House martin diary
Yesterday evening after the warm humid air was swept away we found ourselves in very breezy fresher air. A strong westerly wind was shaking the tree tops. This forced the house martins to feed in the lee of the woods, twisting amongst the tops of the tall limes. Swifts too swooped in low over the woods to feed, but as dusk approached they started to gather above breeding sites.
I stood on the back lawn mesmerised by approximately thirty swifts and twenty five house martins hanging in the strong wind. The were at varying height between eaves level and about five hundred feet. Occasionally all the swifts would swirl together and scream before the breeze forced them to face back into the wind again. They were almost motionless at times the swifts holding themselves on bowed wings. As dusk approached the house martins descended, eight breeding adults back into their nests. This year’s fledglings tried unsuccessfully to follow them; they are no longer welcome and the adults push them away if they try to enter.
The increasingly independent house martin fledglings are forced to find a roost site of their own. I have seen them roost in trees, sometimes very near the nests they came from. They fly extremely fast around tree tops at dusk and as if by magic disappear into the foliage, a habit they may continue in rain forests in their wintering grounds?
The swifts as ever surprise me. The numbers last night were near the peak of early July. There was no low level screaming but no obvious decline in numbers from a week or so ago, it’s just the birds stayed higher. We have been treated to some fine low level fast passes in recent days and more prospecting too. This morning, although breezy and cloudy we saw more prospecting than on recent very warm days. They were probably older non breeding birds taking a last look before departure.
Though we have seen a decline in prospecting recently it is quite possible there will be more to come before the final mass departure. Last year I well remember a morning of frantic prospecting on 14th August, so as always with swifts never say never!