19 September 2019 – Cornwall UK – Sadly our Swallows have left us today. From three pairs we have produced 24 young. Last year we produced 21 from three pairs, down from 45 from five pairs the previous year. Unfortunately the reduction in numbers does seem to be the trend in our immediate area.
This last week I have seen numerous flocks of twenty plus including House Martins passing over, so let’s hope we get a good number of returnees next year.
An interesting observation was that approx 10% of migrating groups were flying In the opposite direction that they should be…and some with great alacrity..why would they do this ?.
I happened to meet a long standing acquaintance the other day, and mentioned Swallows to him, and he told me of a white Swallow that he had in a brood in his shed a couple of years ago, he gave me the photographs attached, very rare indeed.
Best wishes to you Angie, and we really hope that our birds come back to you at Mount Moreland, and you can once again promote and bring the magic of the Barn Swallow to everyone.
Kindest Regards. John.
18 September 2019 – Mount Moreland, South Africa – First Barn Swallow arrivals sighted
18 September 2019 – Preston UK – Last update on ‘our swallows’. Following on from my previous email when I thought they had all left, a couple of days later, the female returned. She continued to return to roost in the garage up until Monday last. It seems she has now set of on her return to SA.
Over the previous weeks I have noticed large numbers of swallows passing through on their migration. Hopefully the conditions will be favourable for the journey.
We now look forward to their return !
17 September 2019 – Barnsley UK – well my little friends have departed (16.9.19) on their long journey back to SA. As I have informed you previously I had 2 pairs nesting at my house one in the front porch and one in the back. Both pairs reared 2 clutches of young birds 4 in each clutch. the weather over the period has been fairly good and plenty of food about for them withe the farmers harvesting early. on Saturday morning (14.9.19) i counted 73 Swallows on the telegraph wires so it must have been a good year for producing the young. Roughly 28 Weeks before they return. Thank you.
10 September 2019
9 September 2019 – Yorkshire UK – Quick note to say our Swallows left south bound on or about the 7th September. This is about a week early but given the poor summer I do not blame them. They will have had a tail wind, as winds have been from the NW over UK recently, so they should be into Europe, and indeed Africa quite quickly. I am a bit concerned with the low numbers (15) that left us, as that is a very small number given the attrition rate suffered, so please take extra special care of them when they arrive, and please return to sender in the Spring (European one that is !). I will be following them south a couple of times in the next couple of months so will e-mail you if anything comes up Swallow related. Have a great spring.
4 September 2019 – NW Brittany – Well to sum up our swallow season, it was strange and quiet with low numbers. After a very dry July, our swallow family left almost immediately after fledging the nest and did not come back for about 4 weeks, presumably not enough food around (low fly levels at this time) Due to the dry summer swallow numbers in my area remained very low as they only had 1 clutch. Mid August they returned on the eve of rain storms. Driving around the countryside I was able to spot small groups of swallows in various villages. There seemed to be no mass gathering of the swallows. They stayed in small local groups and left around the 30th August. Normally towards the August we normally have mass gathering on our electric lines, often between 50-90 swallows. This year nothing. 3 swallows arrived today and rested on the lines from brisk NW winds, maybe they wondered where everyone was! Tomorrow the winds are northerly so we might see some swallows coming over from England. There are plenty of fat flies around this week. I was pleased to read that the swallows in England had a good year and hope they have a good season in South Africa.
31 August 2019 – Wherwell UK – Since the second brood fledged a couple of weeks ago, the adult birds departed several days ago. 2 of the 5 juveniles only have returned to roost this evening with the others having most likely joined communal roosts. The earlier breeding this year (though as expected not early enough to allow a third brood) has brought the season to an earlier conclusion for our birds. There are still plenty of swallows around but numbers should start to reduce visibly soon.
The house martins remain in good numbers with one nest even containing newly fledged young though I’m not sure there will be enough time for them to fledge and join the house martin migration which normally takes place later than the swallows, towards the end of September.
So in conclusion that’s the end of another season and I will keep myself updated with the reports of arrivals in the south and hope you see some better numbers this year. I’ll also let you know how I get on in Cape Town in December and how many swallows are in the roosts there.
30 August 2019 – Yorkshire UK – Please see a few of our Swallows lining up for the trek south, one appears to be checking if his wings and flaps are OK which is something we do before launch! This was taken last Saturday when I was leaving on a trip out East but the UK for once on a Bank Holiday weekend was blessed with a plume of warm air from the south with temps in the low 30c in the south and even 28c in the north and it lasted in the north until Tuesday and Wednesday in the south. Its a good job it bucked up as this weekend is not so good when I am at home! Anyway I could not get a pictures of all Fifteen birds as they are not proving cooperative, or they do it while I am not here. Anyway I will let you know when they leave but probably only another couple of weeks.
All the best
29 August 2019 – Preston UK – Our swallows left us this week !
Only one of 5 of the second clutch fledged. This single youngster remained with the female roosting in our garage until Sunday last, the male having left the previous week. They have left earlier than is usual by around 2 weeks. They successfully raised 6 from the first clutch.
Here in the UK there appears an early arrival of Autumnal weather. All the swallows to be seen, and there are many, are heading South !
Always sad to see them depart. We wish them a fair following wind on their return to SA.
So , the cycle ends….and begins, we look forward to their return !
27 August 2019 – Rosslare Strand Co Wexford Ireland – A large contingent left yesterday 26th and more are gathering.
Seems rather early? Hope it’s not a sign of an early winter
14 August 2019 – Wherwell UK – The second brood fledged yesterday although it is very wet and cool today and they have not ventured out again. There are 5 young and I attach some photos- one decided to sit in the gutter for a while and can be seen looking over the edge! The weather has been unsettled for a while although hopefully will be getting better for the end of august. I don’t think there is enough time for a third brood but I’ll keep you updated. In terms of other migrants the last swifts have moved on and I am very pleased with the numbers of successful breeding house martins this year both on our house and in the village.
7 August 2019 – Preston UK – Our 2nd clutch of swallows was sadly not as successful as the first when 6 were fledged. Five eggs were laid, 5 hatched, one perished quite early on, maybe after 5/6 days. The remaining 4 were doing well then the weather turned and we had cool, wet and windy conditions for 3 days. This saw 3 more perish ! I removed the dead from the nest and the remaining singleton struggled for a number of days then picked-up. This single chick flew yesterday and appears to be doing well on the wing.
