Nature Notes with Tony Drakeford: Swallow tale
Last week, I was pleased to see that the first brood of Kingston swallows had fledged successfully and were flying with their parents above the Thames.
Plumage of the young birds is much duller than that of the adults and they lack the diagnostic long 'swallowtail' streamers so that they somewhat resemble dumpy house martins (see photo).
A fierce wind was as usual blowing upstream,the same wind that carried sand from the Sahara and coated our cars with a fine deposit. That misplaced jetstream has much to answer for this summer!
Despite the near gale, the swallows manoeuvered seemingly effortlessly and even managed to feed their young on the wing, a most delicate operation and a delight to watch.
Like swifts, swallows have had a pretty lean time of it here with insects scarce. Their main prey consists of mayflies which from my observations have been less plentiful this year.
Skimming the surface of the river the birds scoop up larger prey items than house martins which fly above them,while swifts fly higher still feeding on small flies and spiderlings drifting on their silken lifelines.
This way, the three species do not compete with each other for the same food.
Since I began studying the Kingston swallows fifteen seasons ago there have always been at least three nests in the colony. This summer however there appears to be only one pair nesting.
It would be most unfortunate and indeed very sad if the Kingston swallows do not make it back again next summer.