The amazing migrating adventure
With mouths bigger than their bellies, I watch in amazement at the young swallows being fed by their mum in the corner of our shed. Can you believe they are fed up to 400 times a day! I can’t help but wonder at the amazing migrating adventures to Africa they have before them. Of course, they will need a lot of fattening up before then. So keep those beaks open and eat up all your food, I tell them firmly!
Occasionally a swallow nest may fall and this has happened at our home for waifs & strays from time to time. The simple solution is to fix a shallow margarine or similar tub at the old nest site as a substitute. Place the remains of the old nest or some hay inside, and replace the nestlings. The parents will hear the young calling and should continue to feed them. In the rare instance when parent’s desert or it is not possible to provide a substitute nest, the young will depend on human help for their survival.
When the time is right, these incredible creatures will travel across the sea to western France and over the magnificent Pyrenees mountains (a high rugged barrier between Spain and France) before soaring over the Sahara desert to their winter home. However, some birds choose to avoid the Sahara and follow the west coast of Africa instead.
With storms, starvation and exhaustion causing hazardous times, it is no wonder that many of these adventurers don’t make it to their destination. But it isn’t through lack of trying. They all deserve a medal for flying an average of 200 miles a day at low altitude and roughly 35 miles per hour. They while away the time by plucking insects from the air as they go. This whole journey takes around six weeks. Those that make it will stay in Africa until April or May before returning to the UK.
The male swallow will usually arrive back first and will sing loudly over his territory in the hope of attracting a partner. And when this is achieved, the whole process will repeat itself yet again and I will be ready to great them.
Swallows and their nests are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird. It is an offence to intentionally take, damage or destroy the eggs, young or nest of a swallow whilst it is being built or in use.