The house martin chicks have opened their eyes, have endearing tufted heads and inevitably produce poo, which is dropped straight from the nest. The chicks can now manoeuvre and poo from the entrance. For me this is a welcome sign that we have baby house martins. They have chosen to nest under our eaves, a bird which we still know so little about. They are assumed to winter above south and west Africa, perhaps feeding at very high level because they are not often seen. They have declined by up to two thirds in some areas in recent decades. So each poo is a sign to me that the chicks are being fed well and the more poo the more chicks we have- bring it on! It only takes a couple of minutes to clean up and that is the insignificant price we pay for the constant delight our house martins bring. They are for me like swifts a true sound of summer. Unlike swifts they are around almost constantly whatever the weather. No hour long forays gathering food, but short sorties sometimes not far beyond the garden, quickly collecting insects and swooping back and forth to the eaves.
The pond is a constant source of interest, a “why didn’t we do that earlier”, project. But we did it and already it delivers pleasure in bucket loads. Dragonflies have graced our garden and recently we had an emperor laying eggs amongst the surface plants. The southern hawker that was laying eggs only an hour before was impressive, but then the emperor arrived with its exotic blues yellows and greens using a habitat that we made. She stayed for a whole hour loving the bogbean and mint stems that emerge from the water; feverishly laying eggs, always wary of our approach and every so often breaking to snack on insects attracted by garden flowers.
The swiftlets stared from the entrance this morning, but their beaks were rarely beyond the entrance hole. When they are close to going they tend to become more daring sometimes sticking their heads out. They are now 42 days old and in a normal summer I would say they could leave today, but this summer has been tough and it could several days…
We had a couple of low screaming passes today and there were more swifts around. I have been expecting a last burst of activity from non breeding swifts and this morning they returned though it still felt cool and there was no prospecting. However with a few days of warm weather we could well see activity return, hopefully one final show before the mass departure. Look out for more high level swift activity in the coming warm weather as breeders and non breeders gather socially before migration.
Below. House martin chicks aged 11 days.
Below. Emperor dragonfly laying eggs.
Swifts in high screaming party. A prelude to departure.