The swallows have arrived


Swallow egg fragments, 2014

Swallow egg fragments, 2014

n Sunday, my wife saw a single swallow (hirundo rustica) fly out of our stable. I got excited! Since then, two swallows have taken up residence in the stable. The nest is neatly tucked in between the light fixture and the ridge of the roof. I have been waiting for swallows to return to this nest since October last year. They have been nesting here for the three years we have lived here, and probably longer.

There is something about swallows which give me a feeling of joy/freedom/being alive. The way that they fly is impressive and graceful. They dive, dodge, zip, glide and soar just above ground level. They are the agile fighter jets of the bird world, whilst swans are the jumbo jets: slow and cumbersome. They are able to turn 180 degrees in the space of a few feet, before changing direction again. My eye can follow many birds on their relatively predicable flightpaths, which are often straight lines. I struggle to follow the flights of swallows. I was going to try to get a photo for this article, but my lack of photographic skill mixed with their flying speeds meant that I couldn't!

I wonder if another reason for my love of swallows comes from experiencing some sort of contact with them. When I work outside they come within a few yards or even feet of me. They call and chatter to each other to warn of a large mammal near their nest. Yet, they do not appear directly frightened of me. Simply aware of my presence and the possible danger I could pose to their brood. They are aware of me, and I of them. We have, therefore, made contact with each other. There is a deep power in contact with non-human animals. It actually feels less ephemeral than human contact can be at times.

Last year I happened to be outside when the swallow chicks took their first flight. Late summer. A clear blue sky. Seven or eight swallows flying between the stable and the house, chattering and calling to each other. I anthropomorphise, and imagine the parents encouraging the fledglings in their flight. The cat comes out of the house and is immediately dive-bombed by a parent, and she scampers back inside. Gliding, swooping, turning and diving. The fledglings enjoying the freedom. As each day passes, they fly further and further afield, until one day in October they are gone.