I have always loved the graceful flight of swallows and I am pleased that they are still nesting at the farm, although not in as great a number as they used to. Their favourite site has always been a barn near the pig sties but, with the big door closed most of the time now there are no pigs, I was surprised and delighted to see them fly straight in through a small gap where a board was not quite as long as the rest of the door itself. For a moment I thought there would be a crash!
Their first brood has now flown and spend a lot of time sitting on the electric cables begging for food from their parents who fly around the ponies in the meadow catching flies. The only time they ever land on the ground is when they gather mud from puddles in the yard for their nests. The parents have already made a few repairs to the nest in preparation for the next brood and, if the supply of insects is good enough, they may manage 3 broods before they
/1 return to Africa in the autumn.
A few swifts also fly around the meadow, they are the most incredible flyers spending most of their life on the wing. They eat, drink, and even sleep, on the wing. They nest in gaps in stone work under roofs, entering and leaving by narrow cracks. When we saw some being caught for ringing at Tring Reservoirs a couple of years ago we were amazed at how many had parasites crawling on them. They have their very own kind of wingless fly and each bird seemed to have several. I suppose they must pick them up in the nest and then find it difficult to get rid of them.
Most birds suffer from parasites and many have developed techniques to dispose of them. One of the most common is ‘anting. Back at home, a robin and a blackbird were quick to take advantage of some very angry ants that a green woodpecker had disturbed on the edge of the terrace. The ants scurried around searching for the grubs that the woodpecker had eaten, spraying formic acid at any other intruders. The robin and the blackbird both stretched out their wings to get ‘full under-arm freshness and even had a little peck at the ants, just to increase the spray levels!
I would like to thank everyone for the kindness shown to us during this difficult time