20 Nov Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa : Although we saw Barn Swallows already arrive beginning of October, we noticed yesterday a drastic increase of them above our house and south of Korsmans Bird Sanctuary over the reeds surrounding the lakes. Around 15th November till now a very visible increase of Barn Swallows.
Kind Regards / Mit Freundlichen Grüßen
9 Nov The Return of the Barn Swallows 2014
A perfect day for the Barn Swallows return, the weather was glorious and the colourful sunset all added to what was one of the most amazing Return of the Swallows sightings we have ever experienced.
People flocked to the site armed with picnics, chairs and binoculars from late afternoon and sat in wait for the Barn Swallow arrival and they weren’t disappointed.
The Barn Swallows arrived in full mass thrilling the onlookers at sunset, they performed their evening display and at 6.35pm they descended into the Lake Victoria reedbed roost and the skies were empty.
By Angie Wilken
See Full story and pictures
30 Oct Dorset, UK: We have been watching the departing Barn Swallows over the last few weeks, and they seem to have all gone now. The last ones were seen around Midday Saturday 25th October leaving the coast near Eastbourne, Sussex.
We look forward to their return, and will be checking your website regularly to read about the amazing displays you will soon witness.
Best wishes, Tim Hanks and Jackie Walsh
28 Oct Mount Moreland KZN – South Africa: First mass Barn Swallow sighting. Angie Wilken
2 Oct Normanton on Soar, Leicestershire UK: The skies above the farm have been empty now for nearly three weeks as the last of our Barn Swallows departed in the second week of September.
2014 has been an unusual year though. Normally our swallows arrive generally in the last week in April and depart together towards the end of August with mass movements observed during the first two weeks of September.
This year the first arrivals were back during the first week in April. Our unusually mild winter had resulted in an early Spring and the migrants took advantage of the mild conditions. The Spring moved on into a good summer with ideal conditions for rearing young birds. The result of this was that our swallows had raised two broods by mid July and it was evident that many had departed by the end of that month. This coincided with reports that there were mass numbers of swallows in the wetlands of western France towards the end of that month. So as we moved into August we only had one family left. These were either late arrivals or had possibly opted for a third brood. This was the small group that departed in September.
Although we witnessed the general migration in early/mid September the numbers were significantly lower than previous years indicating that the general early movement south was a common pattern elsewhere.
So I guess you are starting to see early arrivals now and for a second year you should see some really impressive numbers during your swallow season !
Kind Regards Andrew Roberts
2 Oct Vredenburg on the west coast, South Africa: nearly a year has past.. but spring is upon us and so are the swifts [apus affinis] here in vredenburg.
we now have 16 boxes for breeding. i had to glue smaller openings [see image] to them to keep out the dreaded common starling [Stun vulgaris] which has the habit of not only evicting indigenous birds from their nests but also of intensely fouling walls, washing and anything in its way. they are pests in South Africa and a colonial vestige as Cecil john Rhodes to this country.
the previous opening size of the swift boxes was 60mm wide by 33mm high, this was according to information applicable to a common European swift [apus apus], or maybe the house martin [Delichon urbicum], but the little swift [klein windswael] [apus affinis] which we have here is more than comfortable zipping into a hole 55mm by 24mm in size – an arrangement which keeps the starling at bay.
yesterday i have started to play a looping and edited .mp3 of swift t-shirts [calls] i recorded locally two years ago. the result is amazing! the little birds, drawn by these calls, have occupied at least three boxes during the last 24 hours and seem to be interested in even more lodging 😉
from Gabriël smit
1 Oct Korsmans, JHB, South Africa: We are now starting to see more and more Barn Swallows at Korsmans again!
Kind Regards / Mit Freundlichen Grüßen
30 Sept Yorkshire,UK: Weather up here is still mild, with UK having the warmest and driest September since 1908 apparently. We still have Swallows in the local village which is about 400ft below us, or at least they were there on Saturday night. I think maybe the warm weather has encouraged them to stay for a while, as this is a lot later in the year than I have seen them around here. Weather is set to change over the next 7 days with frosts due next week, so I think they will have, or will be going soon. Regards Mac
25 Sept France: We are here wind surfing in the south of France in a small town called leucate and have noticed that the swallows are traveling north on the same same migration route as they do in spring (we were here in may). This seems a little crazy to us but I thought you may be interested in this observation. Regards Keith
12 Sept Yorkshire, UK: Just thought I would drop you a line to say our birds are away as of today 12/9/14. We thought they would go today as there had been much practice flying over the last couple of days while I have been at home. We toasted them away last night with one of my colleagues, and Mrs M, with Beer, we welcome them with wine you might recall, don’t worry none of us were flying today! It was a full Moon (largest of the year apparently) so hopefully it will light the way for them over the next few nights. We have not been able to send the usual number due to the departure of the first brood during the high temperature in July. As best I can make out with both sets they produced approx 12 chicks + returning birds, so a total of approx 20 heading south from our barn with similar number from neighbours. I think this is a very small number for us, and I cannot even send you photos of them sitting on the wires because the number is so small. It will be an anxious time in April next year to see if we get any back. I would like to put some in my flight bag in the spring in Africa, and bring them back just to make sure if I could!
The Swifts are still here, but will also be going soon, as they usually go before the Swallows but not this year for some reason. The weather here is still mild and we are having a bit of an Indian Summer with temp in mid 20c for much of the UK, wish it would stay that way for the winter but unfortunately the nights are drawing in so this will be the last of the high temp I think for this year. Although we once did get 28c on 30/9 a few years back so you never know with UK weather (that’s why Brits always mention it, it’s so unpredictable). l Will post any info I come across on my travels which are Swallow related. Hope you have a great spring and summer. I follow our Swallows tomorrow going South to Africa, but should beat them unless something goes very wrong! Regards Mac
8 Sept Sweden: Today 8th September after no swallows have been seen, seemingly a new group have started arriving. I thought that a new group was arriving 8th September but there were not more than 8 birds. Those that I anticipated would arrive must have taken another route. This is not the same pattern as last year at all. No more swallows have come this way at all. I will keep watch.