We have had no further problems with the sparrow-hawk !
We shall see if there is to be a 3rd clutch ?
6 August 2019 – Mount Moreland, South Africa – First lessor stripped swallows have arrived. Hayley Esteves.
First Yellow billed kites sighted. Pru Bolase
5 August 2019 – Yorkshire, UK – The weather has not been that good, apart from some over publicized freak temp in June and for 2 days (up her anyway) in July, the summer has been wet with frequent storms in July. In deed we had a cold night where we actually lit a log fire in mid July !
With regards to Barn Swallows we had the same problem with Magpies that others have reported, and the first brood were devastated with only one surviving. I returned from a trip, and Mrs Mac informed me of what had happened. We have not normally had an issue with Magpies, but there is an old Crow’s nest in a Sycamore tree in one of our neighbours fields, in which they nested this year, and reared successfully 6nr young unfortunately for all the other birds around. I do shoot, but only game birds, and did not possess a suitable weapon to re-balance things, but a quick trip to the gun shop with my neighbour rearranged things in our song birds and Swallows favour. We now no longer have a Magpie issue, and the nest was knocked from the tree by using an extension ladder and timber lengths bolted together. However we were concerned about the numbers of Swallows we would return to you as all this happened back in late May, but luckily our birds recovered quickly and bred again, and indeed have just had a third brood, and we now have approximately 13nr birds to send south. We do not normally get 3 broods up here so I guess we were lucky, and re-balanced the situation in time.
The weather continues to be mixed with hot temp in southern UK and indeed in central Europe which has sparked off some severe thunderstorms.
4 August 2019 – Wherwel UK – The baby swallows survived the heat wave and are now 2 weeks old. They seem to be doing well and are now showing over the edge of the nest. I think there are 5 this time but can’t quite be sure. Pictures attached of several looking out and of the female at the nest. The nest is looking quite dirty now with quite a lot of accumulation of faeces so it will need cleaning over the winter. I will let you know when this brood fledge, probably next weekend I would think.
2 August 2019 – Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK -The second clutch of young swallows which nest on my back porch have left the nest today. However, those on the front porch are not quite ready perhaps a couple of days them they will have gone. There may be a possibility of another clutch before they leave in 40 days time.
2 August 2019 – Slayton USA – We have noticed that in our area we have significantly less barn swallows in the area.
23 July 2019, Wherwell, UK – Pleased to say the second clutch hatched on Saturday. We are in the middle of a spell of high temperatures (up to 32c this week) and it is uncomfortably hot in the carport. Normally the female would be doing a lot of brooding at this stage but she is often simply sitting on the edge of the nest observing the babies (as in photo) as I am sure it is too hot to brood them during the day. She has even had her wings extended over them on occasions, perhaps in a futile effort to protect them from the heat. So far the young seem to be OK but I will be keeping a close eye. Not a lot I can do to help them with this I’m afraid. There should be a return to more typical temperatures by the weekend so the next few days will be important.
22 July 2019 – Preston UK – Our 2nd clutch of Barn Swallows are doing fine. Four of the five eggs hatched and the young should fledge next week.
You may recall the ‘mysterious’ disappearance of last year’s 2nd brood ? I was of the opinion that a sparrow-hawk had entered the garage and taken them. Well, yesterday afternoon I was sitting in the back room and saw the sparrow-hawk flying low from down in the orchard, towards the house. It flew straight into the garage and perched on the work-top !!! The parents were away, so no alarm calls. I’m convinced it was waiting to ambush them on their return! I duly rushed out and ‘scattled’ it ! I have now reduced the garage opening and will keep the side-door closed. I am now convinced this is what happened last year.
Fingers crossed eh !
18 July 2019, Old Cassop Durham, UK – Hi this is an update to a message i wrote re Magpie attack on the Barn Swallows. I can categorically say the adult birds were killed. There are 3 male birds in the area (one in our stable and 2 next door.). In 2017 we both had 4+ breeding pairs each.
Tragically a pair of magpies attacked the birds – we saw them leave. When we went out it was too late. All that was left was a pile of feathers in the outhouse, and the remains of one of the other birds was found below a tree in the field. We suspect the pair were protecting their nest. So, after flying all that way – they were killed by magpies – such a tragedy. In previous years there have been many more birds so the loss wouldn’t be so bad. However last year numbers were down with only 2 breeding pairs, compared to 2016 and 2017 were 4/5 breeding pairs (this photo was taken 2017 of all the fledglings preparing to travel back to Africa).
So Hans is alone once again. And it’s a similar story with our neighbour and their stables. They normally have a few breeding pairs – but this year there are just two male birds. I don’t know if the females were killed by magpies like our pair were, but they are considerably less birds than previous years. The farmer next door would normally trap magpies but at the time there was ban on Larsen traps. These are barbaric contraptions, however when you are dealing with birds which may go locally extinct without Corvid control – then what is the solution? I have read a lot of misguided information about how magpies will not attack or kill adult birds, but this is not true. And to deter them to plant really thick hedges, which obviously won’t work with swallows who nest in barns and outbuildings. We have really thick hedges and around 20 magpies always on patrol causing havoc.
When telling the tragic tale of Han’s family – people have said that they will be back. But will they? If the swallows return to the same nesting sites – but all the family have been wiped out, then could new birds return in future years? My question to conservationists/ecologists/ornithologists – could swallows return to our outbuildings?
11 July 2019 – Preston UK – Just an update. After successfully rearing and fledging six young, our swallows are now sitting on a second clutch of 5 eggs. Will keep you updated.
11 July 2019 – Brittany, France – For the last two years we have been trying to attract the swallows into our woodshed. Happily, this year we had a pair build a nest in there and they have just successfully reared four young. We put up two artificial nests, but they weren’t interested in those. The weather is very hot here at the moment and we were a bit worried about the babies as the nest is very close to a tin roof. We managed to cool it down in the extreme heat a couple of weeks ago. I think there are about the same number of swallows here this year.
11 July 2019 – Wherwell, UK – The female is now incubating her second clutch as of Sunday. The weather is fair and stable following a cool and damp June although this didn’t affect the swallows with insects remaining plentiful. Will let you know when the second clutch hatches.
