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26 August 2018
This is a case of “build it and they will come”. 
 

This is a case of “build it and they will come”. We have house martins nesting every year and I finally attached a swift box this month, hopeful of some new guests next Spring, but I have been hoping for swallows for 4 years. We put up a small field stable in 2016 and in April a male swallow started roosting in there and I was, to say the least hopeful – good start. He was often around but it appeared he could not find a mate and I would often shine a torch into the stable at night to see his solitary roost. Then in late June he was there but with 4 recently fledged young. I finally worked out that he had indeed nested, but in next door’s stable, preferring to roost on his own in our stable. Next year in 2017, the same thing happened after he arrived on April 7th. He would often sit on our roof with that glorious liquid swallow song that challenges Spring to break – with a gurgle crescendo , whine then a chirp chirp……


 

He came back again in 2018 a bit later on April 18th on his same perch. Surely it had to be the same bird, we can never know for sure but swallows are not exactly abundant here and the stable is not that obvious. As each year before he found a mate and they started building a nest next door and each night he would return to roost in the same place in our stable. Then tragedy struck next door and the nest collapsed. That was the trigger! The two moved into our open bay barn which I deliberately built with swallows in mind. Of course they did not use the batons I had strategically placed in the rafters to give them a foundation to start their mud nests but found a safe place where the gable meets the rafters. It was very dry but luckily the River Kennet has some mud left which may have provided them the raw materials. How do I know this was the same pair? Well I actually saw a male swallow ( they have longer tail streamers ) fly from the open barn to the stable and more crucially each night he was in the stable and the female was on her nest alone.
 On the morning of August 20th I looked in at the barn and there was a youngster out of the nest perched on an open beam and he flew out. Worried I had disturbed him before he was ready to fly I followed his erratic flight down the garden and almost immediately the male flew towards him with his energetic sounds, staying close to his slide to an extent I can only deduce he was there to guide and protect. The youngster was going round and round in short jerky movements, with his tell-tale shorter tail feathers distinguishing him from his father. I need not have worried, that night he was roosting with his father in the stable while the mother was roosting next to the nest with the remaining 3 youngsters. They really do look after their young and prepare them as best they can for their long journey to South Africa. Today 6 days later all six of them fly around the garden, with the young getting stronger everyday and their flight more graceful like their parents. About once every hour they fly back into the barn, maybe to rest and the parents continue feeding them. But every night all four chicks are now in the barn plus their mother and the father well he is back on his own in the stable.
 

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