I wonder if this is the same in other places.
best wishes Ann
3 Sept Mount Moreland KZN, South Africa: First Barn Swallows sighted sitting on the telephone wire early this morning, doubt if they will stay as we are still waiting for rain – Angie Wilken
31 August Southwick ,Massachusetts, U.S.A: Time to report, The Barn swallows were here really late this year. 8/31/2014. This is nearly a full month longer than usual. I’m not complaining. I do miss their happy chatter when they are gone. I guess fall is around the corner , although it is 90* today.
Happy Birding Karen
Photos taken in Nebraska,USA. By Ed Henry
28 August Blouberg, Cape Town, South Africa: Every Spring on the last storm of winter, Swallows arrive from over the sea arriving over land Between Milnerton lagoon and Table View beach…over Marine Drive and swirl in the skies over Flamingo Vlei. (Google earth will show area better…where the bridge is on Marine Drive…sea one side, the vlei the other) I love to watch the skies as I travel home from work to spot this spectacle each year.
Yesterday I told a colleague I work with, saying any day soon on the last storm they will arrive (we have had a few stormy days this week).
Today he tells me that last night at about 18h30 as he stepped outside the building here in Montague Gardens (close to above mentioned are) the sky was filled with Swallows. It always makes me happy to hear of their arrival.
Kind regards Wisia
26 August Yorkshire, UK: Quick up date as I have been on my travels but have come back to find that our Swallows have produced their 2nd clutch which have fledged last week. Mr M took this photo from her study of one of the young who came to look at her. Unfortunately it is through the glass hence reflection. However if you notice the reflection of the brochure is that of a Kuoni Worldwide Travel brochure so perhaps he or she is just looking for some where to stay in Durban, or cheap flight to South Africa ! Weather up here has started to change with torrential rain this last holiday weekend, and the first of the Horse Chestnut trees are starting to change, so autumn definitely on its way. However I hope we have a bit of an Indian summer as after a great June / July, August has been a bit of a wash out for people at home. Not so bad for me as I get to leave it behind 2-3 times a month, but Mrs M Garden has taken a bit of a battering, and I think she is ready to go away herself ( brochure which the Swallow was looking at was a big hint I think !). Anyway hope all is well with you. Will post further news, as and when it occurs, which I think will be the south bound departure of our Swallows in 2-3 weeks.
15 August Finland: All Barn Swallow second brood chicks have hatched. The oldest broods are on the brink of fledging and the youngest ones hatched just a few days ago. Not only are there exceptionally many second broods – 60% more than usually – but they are also unusually large. The first two broods with chicks old enough – minimum 6 days – for ringing had five chicks each instead of three to four. That confirms my observations about there being more than usually second broods if the weather is very warm at the time of first broods’ fledging as this summer. The long hot period is over, the temperature now hovers around 20 deg C instead of 30 deg at the highest we had for almost a month. All we now need is three weeks of weather warm enough and all the chicks will have successfully fledged. In the picture baby Barn Swallows are being ringed a week ago. The ringer holds several chicks in his hand simultaneously allowing the chicks to feel each others’ bodies as if they were in the nest in order to reduce possible ringing stress.
14 August Bulgaria: We only managed a few days in the village, and the day after we left the swallow’s chicks also left? My wife’s parents were little sad and felt deserted? Anyhow back in Sofia city we on the 11th floor and I constantly hear the little creature flying around the blocks, with their hi pitched sounds, they are such a vision of freedom and cheerfulness? Days are starting to get shorter, although it is very hot here now, inevitably like the long sunny warm days our friendly swallows will leave. Anyhow even until late in the evenings they entertain with their playful freedom loving antics.
I will try to get some more pics, a friend is into photography and hopefully he will agree to help?
best regards Patrick
12 August South West England: Brood 3 update. 5 eggs in the nest. Mother not sitting, in fact neither parent seen or heard at all for best part of two days. Looks like they may have abandoned it for some reason. Disappointing if so. Might be wrong but doesn’t seem likely. I will be a frequent visitor to your website now I have “discovered it”.
Best wishes, Andrew
10 August South West England: Story photos and video about the rescue of a fallen Barn Swallow nest with chicks and what was done to remedy the situation with success, By Andrew Arnold
Barn Swallow News 2014 – July 2014
29 July Ireland: The good news is the first brood have hatched and fledged and are flying around eating their fill of the local insect life, the bad news is I’ve seen no sign of a 2nd brood so far and numbers are way way down on last year, which were down on the year before, which were down on the year before and so on..
It’s near 20:30 local time and even last year, at this time, we’d have had lots of swallows sitting on the phone and power cables, I’ve just looked outside and all I see is one swallow flying around.
Insect life seems more plentiful this year but there is one significant difference, we’ve always had bats around here but we’ve just discovered that there is a very significant bat colony living in a roof space just a few meters from the swallows.
Don’t know if there is a connection but this bat colony has exploded, one dawn, about a month ago, we lost count when over 50 went into the roof space, the air was still thick with them, there must have been hundreds.
Will keep you posted. Cheers Craig
27 July Bulgaria:Greetings from Sofia. Just to send few pics and let you know what is happening here. Summer solstice has already passed, and swallows are all over the city area.
Especially in the mornings and evening they seem to swarm and fly around the tops of the buildings in large groups chirping and seem to be having fun?
