that I found it tucked out of the sight behind a roof beam. They were carrying in lots of feathers so I knew it wouldn't be long before they attempted another brood. I checked the first nest and found nothing inside but the walls and beams were covered in droppings and I even managed to find a few egg shells on the floor. My thoughts were that the first brood must have had more than one chick from the mess and egg shells.

I kept my eye on the new nest and was delighted to hear the begging calls of young Swallows coming from the new nest, peering up from a safe distance I could see 3 chicks leaning over the side of the nest and everything seemed to be going well. The parents were constantly bringing in food and in a timed 10 minute spell the parents made at least 17 or 18 visits to the nest in poor weather so they seemed to have everything under control. Then disaster strikes when a week or so later my girlfriend peers over the stable door to see how they're getting on, she noticed something laying on the floor in the hay and came to tell me something was wrong. I have to say I was very concerned when I looked down and found a Swallow chick laying in the hay, it was dead but with no signs of wounds or flies, maggots, disease etc. I then decided to get a ladder and check the nest and to my horror found all 5 chicks were dead, 1 on the floor and 4 in the nest, varying sizes with the largest being the individual that was found on the floor of the barn. The parents seemed very devoted and were always busy catching food or sitting on the chicks, I really cant figure out what happened as the nest was in a secure position with plenty of protection from any predators, perhaps a lack of suitable insects to feed the chicks during the wet weather? a very sad outcome from two broods. The adults remained for another week and then left.

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