Swift and house martin diary- May 19th

All six swifts of 2021 are back in boxes, three pairs reunited. All arrived between 9th- 16th May which is early for a whole colony to assemble. It is a joy to watch the six in the air. After a day of poor weather yesterday they turned up early in the evening, performed a couple of rather erratic flypasts in the gusty wind and then retired to their boxes. While we cannot prove that they are the same individuals, all returned and entered the nest boxes with confidence and no hesitation and each pair settled immediately making it all but certain.

In addition this morning there was some surprising behaviour as three prospecting swifts turned up. They perched confidently on unused nest boxes and house martin cups alike. This could be a displaced pair, we’ll never know but the three seemed very familiar with our house knowing instantly, different flight paths to the nest boxes. It does look like we could have at least one more pair.

We have seen some wonderful skies recently. A thunderstorm at dusk on Monday saw swifts flying against a very dramatic backdrop. For me painting swifts has always been as much about observing the skies they inhabit and I am already filling sketchbooks with new swift skies.

The house martins in the village were gathering mud to build or repair nests today. I sat by a wall in the village sketching . Of course when cars passed the house martins flew off so I did receive some rather curious looks from passing drivers. But when these birds come down to the ground they settle very close to each other to gather a good beakful of mud. They waddle about on white feathered legs and being tame allow me  really close views if I sit quietly. Recent rain will really help a lot of house martin colonies where mud is essential to enable them to breed. So far numbers look encouraging in Gilling East after a very poor year in 2021. Watching them interact with swifts over our house is wonderful as is the sound of their mixed calls. All our house martins are nesting in artificial nest cups. While we don’t want to see a world without mud house martin nests, artificial nests offer them a reliable place to breed. In areas where numbers are low the provision of artificial nest cups enables some house martins to maximise their breeding potential.

In a dry spring nest cups can literally be the difference between house martins breeding or not, so they have the potential to save a colony. House martins could occupy nest cups and breed between now and early July, so it is not too late to attract them this year. These lovely, now red listed, birds really need our help, so please consider providing artificial nest cups.

House martins collecting mud- Cawton Road, Gilling East
The colony arrives home just before the thunderstorm. A couple of rather erratic flypasts in the guisty windy ahead of the down pour. Then all six straight into their nest boxes.

All text and images copyright ©️Jonathan Pomroy 2022


Swifts in Gilling East 2022

9th May- first swift arrives and roost in box 2 10.32am

10th May- swift returns to box1 6.46pm (max. 3 swifts above village)

12th May- box 1 2nd bird arrives at 6.21pm (max. 6 swifts above village)

14th May- box2 2nd bird arrives at 8.24am 9 (max. 9 swifts above village) At dusk a swift landed on and looked in box 3. Probably the first of last year’s non breeding pair.

15th May- 5.38am swift enters and settles in box 3. 5 out of 6 birds back.

16th May- final swift arrives back and settles quickly with its mate in box 3.

19th May- a pair of swifts are prospecting new boxes and the house martin nests!

House martins in Gilling East 2022

25th April- 3 house martins prospecting house, 1 roosts in anc 3

29th April- anc 3 bird attracts a mate (max. 6 above village)

4th May- second male roosted in anc 3

6th May- single male adding mud to anc 3

10th May- pair in anc 3 and pair in anc 4

11th May- more martins arrive, max. 10 above village.

New hm into anc 6

12th May- pair in anc 6. So pairs now in anc 3,4,6.

New hms arrive over village max. 15 birds. New prospecting pair looking at potential nest building sites on our north wall.

29th May- pair in anc 2

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