All the best
8 July 2019, Cornwall, UK – Our first brood of four successfully fledged and were flying around the area coming back each night to roost on the perch next to the nest, with the adults nearby.
After about a week I went into the garage to do my daily check, and was shocked to find two of the fledglings dead on the floor under the perch. The next morning I found another. On picking them up their bodies felt “bony”, so I weighed them and they were 12/13 grams each, I consulted my Swallow “Bible”, Angel Turners comprehensive study of Swallows, and she states that fledglings should weigh around 20 gm, which is about what an adult bird should weigh.
Is this perhaps further evidence of the lack of insects ? We live in a rural area surrounded by fields, some with cattle and sheep grazing, so one would assume it ideal for insect feeders like Swallows.
However, this week our other two nests of four young each have fledged, and so far all eight have returned safely each night to roost.
The first pair have laid again and are sitting on five eggs.
I will keep you informed of progress.
Kind Regards. John.
7 July 2019 – Brittany. NW France – The swallows arrived later this year compared with previous years. This set panic amongst us eagerly awaiting the return of our swallows as the weather had been fantastic for 3 weeks but the birds were absent. Although our weather was good here it perhaps was not good in north Africa or southern Europe and they got delayed en route but reasonable numbers arrived in the end.
Our noisy Barn Swallow family who have lived in the ‘boiler room’ never returned but a quiet couple finally set up home in an old stable. They had to wait 3 weeks for rain to gather mud to build up an old nest. 4 or 5 fledglings left the nest last week and immediately set off on long trips all day. The old Barn Swallow family used to sit over our garden table on the phone lines noisily chattering every lunchtime. This family do not and it is interesting to see how different swallow families have different characteristics, just like other animals. I have seen the early strong male swallows arrive here in hail and rain on their rush to get back to the UK and yet my new male swallow is very quiet and arrived 3 weeks later as if he was not in any hurry at all. On predators…. I shoo off any magpies, they soon get the message. My neighbour just lost her swallow nestlings to her cat, which are probably worse than magpies. I was able to cat proof my nesting sites fairly easily.
29 June 2019 – Wherwell, UK – The female is back minus the young and has been relining the nest today. Second brood imminent I think. This is the earliest fledging of first brood and lead up to a second brood we have had but not sure there will be quite enough time for a third brood late in the season.
On a more depressing note, swift numbers are really poor in the village this year. Last year there were at least a dozen in the screaming parties that circle the houses on warm summer evenings. Sitting outside this evening I have only noted a maximum of 5.
26 June 2019 – Comber, Co. Down, UK – Hi, so pleased to say our pair of swallows have successfully reared 5 young! They were out of the nest yesterday in our barn, and were flitting around outside today. Two of them were sitting on the gate and allowed me to get up close enough to take a few pics! The weather has turned hot and sunny today so it’s good timing for them!
25 June 2019 – Wherwell. UK – Interesting development tonight: only the male Barn Swallow has returned to the carport to roost. It would seem the female has taken the young elsewhere to roost following his intolerance of the presence of the juveniles. It shows how strong the parenting instinct is in the female compared to the male. Will be interesting to see if/when she returns. There is plenty of time for a second brood and I should think her instinct to breed again will bring her back once the young are able to fend for themselves.
Will keep you posted.
22 June 2019 – Wherwell UK – The Barn swallow babies fledged yesterday- 6 in total but not been able to get them in a photo together! They are spending most of the time in or near the carport. I have observed some unusual behaviour from the male who is already trying to remove them from the carport by flying at them and chasing them out. The female is continuing to feed them diligently. This normally happens around 7-10 after fledging when both adults see the young off when they can be independent and the adults are ready for a second brood. The Male is singing regularly, acting aggressively and looks like he is full of testosterone! I’ll let you know how things proceed.
17 June 2019 – Walmer Bridge Lancashire UK – Please find attached photo of 3 young swallows perched on the weather-vane on the corner of the garage where their nest is. There were six young successfully reared (the other three are on the garage roof) and all left the nest early this morning !
As I type this, they are busily flitting hither and thither about the garden. I Shall keep you updated as to their progress.
Kind Regards, Greg.
12 June 2019 – Church Fenton North Yorkshire, UK – We have lived in church Fenton for 25 years and every year we have had swallows, swifts and house martins. I can report we have swallows that have nested in the garage that is always left open. We think they have a clutch, they are very busy in and out. The weather has been wet, damp and cold and wondered if there was something we could do to help to supplement their feed?
11 June 2019 – Llanstadwell, Pembrokeshire, Wales – Hi. Very late arrival of Hirundunes here in West Wales and very thin on the ground.
Chris Packham just explained on ‘Spring-watch’ that the Mozambique hurricane has probably had a serious negative effect in the south part of Africa and also the generally very poor May in Spain, Italy, Greece and the Balkans has meant that any birds crossing the Mediterranean were flying into more trouble.
My village church was like a beacon last September and there was a mass exodus though here in the form of a continuous stream of small and medium size groups on nice days running well into 5 figures. Probably mostly Irish birds. Let us hope it happens again this year but, looking out of the window at this rubbish weather, I rather doubt it.
Nick Tavener, Hazelbeach
11 June 2019 -Cornwall, UK – Recent Barn Swallows in the News. John and Pauline
5th June 2019 Cornwall UK – It is with great respect that I wish to comment on Dawn’s experience with Magpies, as we have encountered and done battle with the Magpie “problem” in the past, not with our Swallows but with young Blackbirds and Thrushes.
It appears from Dawn’s entry that she refers to adult Swallows being attacked, presumably she did not have young in the nests at that time, From my experience I don’t think that a Magpie would consider predating any adult bird, let alone an aerial master like the Swallow. They do not behave like say Sparrow Hawks, but they will certainly be looking for young birds in nests or fledging birds especially when they themselves have young to feed. I have known of them certainly taking young Swallows from the nest, only if the nest happens to be very near the entrance to the barn or building. It would be very unusual for a Magpie to go any distance into a building.
It would be interesting to hear a detailed account of what Dawn witnessed happening .