It is not so easy for me to see them as they quite high up, but we went to the farm few weeks ago, and the swallows that normally nest there are back as usual, but this time they manage to get indoors? The wife’s parents don’t really approve, and the swallows have to make their nests under the eves, but this year the sneaked in. I don’t know all details or what type they are but i love them anyhow.
The last winter was very mild, only few days of snow, many people say that spring is really here after you notice the swallows.
At the village the swallow parents were a little stressed at the new people; wife, nina (3 year old) and me, but they soon got used to us and were flying past our heads to get to feed the chicks.
Only had a cell phone camera, so pics not to professional, Nina and i sat for long periods watching the swallow parents flying in and out, also we watched swarms flying over the tops of the houses, they just seem so sweet and happy.
Nina just loves to watch them. It is very pretty area near veliko turnovo, summer is super, just wild flowers, bees, plumbs, and the air is so sweet.
Best regards Patrick Barclay
Finland: All Barn Swallow first broods have happily fledged and second broods are being started. The weather has already for weeks been warm, 23 to 27 deg C and according to my observations warm weather at the time of first broods’ fledging means lots of second broods. Maybe we are being rewarded for the freezing cold weather which as well people as swallows suffered from in June. It seems it had, contrary to my fears, no effect on the swallows’ nesting.
When we recently netted adult swallows for ringing two especially interesting birds were recaptured. They were both ringed at our farm as nestlings and were now nesting at us. Usually swallows do not nest at their birthplace but it sometimes happens as can be seen at us. One of those birds is very special: if it is alive and recaptured next summer it will be one of Finland’s oldest Barn Swallows ever, 8 years. Just imagine how many km’s it will have flown, the distance between our farm and South African wintering areas is approximately 10,000 km!
Also the nesting season of our second swallow species, the House Martin, has been good. Almost all of their nests are in those artificial nests I acquired over 20 years ago. I am very pleased with that because they are practically predator proof. There are just a few natural nests this year. I attached a picture (taken by Jenni Kivioja at our farm) of an exceptionally large House Martin brood, six chicks, taken down from their artificial nest to be ringed. In spite of them being so many they are well-fed and in good condition telling that the weather after the cold period has been ideal for swallows. The usual brood size is three to four chicks.
13 July USA NY: I love reading your notes as I have been following these special birds since they adopted a wall in my portico. We quit using that door when the Barn Swallows arrive. Anyway, they built odd nest … a condo. Two pouches. They only use the top.
The last two years she had eggs I think that never hatched. She still stays on the nest.. He is gone.
Enjoy And thank you, Shelle Chentow
5 Aug Yorkshire, UK: These photos were all taken yesterday and show the two additional nest that our returnees made this year in another barn, as well as original set. Mrs Mac accidentally left the door open and when we got back from a trip, we had these, so barn door will have to stay open for the rest of the summer !. However we have noticed something a little odd in that by late June/ early July we had approx 19 Swallows around the place of which approx ½ were this year’s first clutch. We have then had a very hot (for UK) late June /July , you may have seen the pictures of the Tour De France which had its Grand Depart in Yorkshire this year, which was also blessed with great weather. July has been the hottest since 19th Century apparently, with temps even at our height of 27-29c. I had then to go and do some flying of my own, and upon returning the following week 50% of the Swallows had gone. Our neighbours also noted the same thing, so from a population in early July of approx 35 from both barns, we are back down to 9 and 6 respectively. We presume it was the heat that drove them off but it is odd, as there is water about with a reservoir ½ a mile away, and some smaller streams closer than that. Anyway they have gone, maybe on their way back to you, or just moved to another barn somewhere. We would be interested to know if anybody else has had, or had in the past similar incidents. The Swifts are still here, and have gone from strength to strength with approx 14 flying around, and do not appear to have been troubled by the temperature. We hope that the remaining birds will have a successful second, and maybe third clutch, or we will be light of the normal quota we send to you in September !. Incidentally I do not know if you noticed, but a large civil aircraft was lost in bad weather over Mali last week in similar weather to the storms of early spring which may have had a detrimental effect on some UK / Western European migrants which I posted you about earlier in the year. We were also over the Sahara that night, slightly higher and further East, and heading South, and it was very “rock and roll” with a very big “ light” show. I did notice when checking on the tagged RSPB Cuckoos’ a few days later, that a number of their birds were also with us that night, a bit lower but going the same way, and all made it. Anyway here’s hoping for a good August and lots of young Swallows.
4 Aug Sweden: We live in Hindas, Sweden near a lake and have noticed that the swallows departed from our vicinity around 7-16. This seems unusually early possibly due to the extreme heat we have experienced. Our seagulls which arrived very early this year, in March, have also departed…probably the same week as the swallows. I just found your site and will save it for next year’s reporting. We love the arrival of the swallows.
All the best, Anne
Barn Swallow News 2014 – June 2014
28 June USA: Of barn swallows nesting in summer at my house in Amarillo Texas they have not returned in the last two. I wonder if you have heard anything. They used to be at my office and all around town now not one. Billy
27 June Portugal: First of all congratulations for your great initiative, its great to realize how these creatures manage to touch so many people and also to be able to exchange stories on both ends of their yearly migrations.
Besides the requested info, I’m also including a short report on nesting and breeding problems experienced by “our” only breeding couple, and which the organization for recuperation and release of wild animals from my area states are lot more frequent this year, affecting many different birds for different reasons, usually weather related. Should there be other such reports (hope not), it would be very interesting to cross-relate them.
Date you saw the Barn swallows arriving: E.T.A. Circa 25 march, 2014 (*)
(*)Give or take a few days, this would have been the arrival of this couple. They built their 1st nest but unfortunately a freak storm knocked it over, only one chick survived and is now being raised by conservationist organization, for release ASAP. This chick was delivered for rescue-raising on the 21st may, already with plumage and is still being raised and fed. The nest was rebuilt a 2nd time and again unseasonable weather knocked it down, no chick survived. I’m still waiting to see if they’ll try a 3rd, so far they’re flying very high over our house all day long…
will let you know when they depart, and from now on will look at the actual arrival date, to inform you.
