The fifth of May is in my memory from schooldays when the first swifts arrive back from their African migration, usually picked up first from their whistling calls, then seen in their wheeling flight arcing round the Abbey and ham stone buildings round The Courts.
It was a reliable date, always around the fifth of May. Swifts are more a town bird than a country bird in that their nest sites are found in the crevices of buildings. Their hardly credible feats of endurance on the wing, eating, sleeping and travelling without any need of landing other than to breed, are a wonder of nature.
Our swallows have been back for a week or so, but not in the numbers we would like. A problem they face is that non-migratory birds, in our case the many jackdaws and sparrows, have already set up nests in the areas the swallows are seeking. Although their nesting sites may differ, the ‘air traffic control’ problems can easily put the late comers off to seek nesting sites elsewhere.
The best news this morning is that the house martins are back, visiting and trying out for size last year’s nests. 2016 was the first time they have used the artificial nests we attached under the eaves – sparrows having caused problems with the house martin constructed mud nests. We have doubled the number of artificial nests – only from two to four, but a few hours up and down the ladder and drilling into stone walls to fix the nests, was a difficult task.
POSTSCRIPT. My daughter reports she saw swifts in Taunton this morning; right on cue.