I’ve done the Larsen trap excursion, which proved very interesting. When I caught one of the culprits, it was interesting to see it close up with it’s black feathers shining iridescent blue and green. I would never do what the owner of the trap had suggested, so I covered him over, put him in the boot of the car and drove him to a nice area I knew 10 miles away, and released him. I reset the trap to catch his mate.
Early the next morning I was surprised to see two Magpies, one already in the trap !. So this time I put a spot of red paint on his white flank and took him, concealed again, to the same place and released him. You guessed…next morning he was back in our garden….how did he do that ?
After some interaction with the RSPB, I have come to accept them as part of the rich pageant of nature. I know that that’s hard to do, but then that’s nature and best not interfered with by us.
I can’t imagine the sadness and frustration felt by Dawn at the loss of her Swallows. We accidentally lost ours to building work some years ago, but the next spring the same ones or new took up residence again.
So don’t despair Dawn, it may be prudent to look at how open the access to your barn is, but they will be back !!.
Kind Regards. John.
3 June 2019 – Preston, UK – Just returned from a weeks holiday on the isle of Arran me and my wife Kath were amazed on how many more swallows were nesting, a lot more than we have seen on the mainland and in our village, And having just read Dawns message about magpies attacking her nests, i googled how many magpies are their on the isle of Arran. very few and far between, you would very lucky to see 2 at once, here on the mainland not uncommon to see 7 or 8 at a time, Ian and Kath.
2 June 2019 – Grindleford, Derbyshire, UK – Our little corner of the the Peak District is usually a fun fair atmosphere with all the swallows, swifts and house martins racing around and bombing through the alley ways. This is how it’s been for the past 8 years, but this year the sky and telephone wires are eerily quiet. Hardly any swallows returned and they were about 2 weeks late. Miraculously we do have swallows nesting in the alleyway, and there are a dozen Martins. But no swifts and where there is usually lots of swallow birdsong, this year there is hardly any.
I read an article about problems in Egypt where vast swathes of land is covered with Chinese plastic mesh designed to trap millions of migratory birds, including swallows.
2 June 2019 – Bristol, UK – I live in Bristol UK. Yesterday , June 1st I was outside all day. I saw no swallows , swifts or house martins which is unprecedented. Usually there are dozens. These birds need immediate protection. What can we do ?
Regards T Horswell
1 June 2019 – Durham, UK – One of our swallows, the older Male returned at end of April. We were overjoyed but then with the cold weather that ensued we were really worried. To our delight a few more swallows eventually returned – swooping and whooping with delight a couple of weeks ago.
However a couple of days ago – a group of magpies attacked our stables and killed at least 2 swallows. One male (the older one who returned first) stuck around for a bit but today no sign of him either. We are devastated. There have been swallows here for over 30 years. The air tonight was thick with insects, perfect for hungry swallows. I wonder what impact their loss will have on us locally regionally and globally?
Magpies can no longer be trapped in the U.K. as of April 2019 via Larsen traps. They are barbaric contraptions but a necessary evil if we are to save swallows and other endangered species 😢 I have written to Wild Justice.
1 June 2019 – Somerset , South West , England – May 31st and at last the swallows have arrived . A small group of 4-6 birds arrived last night, much noise and joyful flying in and around the barns , which have been painfully quiet. Our neighbours have house martins and a couple of swallows under their eves , which have been here for a couple of weeks . June 1 st The swallows are settling down to cleaning out old nests and frantically feeding .
31 May 2019 – Wherwell, UK – The eggs hatched this week and the parent birds are now busily feeding the young. Insects look to be plentiful with the birds returning every minute or so with food. There were 6 eggs and hopefully all have hatched but I won’t be able to tell for a while yet. Will keep you updated.
I am sorry and disturbed to read the number of reports from your contributors of low or even zero returns of swallows to their areas. This is very concerning and appears to be a trend across much of the country. I can say with confidence that numbers of swallows are normal in our area and last week when I was on the west coast of Scotland there also appeared to be good numbers. House Martins in our village are possibly higher in number compared to previous years although swifts seem less numerous. I cannot fathom why numbers of hirundines would be healthy here but so poor elsewhere. I don’t know if there are any theories apart from problems encountered on the migration routes of those that haven’t returned?
31 May 2019 – Booth Halifax, West Yorkshire, UK – Since moving here 13 yrs ago have had 4/5 nests in the eaves and have been woken early by the hungry calls of the young martins and watched their parents swoop out over the valley every morning and night- I miss this this year as there are no nests in my house and very few martins or swallows about .. I stay hopeful more will return but I realise this may be foolish/false hope and storms may have had a devastating effect on the martins journey
29 May 2019 – Southern Spain – It looks as this year the swallows need all the help.they can get. Here is a photo of the small pieces of plywood we have been simply screwing to the wooden beams this year. This pair were delighted with it as soon as they arrived. Non of the others have been used so far, but we have a very reduced number of swallows.
I think the nest box and perch made by another gentleman trying to help is wonderful. But for those less skilled this also works. The babies fledged 3 days ago. They keep returning to sit on the perches we have also provided between the wooden beams.
We have two more nests with babies about to fledge I am pleased to say. A few years ago that would have been about 8 – 10.
28 May 2019 – Walmer Bridge, Lancashire, UK – Just a quick update. Our swallows hatched all six eggs over the last weekend and are now VERY busy feeding the young !
28 May 2019 – Sheffield, UK – Just reading worrying stories about swallows or lack of them around the UK. Encouragingly I have seen more swifts in south Sheffield than previous years. There were ten wheeling around in the sky this morning above me. A Sheffield birder reported 200 at a nearby reservoir.
At Hornsea, East Yorkshire on Saturday, lots of swifts, a few swallows and house martins.
27 May 2019 – Skipton, UK – The skies are strangely quiet here North Yorkshire – I have seen maybe 2 pairs of swifts and a very few swallows and martins . One has now paired up and today is sitting on a nest at home studiously ignoring my pre prepared nesting cups. What has happened??