Besides getting to see it when I eventually go there, it would be nice to see and read more on your website about our shared friends on your half of the globe, as it is a mystery to us “Northerner”. And should you get permitting for displaying that, there is a great documentary about the swallows’ journey North through the Sahara Desert.
Take care William
26 June USA: Our sweet little swallows arrive approximately the same time each year and have been doing so for the past 5 years. I keep a calendar of events regarding them. Thank you so much for your record keeping and sharing. They are very, very special to our family each year.
2014’ Arrival: April 10th
4 eggs in nest May 20th
Born June 7th
Fledged June 21st
1 egg laid in same nest – June 26th Don’t know if it’s from same male/female or not.
22 June Finland:The first Barn Swallow chicks hatched 8 days ago and yesterday Janne came to ring them. Now already two more nests have newly hatched chicks. So far there have been no problem with magpies or squirrels. But the weather has been a problem: we have been tormented by an unusually cold weather. The coldest day this week had only 2 deg C temperature with cold rain and even snowfall at times. I was very worried for how the swallows would cope with such a coldness and there was a real reason for that: there was absolutely no life in the swallows barn, not one single swallow. But luckily in the evening the rain stopped and the weather warmed up to 7 deg. Little by little the swallows started to return. It is still much colder than normally at this time of year, even frost at night, but it is at last warming up gradually.
I have been reading with excitement stories written by Hannah from France about the Barn Swallows nesting in her living room. It is wonderful that she and her family are such great swallow lovers, not everyone would allow a thing like that, mostly because of the droppings. The stories also remind me of what my mother told me about what happened when she was a little girl more than 80 years ago. Her home was a large old log farmhouse. Year after year a Barn Swallow pair used to nest inside the house, at the back of the entrance hall, over the living room door. My mother’s family was very excited and pleased with their flying guests. Sometimes problems arose when some of the swallows accidentally flew into the living room if the door was left open for a longer time and somehow lost its sense of direction and could not fly away. My mother said it was quite a job to help the swallows to find their way out of the more than 100 m2 living room. According to my mother the swallows never messed up places with their droppings and so there was no need to cover or shelter anything in any way. That is highly unusual, swallows and droppings go together.
Yesterday was the summer solstice, the longest day and shortest night in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun rose in our village Niinivesi or Niinivedenpää at 03.06 am and sank 11.24 pm meaning the day length was 20h 18min. Although we are not situated northerly enough to have the midnight sun, it is difficult to tell the night from a cloudy day. That is because in the north the sun rises and sinks very smoothly, not straightforward (more or less 90 deg angle) as in the tropics meaning here the sun is a relatively long time near the horizon when rising and sinking.
21 June France: The little ones left the nest definitively on the 17th. They stayed close in the house that day (found a “new nest” in an old tambourine) and ventured out of doors on the 18th all together, all day ! Here are a few more photos from this week. My very best, Hannah
17 June France: Finally, we got two wonderful photos uploaded… today the first one took flight, and it is a lively, very skillful flier from the start. The first one is the nest in our living room, just above the piano (well covered), and the second is this first to leave the nest, settled on the mantle of the chimney.
Thanks again for your interest in bringing together a community of swallow-lovers from all around ! All my best, Hannah
15 June France: Just a little follow up to say that we have five fledglings in the nest, ready to take flight any day now. We are so excited, as we thought for a couple of weeks that we only had two. There are only two adults here at the farm at this point, the parents of this little flock. Good day to you, Hannah.
12 June First Cuckoo on its way back to Africa: I know its mid winter nearly for you, although temp still look reasonable for you from your post, but thought you should know that the first tagged UK Cuckoo is on his way back to Africa. Now in northern France having being tagged in the New Forest Hampshire. We now have good weather after suffering a May full of thundery heavy showers and low temps for the time of year. In deed as I type our farmers are taking the first cut of grass which would normally have occurred in mid May which was delayed by variable weather. We have not had any young Swallows yet, but maybe in next few weeks. I am away on a trip out East, so will post if any on my return. The big surprise this spring has been the number of Swifts we got back (all of them as best as we can make out) so we have between 8-10 of them about the place. The Swallow’s seem a little put out some times with their larger cousins, especially when they come down low as the Swifts normally seem to feed higher up the air columns, but this spring we have noted them at low level, and one even flew into the garage doing a U turn and back out while I was in there. Regards Mac
11 June Belgium: today 19:30 I am the first to have baby Swallows. Man made nests have grown in resident , we now have 10 nests occupied.
2 nests, 2010:
1 nest, 2011:
6 nests, 2012:
4 June Mount Moreland, KZN, South Africa: Started out a cool morning at 10°C warming up to a whooping 35°C by lunch time, most unusual! Barometer showing signs of bad, cold, wet weather approaching. Angie Wilken P. s. the cold front did come through dropping temperatures to 3°C.
1 June Cottage Grove, Oregon, United States: I just found you on the web as my husband and I are VERY unhappy. For years, we have had both the Barn swallows and the regular ones. This year we have about half of the others and only about 4 nests of the Barn swallows. My husband said that he has found 2 Barn swallows dead.
The whole Eco is different. We have always had a large group of the Red Rufus humming birds fighting over the humming bird feeders, this year for the first time, we haven’t had one. Now we have a smaller group of a small brownish humming birds and they are VERY shy.
My forest is still alive with song birds, we have had some sightings of hawks.
