Summer Gift at My Desk

Six years ago I travelled to Patagonia to do some research on the Andean Condor. While I was there I was fortunate enough to also have to observe Caracaras, Eagles, Kites, Vultures – oh and non-raptors like Ruddy Ducks, Grebes and Mallards.

Now the birds come to me in that every year we have a festival of House Martins and Swallows at Hilley Farm with the martins returning to nest in the eaves of my office window. That’s what I call lucky – and it’s a whole load more convenient and cheaper!

I initially thought it was swallows nesting but a little research soon clarified things for me. Swallows tend to nest inside barns and outbuildings while it’s the house martins that build their mud nests under the eaves. All the birds here are busy catching insects on the wing but some pictures I have managed to capture unprofessionally on my ‘phone, show the difference in markings – the house martin has a totally white underbelly while the swallow has a black collar and red throat (you’ll see the swallow on the wire here is a juvenile with a more orange than red marking).

Bird 1Bird 2

I sound like a bit of a mad twitcher which I’m not – but to see these birds daily is a real privilege. They’re noisy / chatty little things too – I’ve not managed to record them so far but they have full-blown debates and family squabbles at regular intervals. They’re quick coming to and from the nest and they do then rest on the nest edge sometimes before entering. Unfortunately, in doing this earlier this week one of the martins became prey to either our resident sparrowhawk or kestrel or falcon. It swooped so quickly and grabbed the martin on the wing I didn’t manage to get more than a glimpse so no chance for a real identification – there’s going to be some happy chicks elsewhere on the farm though.

Martins and swallows are both amber listed so we’ll enjoy them while we can. Here’s a couple more photos of the martins – this time in flight leaving the nest.

Birds in Flight - Martin 1Birds in Flight - Martin 2

Blog post by Deb Cairns

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