22 May 2019 – Yorkshire, UK – We are moving towards high summer and I have to report that we got 4 Swallows back and our closest neighbour’s also have 4, but two others who had Swallows last year, and have had them as long as anyone can remember have had no returns so far. Not sure what has happened, but you seem to have had a lot of contributors saying the same thing re UK birds. I was not flying over Africa much this spring, but did not note any unusual things, though there has been the first named storm over the Western Atlantic (Andrea which I flew close to early this week on the way back from US which is very early). These form partly due to dust laden Saharan winds blowing out of the desert over the Atlantic. There is a brief description below :-
The Saharan Air Layer (SAL) is an extremely hot, dry and sometimes dust-laden layer of the atmosphere that often overlies the cooler, more-humid surface air of the Atlantic Ocean. In the Sahara Desert region of North Africa, where it originates, it is the prevalent atmosphere, extending from the surface upwards several kilometers. As it drives, or is driven, out over the ocean, it is lifted above the denser marine air. This arrangement is an inversion where the temperature increases with height. The boundary between the SAL and the marine layer suppresses or “caps” any convection originating in the marine layer. Since it is dry air, the lapse rate within the SAL itself is steep, that is, the temperature falls rapidly with height.
The SAL has also been observed to suppress the development and intensifying of tropical cyclones.
Maybe the early start to the hurricane season indicates that the winds and indeed dust started to move earlier, and that some migrants were lost in the ensuing dust storms or were just blown off course. I have personally seen the dust storms associated with this wind (Hamattan wind) which spiral up to several km in height and I would not like to be in them at low level, and least of all as a few grams of flesh, bone and feathers !. Anyway I guess we will never know the cause. On a more positive note our Swifts have returned with 5 making the trip back successfully which is good news. Also we observed another slow moving but large African migrant heading north when visiting a friends cottage in Wales. We watched an Osprey plodding off north in the general direction of Scotland with a spotting scope, and viewed until it was several miles out, and he or she just kept on going, so I hope they find their mate. The weather is still a little changeable here, but looks to be settling down in June. I have one trip your way next month so will make notes and ask if anyone noted anything odd with the weather in early spring on Lagos / SA routes, you never know someone may have noted something. Anyway we have four birds back but no young to report yet..
22 May 2019 – Uttoxeter, UK – Sadly, after 32 years of swallows nesting and successfully breeding in my garage roof, there are none so far this year (as at May 22nd). I saw 2 males chasing each other on 20th April and nothing since. I am so very, very sad to think that I may never again have the pleasure of the company of these beautiful and clever birds. Summers will never be the same again if they do not return.
21 May 2019 – Biddeford, USA – So fortunate to find this web page. I tend a flock of sheep in Biddeford, Maine and generally had 30 nesting pair of swallows in the barn loft through the 80’s & 90’s. In mid summer they followed the sheep through pasture as I viewed in awe the endless airshow. The song and chatter brightened my day until at last they would gather on the roof ridge and sing like never before; the next day they would be gone for the year. Each year the numbers dwindled and now I have only two nesting pair for 2019. Barn owls, Bobolink, Whip-poor-will, Wood Thrush, Bob-white are not here any longer and no spring -peepers nor friendly skunks either.
18 May 2019 – Antalia Turkey – I am on holiday in Antalia Turkey. Watching Barn Swallow parents trying to fledge young they get them out in morning then they keep returning to their nest during where the parents are feeding them. Then in the morning they are all back in the nest and the same thing happens again.
This has been happening for the five days l been here.
All the best Glyn
20 May 2019 – Cumbria, UK – ear we had 8 breeding pairs of Swallows and in fact last year they were so successful, they had two broods resulting in 20-30 ittle birds swooping around outbuildings. Today on the 20th May 2019 we have not seen any return. We have lived here for 7 years and you could almost set your watch by their return, but this year something has happened to interrupt this cycle. Very sad…
15 May 2019 – Sleaford, Lincolnshire, UK – Hi plenty of open skies here but alas 15th May and NO sightings yet. Boo hooxxx.
13 May 2019 – Penzance, UK – I’m dismayed that here near lands End, Cornwall I have only seen 5 or 6 swallows in the valley, with solitary birds unpaired. We wait in hope that more will arrive.
13 May 2019 – Preston, UK – Hi just to let you know me and my wife Kath went for a 3 mile walk around our village, this weekend, going past 3 farms and across many fields, we counted 11 swallows the biggest group was 3, last year at this time we would except to see 3 times this amount, will let you know if things improve this week as the weather is just right for them.
13 May 2019 – Walmer Bridge, Lancashire, UK – Please find attached photo of our swallow sitting tight on 6 eggs in our garage.
Kind Regards, Greg.
12 May 2019 Wherwell, UK – After unsettled and cool weather delayed things, the female has begun egg laying with two eggs in the nest this evening. Will keep a close eye on progress and keep you updated.
With regards to some of your other contributor’s concerns about low numbers of hirundines, I’m pleased to say that I’ve not noticed any reduction in swallows and house martins this spring. The swifts, however, are definitely low in number at the moment but hopefully just delayed by the recent weather.
12 May 2019 – North Yorkshire, UK – To my enormous relief they’re back this morning! I don’t think that last weeks cold, wet weather will have helped with a north easterly blowing as well. Today’s perfect for them, much warmer, a SW wind and with the wet ground the air’s full of insects so there’s some intense feeding going on.
Very best wishes,
11 May 2019 – Preston, UK – Just to let you know our swallows are now sitting on a clutch of 6 eggs ! They are going to be very busy in 16 days !!!
Our weather is ‘set fair’ for the coming weeks, and insect life is abundant! Please find attached photo of our male swallow perched on the washing line outside of the garage.
11 May 2019 – North Yorkshire, UK – The news from Wensleydale is dire at the moment. A perfect afternoon with millions of insects in the sky and no birds to be seen except our winter residents.They must return next week. The alternative is unthinkable. Jake
7 May 2019 – Barnsley, UK – just to report that the second pair which nest on my front porch has arrived this morning nearly a month late. Very pleased to see them.
6 May 2019 – Newton Ferrers Devon, UK – We had half a dozen swallows turn up check out old nests and disappear! Our 500 year old house has hosted them for generations and I am not giving up hope, our ash trees are barely, out there is little insect life as it is cold, so let us hope they are waiting for an improvement, otherwise if they do not return then we face a future without them which is unthinkable.
6 May 2019 – Castelfranco Emilia, Italy – Good morning. I regret to read the low number of arrivals in last two season.. one question…they changed area?? In Italy the barn swallows have already arrived but every year they are less than last year… the poison in agriculture??