27 May Barn Swallows nesting in an underground parkade could have been locked in when the parkade was converted to a campus bike centre with doors on the end. The swallows quickly learned how to trigger the motion detectors to open the doors and go in and out whenever they want. Smart birds!
26 May France: I’m excited to see your growing list of swallow followers. Here, we live in a small town, Joiselle, France (in Champagne). We have barn swallows who have nested inside our house for more than 14 years now, in the living room to be exact ! It is an old farm house, and they have three nests mounted to the beams of the ceiling. One main nest in the middle of the room, where the babies are hatched, then two auxiliary nests closer to the front window of the house where the young ones nest after they leave the main nest.
This year, I first saw the return of three couples on April 19th (Saturday). They were more than one week later than usual this year (normally we see them around the 10th or 11th of April). We now have only three adults that I can see regularly. One couple resides in our main nest (two babies were just born yesterday), but the third bird seems to be a younger rival.
This year has been a very strange year indeed, as there was only one bird here inside for the first 10 days or so. Then the mate was chosen, and the rest has evolved normally, except for this third swallow, who often comes inside and gets stuck/lost, as it is not known territory, and the way out is more difficult to understand than the way in.
Here are a few photos from past years. My kind regards to you, Hannah
26 May Merseyside, UK: Our “local” swallows were back on 2nd May 2014, and this weekend 24th May, we identified 4 nests part-built in our wooden shelters (like large, open-fronted sheds). (When they arrived, weather had been so dry there was no mud. Now, there’s plenty!
24 May Belgium: This morning, a friend sent me a video on You tube of barn swallows in a garage.
3 young children were seen with tennis rackets hitting above as the barn swallows flew overhead and against the walls. There was blood everywhere, many died.
This video has circulated on you tube for 5 years, a chance it was seen only 70 times when I saw it. A child may enter ‘swallows’ on you tube and come across this video.
I spent 2 hours of my time this morning to call the heads of major associations in Belgium and France. You tube immediately erased the video from its site.
By making this kind of videos on you tube, these people who made these terrible acts and recorded them are guilty of a very serious crime , they should be severely punished.
23 May Texas,USA: I live in Leander, Texas, a suburb of Austin. We’ve lived in our house for 4 years and have enjoyed getting to know barn swallows thanks to the family that nests above our front door. This year they arrived at the end of April, right on schedule. They had three babies who were looking like they were about to learn to fly. Then suddenly, they were gone. All of them. Completely disappeared. Have you ever encountered this? I’m a little worried about them. Thanks for your time, Nathan
REPLY: Hi Nathan, there could be a number of reasons why your swallows have disappeared
1. Lack of insects/food
3. Bad weather coming
Keep observing and see what transpires
Best Wishes Angie
22 May Yorkshire, UK: Thought I would let you know 2 other Swallows have arrived in our Barn and one is very obviously female going by the stir she caused with the ones already back !. I noticed the comments from Risto re Swallow numbers in the UK and indeed our own meager returnees, so I decided to do some checking starting with the weather charts over the Sahara for earlier in the year which I can get access to.
UK bound Swallows have to cross the Sahara at the Western or central section (bear in mind this desert is as big as the continental USA or China) and this is its widest and unfortunately hottest point. Swallows heading for Eastern Europe or Western Russia / Scandinavia will route up the East side of Africa and Arabia. These have the advantage of having the Nile River running North (the way they are heading) and smaller desert areas to cross, and with slightly less harsh temperatures. In the Western / Central Sahara there are no rivers heading North, and very few going anywhere else either, so water and insect life will be in small supply. Temperatures in the West in March average about 29c going up to 39-40c in April (Mali). In the East you are looking at 27c and 35c for the same period (Luxor). These are temps in the shade taken from the airports over which we fly on these routes, put 10c + out in the open. This spring the Western desert was slightly warmer than average by about 3c, and with low pressure areas moving West across the Mediterranean this caused the Sirocco wind to get going, as those of us with Sand covered cars in the UK this spring will know !. The effect on North bound birds would be quite startling as the wind blew for 9 days at 45 knots, with all the attendant dust to even high altitude 23,000ft ( I have seen this even higher sometimes). I would guess, that this combined with the heat could be the reason for the shortage of returning birds to the UK. In short the dust may interfere with their navigation, and the temperature and wind would make the crossing tough for those crossing in that period, which was late March / early April. My guess (I am in aviation and not an ornithologist) is that a large number of birds were caught in this event as it occurred when many of these birds would be in this area. It maybe a case of just bad luck this year, so we will have to see what happens next spring in Western Europe. The only other long term issue is that the Sahara is getting bigger by about 1km a year (due to poor land management, and the natives, not unreasonable aspirations with their livestock) so in time it maybe too big for a Swallow to cross in the Center and West !. Just a note for our US readers, a hotter than average Sahara usually means more / bigger Hurricanes from June / November as this is their breeding ground as well !
Will post later in the year with more young now I hope, as we seem to have got some more girls here.
19 May Finland: I have been reading with heavy heart reports from other swallow friends telling that their swallow numbers have been strongly declining in recent years especially in the UK. What a pity. So it seems kind of strange to me that that has not happened here at our farm and as far as I know nor in our area. All neighbours say their numbers are normal. I think this nesting season we will have even unusually many swallows nesting, both Barn Swallows and House Martins. The weather has been unusually warm, for instance yesterday we were cooking at almost 30 deg C temperature, today we had “only” 25 deg. But it is unbelievable how many swallows there are, I am not exaggerating much if I say that the skies over our yard is black with swallows! Even our guests notice that and are wondering the numbers. If I will be able to keep the magpies and squirrels off the swallows barn and if the weather will be favourable I think this could be a very good swallow year.
