I still haven’t seen a swift. I have scanned the skies relentlessly to no avail. Talking to other friends with swift colonies around the north it does look like the north has fewer swifts back, though even in the south the majority of this year’s breeding birds are yet to arrive. When they do numbers could increase suddenly and dramatically; there must be a build of of swifts now somewhere south of the Mediterranean.
A single male house martin arrived back at our house on 26th April. He vanishes for most of the day, probably to feed over water, then returns at about 8pm to roost. On one occasion a second bird nearly joined him but with the arrival of more really cold days he has spent each freezing cold night alone. It seems that there was an initial early arrival of some house martins and since then the prevailing cold northerly wind has delayed the arrival of other birds. With a change, at least briefly, to southerly winds this weekend he may have a chance of attracting a mate soon…?
Our house martin, clearly eager to return and secure a nest, has taken quite a risk. He has endured some unseasonably cold conditions. Yesterday afternoon we had an hour or so of continuous hail with a few lightning strikes for good measure. The skies were spectacular as towering cumulonimbus clouds tracked south east across our area. Incredibly at about 4pm the temperature dropped to 2.7C. I simply don’t know how these birds survive sometimes. But yesterday evening after the storm had cleared he appeared and entered the nest to roost.
He is probably the male who left a female to tend to three chicks last September. He left with the main departure of house martins. Sadly the female and all three chicks died of starvation at the end of September; it was very sad finding four house martin corpses in the nest cup. But if you look at the situation objectively, he was saving himself to hopefully have a more successful breeding season this year. Had he stayed there might have been five corpses? I cannot prove of course that it is the same bird, but on 26th April he returned straight to the same nest and has not visited any other nest, so it does seem highly likely.
For now he awaits back up. There have been just 2-3 house martins in the village since 26th, all awaiting the next arrival. I will be writing a regular blog with sketches of house martin and swift activity throughout the summer. Do sign up to receive the blog by email if you would be interested to read future updates.