Bye from Italy.
6 May 2019 – Comber, Co. Down, UK – Thanks for your reply, and, you were right!! My swallows arrived on the 4th May! I’m so relieved to see them back as it wouldn’t have been Summer without them?! They look to be favouring the nest that they successfully reared a brood at their final attempt last year. I’ll keep you posted!
Devastating to read on FBK about the millions of swallows and other migratory birds being netted and killed by China and Middle East. It was likened to ‘fishing in the sky’. Heartbreaking, and totally unnecessary!
Best wishes, Helen. x
5 May 2019 – Brittany, NW France – I got shivers down my spine reading everyone’s news asking “where are our swallows this year ?” I thought I was the only one sad I had not birds, I started driving around the countryside and their favorite haunts looking out for them.
We have had a very early and warm spring, but arrivals have been so low. I saw a small wave of arrivals on the 15th April and then again on the 22nd. One very quiet bird arrived at our house on the 15th and luckily another arrived on the 24 April and now we have a pair in the old stable. Sadly the very noisy dominant family who ruled over our house and garden for the last 8 years have not returned.The RSPB have released a single of birdsong in the British charts this week (99p to download) to highlight the loss of 40 millions birds in the last 50 years. So a slow start to the season compared to recent years and yes low numbers but at least we have a few and lets hope the weather will be favorable to them this year. Regards Ella
5 May 2019 – Truro, UK – “hi” .. I live in the middle of a field in Cornwall with a stable block and, in the last five years, have been both delighted and yes, proud, to accommodate some 20 mating pairs of swallows .. however, as of today (05/05/2019) I am disheartened to observe just ONE returning pair .. Q: Does anyone know (quite) what might have (or) has been happening here please(?) Thank you, Inconsolable Chris!!
4 May 2019 – Crymych, Wales, UK – I am concerned about the late arrival and low numbers of the swallows here in Wales.
Last year for the first time we did not have swallows on our property. It is sad indeed not to see them nesting. I too fear that something is affecting their number and migration. Thank you for offering a site for us to register our observations and concerns.
4 May 2019 – Bloxham, Oxfordshire, UK – Very sad that our two pairs of swallows have not arrived this year. I’m beginning to give up hope! For the first time in 20 years we don’t have swallows in our barn and the sky seems very quiet! Our neighbours pair of swallows have arrived on 22nd April. We usually have up to 40 on our roof before they start their migration back in Sept/Oct which is quite a spectacle , but doubt that will be the case this year. Haven’t seen any others along our lane either. Is this because of the cyclone across Africa or the storms across Spain/Portugal? Does anyone know?
3 May 2019 – Stoke on Trent – I only have one pair returned this year, my kennels used to be full of nesting pairs and I have seen very few on my travels in other parts I fear a swallow disaster. can you reassure me.
30 April 2019 – Comber, Co. Down, UK – I have been patiently waiting for our pair of Swallows to arrive at our farm….still waiting. They are very late. There are a few swallows about, but very few compared to previous years. The skies are eerily empty? I have, however just seen a Swift fly over the house, which is very early?? They don’t normally arrive till mid May! the sand martins are busy at the local quarry, so where are my swallows?? Feeling sad. 🙁
29 April 2019 – Pebbles, UK – The Barn Swallows have arrived here in Peebles. I usually monitor two farms close bye and for some reason this year the swallows have not arrived at the other farm a few miles away They probably will soon I have never seen this happen before I will still look out for there arrival?
26 April 2019. Cornwall UK – We still have one pair, and their first egg was laid this morning.
The two cock birds that have been with us for two weeks now, have still not found mates. This is beginning to give us some concern, not only for our birds but for the numbers arriving generally.
We spend a fair amount of time in the garden and keep an eye on the sky, and normally at this time we see the migrating Swallows going by, individually or in small groups every half hour or so, when any single cock birds we have immediately chase any females and noisily try to get one into the garage. But up to now, which is getting a little late, we have seen very few, and our cock birds have had no success so far.
Having read Ella’s entry from Brittany which due South of us, seems to confirm our observations, as our birds would cross Brittany.
I have looked at the recent weather reports for Spain and Portugal through which our Swallows pass, and there has been some very bad weather there. Also recently there has been some exceptional storms in the Sahara Desert, so much so that we have found Sahara dust deposited on our car ! Could this may have affected migration? Also I do wonder if the Mozambique cyclone could have interfered with migration from that area ?
I can understand and share Ella’s sadness when waiting expectantly for their arrival. But then we did some years ago have them arrive late in early May with the House Martins.
I think that they are cleverer than we know, so there is still time for their arrival, and I will let you know when any more arrive.
24 April 2019 –Walmer Bridge in Lancashire, UK – We now have a pair ! The female arrived later the same day as the male. They are now busy renovating the old nest.
Kind Regards, Greg.
22 April 2019 – Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England – Just reporting that a pair from the family that has been nesting in my back porch for a number of years arrived 6.30 am on Monday 22.4.19 (about 9 days late) very pleased to see them. They woke me up chitchatting on the telegraph wires outside my bedroom. I hope a pair arrive to my front porch. There is time yet.
Thanks will keep in touch
22 April 2019 – Cornwall UK – “I’v got a nice new box, now I just need a mate”… ..and with a tail like that he shouldn’t have to wait long !
We now have a pair that have lined a nest with feathers ready for laying, and two cock birds looking for mates, which they have been doing for over a week now. Hopefully their mates will return soon.
We are experiencing some exceptionally warm weather for April, 23°C yesterday, so if mates arrive soon we could look forward to a good season. Will keep you informed.
Kind Regards John.
20 April 2019 – Falkirk Scotland – Barn Swallows sighted at Falkirk Wheel, Forth & Clyde Canal, Falkirk Scotland on Saturday 20th April 2019
20 April 2019 – South Nottinghamshire, UK – Hope all is well with you. Swallows are a bit later in South Nottinghamshire this year. I’ve been waiting patiently!! Yesterday 19th, saw the first one in the village of Willoughby In The Wolds, Notts, and today 20th, at Stanford on Soar just over the border of South Notts and into Leicestershire.
So happy to catch the first glimpses!!