17 May Sweden: As the swallows returned about 10 days ago I thought you might be interested to know this. I noted that there were first just one or two and I have actually wondered if they have a system where one or two birds arrive before the
others to have a look round. Last year I noted that the swallows seemed to leave in groups as they arrived in my area from northern Sweden and in between times there always seemed to be just a very small number of them … below 5 ,,, who stayed around for a while.
There is something a bit sad really as the council who had these flats built noted that the swallows could build their nests in the eaves of our buildings which are rather nice. However, of course the swallows left the surface of the building dirty. The council have now covered the space they used so that they can no longer build in there. I have wondered what they do as an alternative. We have a largely empty barn nearby which I think they use. But I will keep noticing re- how they have adjusted. My flat is on the edge of the county side.
Sincerely Ann Robinson Ahlgren
14 May Yorkshire,UK: Just thought I would give you an update 1 month on from our first arrivals. We appear to have lost a number of birds on route as the numbers we have so far received back are very low in comparison with the outbound numbers. As best I can make out we have 2nr males and 2nr females in our barn with a further 4nr in our neighbours barn although only 1nr there appears to be female, this is going by the acrobatic flying the other 3nr are doing trying to get close to her ! All in all not a good return from the 60+ birds that set off South in September. We may get the odd stragglers drifting in (late running females I hope) but we will have to see. On the plus side those quick flying Swifts showed up this morning. I was also flying last night, and they greeted me when I got out of the car at home with some high flying antics of their own, as we had a weather front coming in sucking insects up high. The weather has been generally mixed with heavy showers in between sunny spells, which is good for gardens and insects, and hence happy Swallows and Swifts !. I will get back to you when we have some young ones.
8 May Finland : Having seen the first swallows this year in the beginning of May I knew it was just a matter of time when our swallows would start arriving at our farm. And indeed, yesterday, a week later I noticed the first Barn Swallow flying about in our yard and twittering joyfully. It was no passer-by, but stayed at us. Today already two swallows were present. Since the weather is warming up I am expecting more and more swallows to arrive. Seeing the swallows returning is every time very emotional because the eight-month swallow less period is once again over. The Kestrels have also returned and are already nesting. I just cannot stop wondering how bold and trusting those magnificent falcons are and the best thing is that at least so far they have posed no danger to the swallows.
7 May Scotland: A little late in notifying you this year, but we spotted our first swallows in Edinburgh, Scotland on 13th April this year. Only 2 or 3, but they appear to have been followed by the sand martins which arrived a few days later. Neither are in the numbers they have been in previous years, but this week (w/c 5/5/14) the swallows have been a bit more active and noticeable. Here’s hoping it warms up soon and we’ll get the skies filled with them! John Wall
6 May Wales: Thought it may be interesting to cast my thoughts again as to the complete lack of swallows about for the second year in succession. It is now evident that thousands must have lost their lives from the migration south in the year 2012. Abundance of new babies born that year with three broods in most cases. That was the year when they didn’t turn up in your area. So something tragic fell upon them that may have been nature or something else we don’t particularly wish to know about.
My rare pair of swallows, feel lucky to have in the barn are showing no signs of nesting for eggs. Out all day return at night. Usually for the last 25 years have babies by the end of May.
Turned my attention to the rare woodland bird a Nuthatch now with babies in my tree box. Send you a video later. This is rare being close to people, as it is a small beautiful woodpecker very shy and nervous. Well the pair are only a few feet from the cottage in my tree box. They started last year thieving the blue tits box by making the entrance hole larger. Being it was of hard wood I helped them out with my hole cutter and electric drill. They came along to inspect my handy work and never seen them again. AR There back and filled in my nice little hole with mud, like a swallow sticks it’s nest to a wall. Lesson-never interfere with birdies home they know best. Hole size is the same as before I bored it out bigger. All Nuthatch was doing was making a taper around the hole to fill with mud ending up with a semi circular hole.
Watching wildlife on the TV camera crew have spent weeks searching for a nuthatch hole in a tree in woodland before able to capture event. Although not a rare bird in the UK it is rare to nest near us lot.
All the very best, Peter
5 May USA: About 10 years ago, a pair of barn swallows built a nest under an overhang at my house. They return every year and fix up the nest , have a few babies, leave the nest and stay away until the next year. I love the barn swallows and if I could do anything to make it easier for them….I surely would. My question to you is…………the nest is not visible from the air so how does the barn swallow know the nest is there?
It is such fun to see as the little ones develop….they will spend 1 or 2 days flying from the nest onto the overhead wires (and back to the nest at night)…..The little ones are fed while on the wires and I keep trying to get a picture and title it “meals online” but it has not worked as yet.
We are excited because the barn swallows are fixing up the nest for this year.. Hooray!!!!
