We were greeted by the excited piping of swallows, this morning;
the air was filled with wheeling, whirling wings as a cloud of darting shapes performed a graceful display of high-speed aerobatics. Anxiously, I hurried down to the stables in the Long Barn & peered up through the halflight at the neat mud nest which has served as home to the little family of swallows throughout the last few weeks….
Having carefully & unobtrusively observed the nest since the two parent birds took up residence a few weeks ago, we have witnessed a chain of miraculous events of which others are occurring simultaneously in barns & lofts throughout the UK. Initially, there was the brooding of the eggs; then the first, feeble squeaking as the eggs hatched & tiny halves of delicate, pale speckled shell dropped to the ground below. Next came the appearance of the fluffy little dome of the first scrawny head, level with the top of the nest; then only a couple of days later, the solemn row of four faces, enormous yellow beaks making them look like a group of sad circus clowns. I’ve painstakingly guarded the nest against the ravages of a pair of ruthlessly greedy magpies, who have made frequent attempts to kill the chicks – I’m glad to say, all four have survived. Over the last week they’ve really feathered up & have been literally crowding each other out of the nest; until today, the moment had finally arrived for them to stretch their little wings for the very first time. What a heart-stopping moment that must have been for them! With the parents clarioning their encouragement, the budding aviators took to the air, flapping frantically & pausing for frequent rests while the parents soared & swung through the sunny sky overhead in supreme demonstration of ‘how to do it’. One little chap clung desperately to a hawthorn bush a few yards from the barn, his white underbelly starkly highlighted against the brilliant red & green of leaves & berries, nervously piping a reedy call for support from Mum & Dad. He looked like a little underbutler, in his black-&-white uniform; the chestnut bibs are only just starting to develop their rich brown hue. How privileged we feel, to have witnessed this wonderful event.
So the nest is now empty….& I dare say, with the increasing chill in the air & the shortening of the daylight hours, the skies above our heads will fall silent as our guests take off on their incredible journey to Africa until they return again next Summer. The Ffarm will certainly suffer a longer, lonelier Winter without our cheery little friends to brighten the day with their joyous voices.