Friday, 17 September 2010

Preparing for the long journey

Have you noticed just how busy the skies overhead have been recently with flocks of chattering House Martins and Swallows? The telegraph wires alongside the country roads are also lined with Swallows.

These birds have very long journeys ahead of them and have to take every opportunity to feed before they head off over the coming month.. You may have noticed the distinct lack of Swifts? The Swifts are the last of the familiar four summer visiting species to arrive, and the first to leave. Their fantastic screeching sound as they dive through the air acrobatically above our house and the older properties in the town; especially the church towers, is already being missed, although some may be pleased with the silence!

I was out near Loch Laggan on the road to Spean Bridge last weekend and was amazed to find a pair of Swallows still feeding young in a nest under the roof of a barn at Creag Meaghidh; in the second week of September! I thought a pair of House Martins I spotted feeding young in a nest under the eaves of a house in the Lochloy area two weeks ago were leaving it late! What hope have the young got at this late stage I wonder? They need to fledge and learn their independence whilst fattening up for the adventure ahead of them, all within less than four weeks.

The fourth of these visitors that help make summer such a great time to observe the birds is the Sand Martin. We’ve had a good few breeding on the river bank in town again this year. Have they gone yet?

It’s always sad to see the summer visitors making their farewell for another year. It signals the beginning of the end of summer (for what it’s been worth this year!). But their replacements are fantastic to watch. The winter thrushes (Fieldfare and Redwing) from Scandinavia, the geese from even farther afield, will soon be here. So while we benefit from what just about passes for a (very) limited version of an Indian summer, at least our skies (and fields) will be full of thrushes and geese to keep us guessing at trying to identify them during the darker months!


  1. I Heard a large flock of geese arriving late last night. The northerly airstream is the same flow of air that will take most of the swallows and martins south. I saw a single house martin yesterday, so I think the winter is not far off...and I'm still waiting for Summer !

  2. I know how you feel jayteescot1! I did see more House Martins over the fields by the airport today. But they will be gone soon I fear! You’re the third person to remark on the sound of geese in the air, so I think you are correct about the winter. Look out for the winter thrushes as they follow soon after the geese.