Saturday, 2 August 2014

Summer visitors

They would arrive round about Easter each year.  Possibly, even probably, the same ones that we had seen the previous year, and they possibly used the same nests, even if they did need a bit of sprucing up.  If Easter was early, we knew that we had no chance of seeing them during our visit to my cousin on the farm.  In years when Easter was late, they were probably well settled.  But most years we simply kept an eye open for them to arrive.  The first person to see one would come into the house and announce, quite casually, "The house martins are back".

Their nests were under the eaves at the back of the house and, despite the mess they made on the windows and window sills, they were always welcome.  usually the first sighting would be of just one or two.  Then they would disappear for two or three days, returning in greater numbers to work on renovating the accommodation.  It was almost as though outriders were sent on ahead of the main party to check that all was well.  Only when the all clear had been sounded would the main party arrive.  It was always a delight to watch them swooping through the air and up into a nest.  Occasionally we would spot the head of a chick watching out for a parent to bring more tasty morsels.

Then about three years ago the local sparrows took exception to the martins and drove them off before they could lay their eggs.  They have not nested at the farm since.

Another summer visitor that always delights me is the swift.  the Old Bat and I love to sit in the main square in Chateaubriant over our evening meal and watch these graceful birds as they sweep and scream around the church tower in flocks of several dozen.  I seldom see swifts, swallows or house martins around Brighton; it seems that the Downs - and the city itself - are inhospitable as far as these migrants are concerned.  But one afternoon this week I deviated from my regular walk across 39 Acres and up to the Roman Camp.  Instead, I went on to the dew pond at the top of the Wild Park - and there, swooping around and over the pond, was a pair of swifts.  It was a special treat to stand and watch them for a few minutes.

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