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A Swallow question

We have had several swallows nesting in various places around us, including the two front porches over the past 15 years or so. They arrive very early in April (it was the 11th this year, so a bit later than usual) and spend several weeks before deciding to nest. They often re-use nests from previous years, though some years they have 'ignored' the nests completely. This year they re-used an old nest in the front porch ... after clearing the moss which a wren had added when using it earlier; but they didn't start nesting until late June/early July.
Why do they leave it so late after their return, to start nesting?
Last Tuesday we found a swallow egg which had been 'placed' on an alchemilla leaf just outside the other porch. We wondered how it had got there; then we noticed that the swallows were re-using the nest in that porch! They must have cleaned out the old nest, which hasn't been used for years. They have so little time left to hatch and rear another brood ... again, WHY do they leave it so late? The poor little fledglings will surely not be strong enough for the long flight back to Africa!
This is the first time for a few years that either of these nests have been used. There are also several nests in the stable which seem to have been abandoned for a couple of years.
Does anyone else experience this with swallows?


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 87,819
    edited August 2022
    Have a listen to some of the old podcasts on here 

    Chris Skinner knows more about the nesting behaviour of swallows than almost anyone. 

    5 Sept 21 Swallows and Ashes is one featuring swallows, but he talks about them most weeks. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • It sounds like it would be really interesting 😃 ... but we don't have a television. 🤷🏼‍♀️

  • FireFire Posts: 18,927
    Swifts have much the same pattern.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 87,819
    edited August 2022
    It sounds like it would be really interesting 😃 ... but we don't have a television. 🤷🏼‍♀️

    It’s radio … on BBC Sounds .., or via the Radio Norfolk website. 
    And you don’t need a tv licence to listen to BBC Sounds. 

    You can listen on your computer or phone … click on this link 

    turn your sound on and choose an episode. 

    It’s about High Ash Farm which is very close to here

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Thanks for your help @Dovefromabove ... but to listen, you have to have a BBC account.
  • FireFire Posts: 18,927
    easy enough to register....
  • CatDouchCatDouch Posts: 475
    Hi @ShepherdsBarn the behaviour of your swallows does sound unusual.  My swallows normally arrive back around 18th April, the female seems to arrive a few days later and they reuse their old nest.  This year they had laid their first clutch of eggs by the end of April and 2 broods have fledged all ready.  The first year we lived here we took down some netting that the previous owners had put up as a swallow deterrent and the swallows arrived later, had to build a nest from scratch and only reared one brood.  I wonder if you’re attracting new swallows who take longer to establish a bond, and take a while to choose a nest?  I belong to a few forums for other Swallow enthusiasts (on Facebook) and the behaviour of your swallows seems much more common for young swallows who don’t have an established territory.  Swallows are absolutely fascinating aren’t they, we’re so lucky to have them.
    South Devon 
  • LunarSeaLunarSea Posts: 1,857
    You may find this article interesting:

    Swallows overwintering in Britain rather than migrating back to Africa | Discover Wildlife

    For normal migration this spring was a bit strange. Much of Spain & Portugal had an unusually prolonged period of bad weather that acted as a blocker for a while resulting in late arrivals to our shores and possibly quite a few fatalities / missing partners etc.
    Clay soil - Cheshire/Derbyshire border

    I play with plants and soil and sometimes it's successful

  • ShepherdsBarnShepherdsBarn Posts: 401
    edited August 2022
    Yes, we love the swallows too @CDouch ... it's always a joy when the first swallow arrives back. We have always had swallows in the stable until a couple of years ago. One evening there were three swallow nestlings all sat on a ledge near the nest, presumably awaiting the return of the parent birds. In the morning they were all dead, in the straw. We have always assumed that the parents had died and the young had got too cold, being out of the nest. 🤷🏼‍♀️ There have been no swallows in the stable since. 
    Last year there were very few swallows around and none nested on our property. It was sad to see so few swallows getting ready to fly off in the autumn. This year there are loads of swallows in the neighbourhood. 😃 We always feel very 'honoured' when they nest in the porch ... despite the unholy mess they make of it! 🤦🏼‍♀️ 
    I think you could well be right about the swallows being new. We do have 2 cats who have shown interest in them, but they get shouted at so much if they dare to go near the porch that they have given up, it seems! 😅 When the cats are about and the swallows want to return to the porch the birds make such a lot of noise, we rush out to get the cats in or out of the way; we are always watching out for them. Yes, you're so right, we are very lucky to have them.
  • That's really interesting @LunarSea ... thank you. I've never heard of swallows overwintering here! 
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