15 August Barn Swallows in 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. Barn Swallow ringing 2014 FinlandThe 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.

Regards Risto

21 July Barn Swallows in Finland: All Barn Swallow first broods have happily fledged and second broods are being started. Finland Barn Swallow chicks 2014 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.
Regards Risto

26 Sept 2013 Finland: After the long and warm summer autumn has arrived.  It happened very fast; still a week ago we had 17 deg C but today only 4 deg and during snowfall only 1 deg!  Yes, snowfall which was whipped down with strong northerly wind.  The snow was wet so luckily it did not last on the ground but disappeared immediately.  A strong low pressure is southeast of Finland and a high pressure west of Finland and between them very cold air from the North Pole is pouring over the country.  Luckily, the swallows have left… So far no night frost.  These temperatures are way below normal and they are expected to rise a bit in coming days.  We have now “the fifth season” as is referred to this fireworks of nature when trees turn yellow, red and orange before letting their leaves fall in the ground to be ready for winter.  The last of our Kestrels left a week ago.  I attached a picture taken from our balcony towards the home lake, showing autumn colours. Regards Risto

Finland Barn Swallow nesting grounds

Barn Swallows in Finland | Aug 2013 Finland: I´m a Finnish journalist, author and nature photographer working on a narrative book telling a story of four Finnish migratory bird. According to an old and still popular Finnish proverb skylark, chaffinch, white wagtail and barn swallow (in this order) bring the summer to the North.

This time the same birds will be setting out in opposite order – barn swallows first. In few months time many of the Finnish swallows will most probably appear to Mount Moreland.
I have traveled after the migrating and wintering Finnish birds so far in Egypt, Malta, Italy, Estonia and Lithuania for my book. In coming September I´ll visit Poland in order to shoot great flocks of migrating chaffinches.
And, as you may guess, I´m intending to do a journey to South Africa in November/December this year to see, feel and shoot the awesome spectacle in Mt. Moreland. But in addition to that I would like to follow the swallows from sunrise through a day wherever they fly to feed. And naturally I´m seeking a possibility to shoot an “exotic” photo of an African mammal with swallows in the same scene. Might this be possible for example in some game reserve, nature reserve, national park or some other location?
You have done important and respectable work for protection of the barn swallows there. The importance of international protection of migratory birds will be underlined in the book. This concerns for example Malta where barn swallows and many other migrating birds are shot dead just for fun.
With best regards Lasse Kylänpää

Finland: I recently promised you more exact information about our swallow numbers.  Unfortunately, it is no use doing that because the old squirrel problem returned. Although with all my efforts combined, I managed to solve the problem, the squirrels robbed most of the first brood nests. Since there are still lots of swallows present I am now hoping that those pairs that lost their eggs or chicks to the squirrels will re-nest. There ought to be enough time for that.

 
But there was a major surprise looming in one Barn Swallow nest when we wereBarn Swallow cross House Martin ringing swallows yesterday. One of those four chicks was a cross-breed between the Barn Swallow and House Martin! They are very rare and the first such chick found at our farm.  Since the chick was in a Barn Swallow nest a House Martin was the father. The situation can also be the other way round. 

As the picture I enclosed shows, the most visible characteristic is the House Martin’s white lower back which is black with steely blue shine on the Barn Swallow. Another characteristic is the dark chest belt which the House Martin lacks.
 Regards Risto.

Barn Swallow – First Brood Chicks By Risto Jäntti 
Almost all the first barn swallow brood chicks are on the wing; just one nest is still having chicks and I think in a week they will be off the nest.  Then there are a couple of strange nests which are too late to be traditional first-brood nests and too early to be usual second-brood nests.  I have thought a lot about it and I think I have now found a possible explanation: they could be technically second-brood nests after the first brood has for some reason failed for instance due to predators, heat or falling down of the nest.  Maybe it could be called a “repeated nesting”, “compensation nesting” or something?  I think that is what happened at my aunt´s farm this summer: she was so sad because there was no sign of swallows there but then out of the blue a swallow pair appeared towards the end of June and started nesting.  Her summer was saved.  It seems in this case the swallow pair must have left the original nesting site and moved to another during the nesting season. 

So far I have noticed 5 possible second-brood nests, but that figure is just an estimation, because swallows may seem to be bustling around a certain nest although in reality they are not really nesting.  Anyway, I am expecting many pairs to nest twice.  An interesting thing is that at least two pairs have made a new nest for the second brood, that is not common, because there are so many old nests available that there are nesting seasons that all pairs use them and not a single new nest is made. 