20 April 2019 – Yorkshire UK – Please see photos of our returnee and customary celebration. Also some colleagues left some nice vapor trails which signifies how we feel about
having them back ! Will send more photos when more arrive. We are having a wonderful spell of warm weather here with southerly winds so hopefully more will arrive soon. The Swifts do not arrive until late May normally but I think I am right in saying they fly literally none stop as they can sleep on the wing so to speak.Enjoy your autumn.
19 April 2019 – Wherwell, UK – The female arrived today. I first noticed at around midday today when the Male, in full song, dived into the carport followed by the female. Plenty of excitement and enticement to the nests ensued as always seen when they first re-establish the pair bond at this time. It is settled and warm here currently though possibly cooling again next week so quite how quickly they begin nesting will probably depend on how much it cools down. Our House Martins are now returning too so it is really feeling like Spring at the moment.
Best wishes Tom
19 April 2019 – Yorkshire, UK – First two wanderers have returned and look in good condition. One is obviously an older bird with long tail feathers and notably larger. The other could well be one of last year’s young judging by size, and smaller tail feathers. Both went straight to the barn, and then went and sat on the telephone wires for a good preen and are now inspecting their respective nests .They were not here last night so can only assume they arrived this morning. Anyway it’s good to have at least two back and we await more to arrive hopefully. I am not flying myself until next week, so I can enjoy a glass or two of White Burgundy to welcome them back tonight.
Happy Easter, Cheers
19 April 2019 -NW Brittany. Still no swallows at our house. Hardly a swallow to be seen in my area. I waited until the 16th April as we were promised great weather. On the 16th in the afternoon I went out driving in the countryside and yes some swallows had arrived that day but very low numbers. Today is the 19th We are well into a heat wave, there are flies a plenty and we still do not have any arrivals. In my village we had 10 swallows last year now there are 2. In the local town there were 20 last year, I could only see about 3 yesterday. I remain hopeful but I am very very sad. When they arrived on previous years they make so much noise and fly around us and now its so quiet.
17 April 2019 – Preston, Lancashire, UK – Our first swallow arrived this afternoon. He is now fast asleep in the garage ! This is the earliest ours have arrived. Hopefully his mate will not be far behind. There are a good number of swallows now arriving in our area. With warm weather and good Southerly winds forecast, this ought to hasten more arrivals.
Kind Regards, Greg.
11 April 2019. Cornwall UK – If anybody out there wishes to give the Swallows a helping hand, or is trying to attract them to a new site, or even would like them to move from above your car, my trusty nest box invariably does the trick. They seem to take to it readily as they find it saves them the more difficult task of sticking mud to the side of beams.
See attached photographs. It’s constructed of say 10mm ply screwed together. The base is 150mm square, the sides are more or less as you see plus a perch.
The critical measurement is that it should be fixed with the centre of the base 150mm down from the underside of the roof, no more.
Anybody can make it in an hour or so. By the way, don’t paint it with anything.
Good luck. John.
10 April 2019 – Northern Ireland – Both my husband and I were sitting outside on an early/mid April day, we’re experiencing a lovely spell of weather here in Northwest Ireland, he thought he’d Seen a Swallow earlier on in the day at their usual nesting colony, we both saw a male Swallow chasing after flies ( of which seemingly are plentiful, after the aphid exploration) as always, we broke out the sparkly wine in celebration of our wee swallows triumphant return to their birthplace. I will of course, keep you informed of their progress here throughout our summer, best wishes, God bless, Val and Paul Moran.
8 April 2019 – NW Brittany, Begard – Well despite bitter cold northerly winds, hailstone showers, and temperatures of 2-7°C. I saw the first swallows in my area perched on the telephone lines. What dreadful weather they flew through surprised me. I have seen just a few more in the last day or so. Mine have not arrived yet, the wind is southerly today so perhaps they might turn up soon. Regards Ella
7 April 2019 – Amelia, Va, USA – Don’t know if you can shed any light on this, but I live on the east coast of the USA. I live on a farm and have always had barn swallows which I love. Have had them for at least 35 years. They always come back almost on the exact same day – March 28 – March 31. However, it is now April 7 and I have not seen any. What do you think might have happened. Thank you for any insight you might have. Liz Mills
REPLY: There could be many reasons for this and I will list a few
1) Development along the migration route
2) Weather,this will impact food availability
3)They are just late!
7 April 2019 – Wherwell, UK – Our male arrived back this morning and spent the day in and out of the carport. He went in there to roost quite early this evening and I’ve taken a distant photo as I didn’t want to disturb him. This is a full week earlier than his arrival last year which was April 15th. Great to see him back for what I think is his fourth summer. The female showed up around the same time as him last year so he may be alone for a few days yet.
Best wishes Tom
6 April 2019 – Cornwall, UK – Following the arrival of the cock bird on the 3rd we have had two days with max temps of 4 to 5 degrees C, with rain and sleet on the 4th Ap, The bird leaves us at daybreak, and is not seen all day. Where he goes to find insect food in a temp of 4°C and rain and sleet remains a mystery. He returns at dusk and nestles down into last years nest. I have put a small heater in the garage to hopefully take the chill off the air.
Anyway he has survived, and today Saturday, the temperature has risen to 12°C and he has spent the day in the neighbourhood, occasionally perching and singing on our telephone wire. We now hope that the weather continues to improve and his mate arrives soon to give them a good start to the season.
Best Wishes. John.
We have snow showers forecast for tomorrow, with sunny intervals and a temp max of 8°C ! The temp is forecast to to gradually rise to 12°C by Saturday, so if he and all the other arrivals can feed themselves up to then they should be OK. I do wonder how they find flying insects when it is so cold ? I shall be eagerly waiting his return tomorrow evening and will let you know hopefully that he returns safely.
1 April 2019 – Wherwell, UK – I hope you are well and have had a good summer. I noted from your updates that you had some very hot weather. I am sorry that your swallow season did not last longer and I am sure you are concerned about the reasons behind this; very disappointing for you as I think this is the third year in a row that the season has been short lived?
Our winter was fairly mild overall, save for a cold spell at the end of January and into February when we did have some disruption from the snow. We then had an extraordinary spell of warm weather at the end of February which saw temperatures close to 20°c which was around 14°c above what it should have been! There were some early swallow arrivals recorded at this point-presumably birds that had lingered in Southern Europe and were tempted back early by the warmth.
