I mentioned in last weeks column that I had several garden birds nesting in my garden for their second brood and as a result, one reader asked me to raise awareness of the ‘plight of the swallows’. Indeed, research has shown that swallows returned to their breeding areas in poor condition and are laying fewer eggs, all adding to the widespread decline in recorded swallow numbers across Europe during the last 50 years.
Swallows require rain for the ‘muddy-mud’ they use for nest building and for encouraging a good supply of insect food. The earlier hot, dry weather made nest building difficult for them and now cold periods and heavy rain will reduce the numbers of flying insects needed to build up the chicks as they leave the nests.
And if that’s not enough to push them to the ‘fledge’, recent studies also show that swallows are particularly susceptible to ‘divorce’–along with swifts and plovers.
Whilst 90% of our feathered friends have a single mate for at least one breeding season, apparently long-distance migrations and other stresses can cause them to break this pattern and push them toward new partners.
Swallows like to return to established nesting sites in barns and outhouses and many of these buildings have been renovated and 'repurposed’ for human use–outdoor offices and Air B&B, for example.
But the good news is that you can become a ‘swallow-supporter’ by installing bespoke swallow nest cups as recommended by the RSPB. At just £16.99 you could make such a difference to a swallow family (or two). They are available from the online shop on the RSPB website – along with ‘bespoke housing’ for house martins and swifts.
Whilst it is too late to help out for this season, these solution- based gifts are absolute favourites of mine to give as presents. And now there’s loads of time to buy, gift and install these bespoke ‘bird boxes’ before next year’s breeding season.