September gently nudges us into autumn as we notice the days shorten and a certain chill in the evening air. As we sadly bid farewell to our summer, so do many of our seasonal visitors such as the swallow - the hirondelle of Arun dale.
Successful swallows will have reared two broods during the summer by expertly catching an eclectic mix of wasps, flies, and even sizable bluebottles, and cramming them into the great red gapes of hungry hatchlings.
Just a short month later these young birds are delighting all who care to watch with dazzling aerobic dexterity catching their own insects on the wing. Alas, the summer glut of insects is rapidly dwindling as temperatures fall and so our swallows must depart.
Swallows can be seen swooping and soaring over the Mid-Arun Valley countryside fuelling up for the long journey ahead. Most notable are the noisy neat rows of swallows gathering on telegraph wires before their departure.
British swallows spend their winter in South Africa. They travel through western France, across the Pyrenees, down eastern Spain into Morocco, and across the Sahara. Unlike other passerines that fly by night, resting and feeding by day, swallows are diurnal migrants, effortlessly refueling en route. Migrating swallows cover 200 miles per day, flying at average speeds of 17 – 22 miles per hour. These little birds have nothing but the sun and the earth’s magnetic field to guide them; yet they have evolved to undertake this 6000-mile journey when just a couple of months old.
So this September keep an eye upward; watch out for our departing swallows swooping over the fields and gathering on the wires and wish them well.