Nature notes for April

Nature notes for April

By Tony Drakeford

Image credit: Tony Drakeford

‘There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover tomorrow just you wait and see.’ So runs the old Dame Vera Lynn song, but those bluebirds, our swallows, will not complete their perilous six thousand mile flight from South Africa that takes six weeks to complete until the first week in April. Males arrive first sporting fresh colourful plumage, reminding me of an airborne union jack, and they will re-establish last year’s nest sites or search for new ones. Females arrive about a week later and search for males with the longest tail streamers, an indication that they are fit and well. In a good summer up to three broods may be raised but two are more normal. In each nest there could be progeny of more than one father as the cheeky lads are prone to be somewhat unfaithful!

I have watched swallows nesting along the Thames at Kingston for thirty years. The birds build nests perched on beams underneath Turks boat pier and nests are placed only about a metre above the water. Although the river is not tidal at that point heavy rain can raise the water level. When the nestlings fledge they have to drop out and immediately fly upwards to avoid the metre drop into the Thames but a brood of three or four chicks seem to survive hopefully unscathed.

Learn more about swallows here