Friday, 7 September 2012

All quiet in the stables - the swallows depart

Friday 7th September 2012
The start of another fine day.
After a very slow start, summer has stayed late this year.

The fence I've been constructing to mark the end of the garden.
I love the way it seems to organise the view
and makes a feature of the oldest of the Ash trees.

Every spring I look forward to that day when I open the stable doors and the first swallow swoops out past my ear. From then till the beginning of September there is a constant chattering in the stables, especially as I walk past first thing. But three days ago all went quiet. No longer are families of swallows swooping over the veg patch in the morning or perching on the wires. For, en masse, they have gone, away on their incredible journey back to Africa. And with them has gone the hobby which spent four days harassing them last week. You could always tell when it was around by the crescendo of angry twittering and the posse of adult swallows that went up to bravely confront it.
Despite many sightings each year, I've still to see a hobby actually take a swallow, but there are plenty of dragonflies around on the farm this year to stave off the hunger.

It's not often I recommend a book, as regrettably reading is not a pastime that I've spent much time on over the years, but my favourite author, discovered in my teacher role, is Michael Morpurgo, a prolific writer of children's books which are equally readable by adults.

The reason I mention this? In his book, Dear Olly, three separate stories are cleverly woven into one. One of those stories concerns itself with a swallow's migration from leafy Britain to tropical Africa, told from the swallow's point of view. There's an evil, shadowy hobby which looms over the flock on their journey.
Well worth a read.

The departure of the swallows does leave a certain emptiness in the stables and over the fields, but it paves the way for a new season, an exciting time for me as a birder. It's all change. Apart from the familiar resident birds, all the summer visitors will depart and a whole host of wintering species will appear. Marsh Harriers will be replaced by Hen Harriers, flocks of waders and ducks will wheel about in the air, finches and larks will mass together. And in the change over, a few birds will get lost and some, the rarest vagrants to these shores, will achieve celebrity status attracting hoards of obsessive twitchers to pay homage to them. And I will be there!
Meanwhile, I am just very happy that a Snipe has taken up temporary residence in the dyke at the bottom of my land.

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