Barn Swallow Chicks Finland

Barn Swallows in Finland | The Swallows Barn

At last I am able to send you a picture of the barn, a general view of the landscape.  It was taken from the north, over the bio-energy field.  A glimpse of the house can be seen on the left.  The lake behind the buildings cannot be seen in the picture, because it is situated so much lower.  Another possible direction for the picture would have been from the lake, but my foot is not yet strong enough for handling the boat, and using the canoe would have been difficult because of the big waves due to strong winds recently.  Hopefully the picture was worth waiting.
 
I am already used to being without swallows. I saw the last Barn Swallows 13 days ago, 5 to 6 migrating birds in the evening.  At first it felt very sad and I am still missing them.  The barn and the yard that were full of swallows and their calls and twitter, are now empty and silent.  At times there are, of course, other birds instead, but swallows delighted us with their presence all the time.  And swallows are something special.  On the other hand I am glad that the swallows will soon be in the warmth of South Africa and will, in turn, delight you.
 
Pictures from a swallow perspective: I took pictures of an aerial photoBarn where the Swallows nest hanging on the wall.  I think the result is surprisingly good, well, at least if you do not enlarge the pictures too much.  In the pictures you can see almost the whole yard as the swallows see it.  In order to eliminate the flash reflection I had to take the pictures not straight ahead but from the side.  Another thing is that the picture was taken some 20 years ago and some things have changed since that.  For instance that big dirt heap between the cow house and the house no more exists (it was dug out from under the cow house floor when making major rearrangements in there: cows out, bulls in).  As you have seen from newer pictures the house is nowadays light yellow instead of brown and there are less trees around the house, which is good both for the people (more sunshine) and the swallows (more room to fly around).   What we call “the barn” is also no separate building but the highest yellow part of the cow house used for storing different things. 
 
The cow house was built in 1963 and it took some years before the first swallows appeared.  In the first years there were only a couple of pairs nesting but then their amount was little by little growing.  Now it seems that after the livestock was off, the amount of nesting swallows has diminished by a couple of pairs, but that does not necessarily have any effect on the amount of active nests.  It is more essential how many second-brood nests there are. 
 
When we still had livestock, we used to store in the barn hay, grain for livestock, straw, farm implements and firewood.  Now as the cowhouse has soon been empty for 4 years, we no more need to store anything for livestock, and the swallows are the masters of the barn.
 
The weather has cooled down, the daytime temperatures have been below 10 deg and at night some degrees below zero.  Night-frost is usual at this time of the year.  This is the time for harvesting the garden and starting to clean tree leaves off the lawns.  That is a big job and I have got two yards to clean, the farm and the summer cottage.  Luckily, I no more have to do it much by hand, using a rake, but I just attach a leaf-collecting device to the lawnmower, sit down on the seat and “let it burn” as we say in Finland.  What is left I will finish by an air-blowing machine (I do not know how it is called in English).  The leaves will then be mixed with the soil of the garden to make it more fertile.
Regards Risto 
Barn Swallows in Finland
Barn Swallows in Finland
White Tailed Barn Swallow

By Risto Jäntti

So far I have been able to confirm 7 barn swallow nests, but there are still several swallow pairs whose nests I haven´t noticed yet.  Only one pair have made a new nest, others use old ones, rich in amount. 

Yesterday, when I was on the balcony watching swallows eat sand on the ground under the balcony, I saw THE white-tailed barn swallow flying past me below the balcony.  That bird must be the same white-tailed swallow that astonished us last summer; another same kind of swallow would be too much of a coincidence, would it?
Hopefully we will be able to recapture the bird later this year and then we will know for sure.  We have recaptured the swallow several times and only this and last year it has had white feathers in the tail, before it had a normal tail.  Very interesting!
 Regards Risto

Barn Swallows in Finland | Yesterday, September 15, in the afternoon I saw still 5 migrating Barn Swallows flying over our yard and heading  south.  That happened between strong showers, when the sun shined for a short moment. Is it not amazing that at the same time as the first Barn Swallows have already reached South Africa, the last ones are still here in Middle Finland on their journey south!

Risto Cat Pepper

Christmas wishes from Finland:

With this unconventional Christmas Greeting I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  All six Kestrel chicks at their nesting box in the picture are also joining the greeting.
Regards Risto
Risto Kestrels