Thank you, Rita Ketchum
1 May Finland: Today I saw the first swallows this year when a flock of one Barn Swallow and three House Martins flew past our house northbound. Although the sun was shining the temperature was only around 3 deg C with a chilling northerly wind blowing. Nevertheless, the swallows were on the move, they were not “our” swallows because they did not stop at us but continued their flight. Regards Risto
Barn Swallow News 2014 – April 2014
28 April Wales: I often wondered what the outcome was for the smallest swallow in the brood each year. Usually last one born in the nest, and last one to be fed by parents. So tiny compared to the other five or six brothers and sisters. Well this year the female that turned up is one of the little ones half the size of the male. Only one pair this year so far in the small barn. Our usual ones missing last year as this year. Nominally they start with renovating a nest in the barn after a few days rest from the long haul from Africa. Don’t seem very interested at the moment apart from a few stands of grass thrown into wall nest. April 4th male followed week later by female. Weather good one day and bad the next. Shall keep all informed how things go. PJ
23 April Writing to mention the distressing news on the radio today, informing people of the thousands of people making their way to Malter for the annual mass swallow shoot. Wish I had a gun to join them? But my aim would not be pointing in the swallow direction. These poor little birds amongst other varieties on their migration root only to be slaughtered by insane people, who have stickers on their cars, with the heading. IF IT FLY’S IT DIES. To think we in the UK do all we can to help swallows breeding their young for the love of Gods beautiful birds. So tragic and inhuman. Peter
14 April Yorkshire, UK: Please see attached photos of the first two males who have returned today to our barn. They must have arrived this afternoon as not around this morning. They show what I know consider customary “travel paint” on their White breasts i.e. Saharan Red dust which is the subject of much cleaning this evening. They are still very “flighty” after their Trek, so it is difficult to get close to them for pictures, although with field glasses, or a better zoom ( note to self on next trip !) you can really see the grime. I wondered if others had noticed the same thing with their returnees, or even if you notice it on the South bound birds , as it is a regular feature on our spring arrivals. Anyway 2 males back, with one looking distinctly older, with longer tail forks. They are 24hrs later than last year, and the same day as the year before. Also they have brought good weather with them, as early spring weather for next week in these parts of the UK is set to be good for the time of year. We have no stock in the fields just yet, as the grass has a little longer to grow, but plenty of Midges about this evening so no shortage of food. Unfortunately Mrs Mac is away this week, and this was one of the very rare occasions where I have managed to get Swallow/ Good Weather / Wine in same set of photos on same day !. Anyway thanks for looking after them and returning to sender. Will post photos of young when they arrive. Hope you have as mild a winter as us (2mm of snow this year, not 4m !) but loads of rain. Now we await the girls. Best wishes a very Happy Mr Mac
10 April West Texas, USA: Well the little Barn Swallow wives arrived today! YEAH!
I love these little birds so much.
When the wives arrive I always know because of all the fussing on my front porch and when they come I am well aware of it almost to the hour.
I have two pairs that are trying to set up housekeeping on my porch this year. The two little husbands fought all morning over which part of the porch was their specific territory. Just fussing and swooping and carrying on. I kind of worry about the males when they start fighting like that because they are oblivious to their surroundings when they are fighting like that and sometimes they will fall clear down to the concrete on the porch before they get their hierarchy established or whatever they are doing. I am afraid a kitty cat will spot their lackadaisical attitude and sneak up on them during one of their skirmishes but…all has been well today so far.
One set is on one end of the porch and one pair is in the middle in an old nest that hasn’t been used for 2 yrs. but I just left it there in case someone came along and wanted it. LOL
Your new friend, Kathy Hobbs
8 April Countryside Lake, Illinois, USA : A wonderful day today. Temp 60°, partly sunny, huge billowing clouds, chance of rain. Saw 1 BS and then there were 4, and now about 8. Settle down on treetops by pond.
Thanks so much for all you do Angie.
Glenn R Kuffer
8 April Yorkshire, UK: Ours are not yet back but I did come across some yesterday at a place called Widdop Moor which is between Hebden Bridge and Colne, on the Lancashire / Yorkshire border. I was talking to a local Game Keeper when two male Swallows flew past going “hard” in NW direction. The Game Keeper noted my interest, and said that they come through here every year as the Moor is a low land route (relatively) through the Pennines, and lies in a NW/ SE axis, unlike most valleys in the Pennines which are W/E . He said he thought that any Swallows heading up from the South Coast heading for the Western Dales/ Cumbria/ Scotland could well use this gap as a direct route, rather than going around the coast / low land route. As if to prove his point a further 3nr passed also going well, heading NW. I asked when he expected to get his own birds, and he said like ours “ usually mid April, so coming soon”. He had noted them appearing last week, on or about the 1st April which he said was about right. There were quite a few Curlews and other birds around and he said that the Merlin’s had also arrived which he thought was not good news for Swallows, as they are one of the only birds agile enough to catch a Swallow in flight. However as he said there are very few Merlins in comparison. With that he went on his way, and I waited a further 15min, and another Male Swallow also passed at speed. I must say although they were only visible for a few seconds, they appeared quite plump and in good condition after their Trek. Mac may have mentioned this but there has been a good southerly wind over the last few weeks, so this may have helped them this year.
7 April UK: The arrival and departure of the Swallows and Swifts and all the other visitors, is such a delight…
Do you know Ted Hughes poem about the arrival of the swifts…..”….Which would equally apply to the Swallows…!?
“They’ve made it again. Which means the globe’s still working,
the Creation’s still waking refreshed,
our summer’s still to come….”
Very best wishes Cynthia
4 April West Wales: letting you know the first male swallow came into the barn nest site April 4th. Now waiting for the female to arrive. Perched up on last years nest overnight. Hope to have more swallows this year, and not alone in my thoughts as other people have mentioned that they only had one pair last year same with me. Lots may have died somewhere along the line between S/A and UK. Sad. Peter
3 April Leicestershire UK: Our barn swallows departed en mass from the farm on 26th August last year. This morning the first bird has arrived back, probably helped along by the strong winds currently blowing north over Europe from the Sahara. These winds must be a godsend for the millions of birds heading north!
So for us summer is on its way and we look forward to witnessing more arrivals in the coming days.
Regards Andrew Roberts
1 April France: I was looking online at the end of last week to see if there was any news as to why the swallows were much later arriving here in South-West France than usual.
Most years here by the 25th March but in 2013 the first swallow to arrive in my barn was on 10th March!
