A gentle caress of a late spring breeze gently unfurls the drapery of the St George’s flag as it hangs limp atop the tower of the greying, weather-worn stone church. In contrast the v-tailed bird cuts through the dusking sky as a lightning bolt in a summer storm. Descending at break-neck speed from high above the tower it rips through the air; blisteringly fast it passes the church porch, managing to spin into a lower circle between trees and graves until, with a barely discernible ‘flick’ and precision timing the swallow launches itself through the porch opening, hitting the ‘air-brakes’ as hard as possible it presents itself in front of it’s screeching brood in a well balanced nest in the apex of the porch roof. Gaping mouths begging for food from parents as they spin through the sun-setting sky collecting insects of many sizes and types. The parent bird delivers into the yellow lined beaks; moths and late flying insects make up tonight’s meal. With a spin and a drop the swallow is back outside and climbing into the twilit sky.
The first swallows of the season were seen in a nearby village about a month ago on the third of May as they scudded their way over the white-flowered blackthorn and fresh hawthorn hedges that surround the site of the old Norman castle grounds. Swallows returning from their pilgrimage, in the African continent, are now back home in their summer haunts. Mating, egg-laying and fledging are on the agenda now as a new generation needs to succeed it’s predecessors. Their relatives, swifts and house martins, are also in the area now; screaming swifts high on the wing, mere specks in the sky and the mud nests of ‘martins’ bonded to walls under the eaves of village houses.
The Anglo-Saxons knew of and recorded the swallow. This seems applicable as even though the church is of Norman construction the village itself is known from Saxon times. How many generations of these beautiful birds have made their homes here?
The parent birds continue to feed their ever-hungry young, slicing through the graveyard air with mouthfuls of insects; pinpointing their way through the church porch at immense speed, feeding the offspring and away back out on the wing, to repeat the process. This drama of early summer surely brings a smile to the face of any nature lover as they pass the church on a warm spring evening.
Blog by Mark @pipistrelleart