The weather during March was changeable and at times stormy but the last 10 days have been settled and it has warmed up. The clocks went forward an hour at the weekend and it’s great to have the light evenings returning. Various summer arrivals have been coming in and today I saw my first 3 swallows fly over the house. One was singing so these were probably local birds. It’ll probably be a couple of weeks before our birds return to the nest site (hopefully!) and I’ll let you know when that happens. We are due a cold snap from tomorrow until the weekend which always seems to happen when the first swallows arrive.
All the best
31 March 2019 – Local organization protests demolition of abandoned stables in Hadley USA
23 March 2019 – St Georges de Reintembault, Brittany, France – Hope all is well with you. One male swallow has returned. We spotted him on the 20th March; it was a beautiful day and so lovely to see him. He is still around and we see him every morning sitting on the cable outside our house. He just needs his mate to arrive. It is very early to see swallows; they usually return here about 6th April.
All the best,
23 March 2019 – Hluhluwe, South Africa – We have been working at Bonamanzi Game Reserve for 2 years and been noticing an increased number of barn swallows. It’s not yet anything like I used to see at Mount Moreland or at the Gonubie Nature Reserve outside East London in the Eastern Cape, but there are thousands in the evening.
Shona Anne Lawson
20 March 2019 – Hollister, CA, USA -Barn swallow arrived March 20 around 6.30PM. The nest at my front door was built in 2003. Ever since they have come every year around this time. We love them! Joyce Richman
18 March 2019 – Machida, Tokyo, Japan – 3 Barn Swallows heading NE. 11am 18th March 2019.
11 March 2019 – West Palm Beach, USA – Just back from visiting friends in West Palm Beach, Florida, went out of the house one morning last week to be greeted by a small & noisy flock of swallows making the most of the flies & bugs about the pool, our friends were thrilled as they were the first sighting since their American swallows left to go South for the Winter last Autumn.
5 March 2019 – I live in a village known as Walmer Bridge in Lancashire, UK. – Our house is approx. 200 mtrs from my childhood home where as a small child we had a number of swallows nest in our assortment of cabins and stables. it was my desire when I married and moved to our present home to have swallows nest there too. With this in mind I situated a number of cabins, this was around 30 yrs ago. Not a single pair of swallows has ever looked at nesting in any of the cabins !
However, in July 2015 (which is late in the season) a pair arrived, presumably having been made ‘homeless’ elsewhere. They flitted from the dogs cabin and our very modern sectional garage trying to make up their minds which offered the best building site. they chose the garage ! That first season they raised a brood of four and left in mid
September. We waited anxiously to see if they would return the following year. They did ! Both birds arrived together 1st May 2016.
They had two broods of four, all successfully fledged, leaving at intervals in September. In 2017 both birds again arrived together at 0830, 24th April. Five eggs were laid and the young reared almost to fledging, when we had a terrible spell of cold, wet, windy weather. There were no insects to be had, and all young died in the nest ! I removed the dead young. Soon after, the adults laid again another 5 eggs, all hatched and fledged !
2018 saw the male arrive 19th April, however it was not until 5th May that the hen bird arrived (or maybe this was a new partner the cock had
wooed) All that time he was roosting in the garage and during the day spending much of his time perched on the aerial singing his heart out!!! They laid four eggs, three hatched and fledged. The second brood again saw four eggs and only three hatch to almost fledge, then quite suddenly all three disappeared from the garage. there was sign of distress and disturbance. We think maybe a sparrowhawk had entered the garage and predated the three young. The adults remained with us, leaving separately August / September.
We now await a return within the next few weeks.
I have just been in Limpopo Provence for two weeks and it was enchanting to see swallows around and think that they may be ‘ours’ on the way ‘home’!!!
I shall keep you posted !!
Reply from – Comber, Co. Down, Northern Ireland – I’ve just read Greg Roskell’s post with interest. Greg, I suspect the culprits of your Swallow’s chick predation was more than likely Magpies as opposed to a Sparrow Hawk. My Swallows have lost broods to Magpies….usually just a few days before fledging!! Magpies are cunning and clever, they will wait until the chicks are of optimum size before taking them! However, I am onto them now so they better watch out!
26 February 2019 – Mount Moreland – Temperatures soared to 40°C today, I have never experienced heat like this ever. Angie Wilken
25 February 2019 – Naturalists concerned for early-emerging spring species in UK – This is all to do with our unseasonably warm weather we have at the moment, but as you can see Swallows have arrived in the West Country already. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/22/naturalists-concerned-for-early-emerging-spring-species-in-uk?CMP=share_btn_link
19 February 2019 – Spain – Your baby’s are arriving. As always, since I moved into this house in the mountains of southern Spain, promptly on St Valentine’s Day 14th February, the first swallow arrives. Sometimes he is alone and sometimes a pair arrive. I think I am right is thinking it is a he as he sings non stop for the first hour of arriving. Later I think I never hear that excitement in his voice of the joy in seeing his home is still there.
Over the years we have added little luxuries, like perches between the wooden beams they build their nests on, so they can sit close to their lady when proclaiming their ownership of the area.
For several years now they have had a problem with the nests falling down and this year I have realized why. We have had an increase in the small rivers close by flooding. Now instead of the river bed and the banks being muddy they are mostly sand.
A few of the more intelligent birds who live inside our house, overcome the problem by building their nest on top of some square spot lights we have. Those birds who live outside do not have that facility so this year we have put a number small wooden platforms for them to build on. I am so pleased to say that it has met with approval, because the first 3 swallows to arrive have chosen to sit on the perches closest to the platforms to sing.
Best Wishes Pauline
9 February 2019 – Barn swallow season NOW CLOSED 9 February 2019 – Due to very low numbers and no roosting – Please revisit in November 2019
2 February 2018 – See the bird song on a cold day – forwarded by Hilary Vickers
6 February 2019 – Denmark – Photo Svend Jørgensen
5 January 2019 – Richards Bay, South Africa – I have a home on the Mzingazi Golf Estate. Richards Bay.There seems to be a new arrival of barn swallows nesting in reeds on edge of the weer. Never have we witnessed them before this season.Oh what a sight each evening.I have observed them at Mt Moreland many times.Maybe could this be a new migration site?
1 January 2019