Sunday last – the 30th March I saw 15 swallows by the river at St Cyprien, Dordogne, France and ‘our’ first swallow arrived yesterday evening with lots of tweeting and chitterling :)) Great Joy !!! My favourite moment of the year 🙂
1st April, Siorac-en-Périgord, Dordogne, France
Best wishes Jan Roberts
30 March UK: It has been a while since you asked for a photo of my cottage with evidence of swallows nests in the eaves. The nests were unfortunately knocked out with the building work and I haven’t seen the swallows for two years, but I am hoping they make it back this year. This part of the house was originally a medieval barn, so swallows must have been coming here for centuries. I hope they make it back this summer. all the best Diana Higginbotham
25 March Finland: After the unusually short and mild winter our spring arrived about one month earlier than normally. Now there ought to be half a meter of snow and the temperatures constantly below freezing. But there is no snow whatsoever (except in Lapland 1,25 m) and the daytime temperatures 6-8 deg C. Maybe this unbelievable warmth has lured the first Barn Swallow this year in Finland to arrive yesterday, 25 May in Helsinki. Nevertheless, it is far too cold for it and there are still too few flying insects to feed on. Hopefully the bird is wise enough to return some southwards in order to be able to survive.
19 March Hazlehurst Mississippi USA: The first couple stopped in to check on the nest. A lot of chatter for a little while they checked everything out. Bonnie Young
18 March UK: if you follow various people on Twitter, you can keep track of quite a few of the UK sightings. In particular, @swallowsighting, and I report sightings on my twitter account @allotmentwomble.
Various sightings in the UK over the last week or two, they seem to be arriving in increasing numbers now. Over the past few days, sightings reported in Cornwall, Somerset, Norfolk, and Merseyside.We are also getting sightings of House Martins and Sand Martins.
Best regards Tim L
17 march First sighting of Barn Swallows in the UK – see global records
16 March Mount Moreland, SA: Swallow viewing Closed please revisit mid November 2014
The Barn Swallows disappeared 14 Feb 2014 after intense heat and no relief from rain. this in turn effects the insects, no food no swallows and very few have been seen since, no mass sightings whatsoever.
Reports of sightings North of us indicate the Barn Swallows have taken alternative routes on their way back to the Northern hemisphere.
10 March Pretoria North. SA: Lizel Russel phoned me earlier today to report the sighting of thousands of Barn Swallows over their home last night in Northern Pretoria, the time the sighting occurred was 6,20pm, they have never seen this before.
This is a defiant sign that the migration has begun and is underway, they have experienced recent heavy rains in that part of the country for the past 2 weeks.
3 March UK: First Barn Swallow sightings starting to trickle in. A swallow reported in Caithness, right at the top of Scotland! The overwintering swallow at Newick, E Sussex, was seen alive and well yesterday (2nd March). Other spring migrants now appearing, so we’re hoping the little guy will make it through to spring!
Best wishes Tim L
2 March Mount Edgecombe, SA : Roland contacted me and reported sightings of swallows at the Mount Edgecombe Dam.
22 Feb UK:Thanks for posting all your photos, very attractive sunsets. I just thought that you might be interested to know that we have a Barn Swallow that has chosen to stay in the UK for the winter! It has survived so far due the exceptionally mild, ( and wet and windy ) winter. The bird is usually seen near a large sewage farm here in Sussex, where there must be lots of insects.
Best wishes, Tim
18 Feb Batangas city, Philippines:
4 Feb Muizenberg. Western Cape: We have had a small type of bird sanctuary for years. It is basically just a beautiful garden that the other half has established. In the stairwell, swallows have built a nest and for the last three years they have had no babies. This year, however, a baby swallow had fallen out of the nest. When I came out of my apartment, there it was. It was automatic. I took the day off to help this young. Through the day the parents would observe me, and then feeding the baby swallow in between flights.
29 Jan UK: what we need is a trail of “spotters” between here and there to monitor progress! The migration from here last September was unusual: there was one weekend towards the end of the month when most of the hirundine population decided it was time to go, and the skies were full of them. Thousands upon thousands, never seen anything like it.
Will happily keep you up to date on spottings here. I’m going to start looking for early arrivals in about 3 weeks. Earliest I’ve ever seen was on the 3rd March in 2011, near a place called Botley, which is near Southampton on the south coast.
The over-wintering swallow in East Sussex can be followed at http://www.sos.org.uk/recent-sightings/index.php. Luckily for him or her we’ve had a ridiculously mild and wet winter (so there are insects about), however if we get a cold spell it could be in real trouble.
28 Jan UK: I Have been following your Barn Swallow web site for the last few weeks, enjoy reading about them. Thanks for the web site! I’m in the UK: when do they normally start heading north please? With us having such a mild winter (there is a swallow over-wintering in East Sussex in England, and reports of another 2 or 3 further west towards Cornwall!!), we’re expecting them to arrive earlier than normal. I also follow the cuckoo tracking on the BTO web site, and the cuckoos seem to have already started their long and slow journey north.
Many thanks, Regards, Tim Lux
Reply: The migration usually begins early next month depending on the weather and lasts until the mid to end of April but is variable.
We are seeing some per-migratory behaviour in that there are swallows perching on the wires for longer periods, the process of building and storing body fat.
When our swallow number increases that is our true sign that the migration has begun and it will vary as to how long it lasts, once that begins take it as a sign that your swallows will begin arriving in 3 to 4 weeks time – Angie
7 Jan Yorkshire – UK: Before Christmas I was out in Far East and have only just got around to up loading photos. I know last year someone asked where the Swallows went from Hong Kong in winter. Please find attached photos taken in Bangkok of Swifts and Swallows in the city. Also photo of same further south at Yoi Nanwith some other rather larger Black and White birds – Hornbills. There is also a photo of an Island called Bird Island which unfortunately is where Birds nest (Swifts) are harvested to make Birds nest soup in China – no accounting for taste! The rights to do this apparently (leased by the government) cost close £500k p/a according to the locals (seems high but that is what we were told). Anyway weather continues up here to be gale after gale with heavy rain but no snow yet, and days are at least getting longer. Hope you are enjoying your summer. Regards Mac