Sunday, 17 March 2019


Dear Reader,

Swallows spend the winter in Africa before beginning to arrive on our shores between April and May- bringing the first glimpse of summer.  Migrating swallows can cover some 200 miles a day, flying at average speeds of 17-22 mph.  Britain is 2,500 miles from say Senegal (where they gather in the winter) so with a fair wind they might complete the journey in less than a fortnight. But the question is what welcomes them to our shores?   Tesco supermarket has, apparently, installed netting to stop swallows nesting in the roof of its trolley station where the birds reared their young last year.
There have been several such examples of netting at bird nesting sites elsewhere in the country in recent weeks.

Swallows and other migrating birds who fly here with the arrival of warmer weather are in steep decline.  Habitat loss, climate change and the decline of the insects upon which they rely are wreaking havoc.   The swallows come all this way, take this long and perilous journey to arrive with us, hoping for a welcome, and what do they get?  Lets hope Tesco's is the only supermarket to install
nets to stop swallows nesting.


A few things you might not know about swallows.  In the past it was believed that harming swallows would bring bad luck.  And in the north of England, up until the 1960s they believed that killing a swallow would lead to cows producing bloody milk or no milk at all.

Male swallows have a dark side as they go to extreme efforts to ensure that their genes are passed on to the next generation.  Males without a mate will often visit the nest of other swallows to associate themselves with a female already paired.  However, the majority of the time the only way a female will accept a new mate is if their current mate dies or if the nest fails, thereby 'divorcing' the established pair.  



Rich in England's spring
cowparsley entrancing
in dog-rose hedge,
the fecund earth lush green,
a baby swallow
hatches in a Suffolk barn,
to the cries of gulls
flying over mudflats,
over sea-lavender.

This small bird grows
embracing our summer warmth,
swooping on insects caught
above rolling grasslands.
It dips and tumbles gracefully,

But what instinct tells of winter's cold?
This bird, hand-sized, will
fly over icy Pyrenees,
thirst through the parched Sahara,
soar and glide on trade winds,
south to the Cape of Africa
drawn, inexplicably, to the heat
of the southern sun.

In early spring does
this swallow's courageous heart
grow restless, homesick for
a Suffolk barn?
Is it a miracle that some force
of nature returns this minute bird
to its birth-nest by the English sea?
Who knows, but it seems so to me.


With very best wishes, Patricia

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of your most wonderful poems and a timely reminder that we all need to work to protect these marvellous birds, along with their cousins, the swifts and the Martin's. Life for all migrating birds is becoming increasingly hazardous. A sad fact when these creatures give us so much joy. With love, Mxx