Thursday, 23 September 2021
SWALLOWS (hirundo rustica) feast on the insects that rise from the ground as I pass though fragrant grassland near Chalkhouse Green.
These deft little birds skim around your ankles without any apparent fear.
They are beautiful little summer visitors that travel here from sub-Saharan Africa to breed.
After raising their young, they fly back home at the end of August to return, hopefully, the next year. Like many other migrant birds, swallows choose to come here because our summer daylight is much longer, meaning more insects are available for them to feed their young.
My sister keeps two horses near Henley and every year these delightful birds arrive and nest alongside their equine friends in the stables to the joy and wonder of us all. If anything can make you happy, you cannot beat the summer swallow invasion.
One of my other favourite birds is the skylark (alauda arvensis), which thankfully seems to be increasing in number in our part of the world.
They nest on the ground and will drop like a stone from the sky and then run on to their hidden nest hoping not to be seen.
They are often difficult to spot when they are singing high above but what a splendid, distinctive, beautiful and charming tune to hear. In our woodlands, parks, gardens, copses and scrublands, you can still hear blackcaps, whitethroats, chiffchaffs and garden warblers.
But as their breeding season comes to an end these visiting songsters will, sadly, become silent until they hopefully make the return journey next year.
Meanwhile, it is wonderful to watch the wheeling flight of a swift as it screeches through the sky as if defying all laws of nature.
Such things make me glad to be alive.
25 June 2018
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