Geddington swallows

A couple of months ago I was at my sisters place in Geddington, a small village in the Northamptonshire countryside which is right next door to one of the original release sites for the reintroduction of red kites into the UK. Consequently, one doesn’t have to look too hard to see red kites there, but on this particular trip it was swallows that were the stars of the show.

Geddington is a very old village and the cottages in the middle, one of which is occupied by my sister, are built from Northamptonshire ironstone, which is a gorgeous building material. Not only is her house built with it but so is her very substantial shed. She leaves the door to the shed open all the time because there are bats roosting there, and in the summer swallows use nests built in the eaves there.


A brood of swallows on the verge of fledging

Swallows (Hirundo rustica, Dansk: landsvale) migrate here from South Africa in the Spring and they generally arrive back around the second weekend in May. They return to the same place every year and often refurbish an old nest which can be used year after year, and there are records of the same nest being used for decades.

I usually get an excited phone call from my sister in the middle of May to tell me her swallows have returned. They come back again and again and she comes over all maternal when the first one arrives.


A pair of very recent fledglings which haven’t yet plucked up the courage to venture outside

They have now done all their breeding and feeding up and are congregating on roof tops and power lines and contemplating the enormous feat of flying down through Europe, across the Mediterranean and the Sahara desert before crossing the rest of sub-Saharan Africa to South Africa. Where they will spend the next 6 months before doing the whole thing again in reverse. Awesome!

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23 responses to “Geddington swallows

  1. Geddington is not far from where I grew up, so I enjoyed the post for its location as well as content. Where we lived firstly in Spain we had an outdoor room, formerly a barn where 6 pairs of Swallows returned to their nests as early as February. They are lively guests – very vocal and boy do they produce a lot of guano! Brilliant birds though.

    • Do you ever get back to north Northants? I like that corner of the country, especially the green fields and the red kites.

      You must have seen lots of young swallows heading back to Africa from your room. What a treat!

      • My sisters still live in Oundle, just a few miles from where we used to live, so I do get back there, although not as often as I;d like to. The area hasn’t changed much, thankfully, but I was amazed the first time I saw Red Kites over their rooftops.

        The Spanish swallows were pretty productive, but interestingly, the number of pairs returning was always 6 – no new nests were added to the ‘colony’.

      • There’s a coincidence, my sister works in a shop in Oundle! Aren’t the red kites awesome? I love it up there, I can sit in the garden and just watch the birdlife for hours.

        That’s interesting about the swallows, I wonder where their youngsters built their nests. I’d imagine they’d head back to the same area they were born in.

  2. Great photos of them! I love swallows and look forward to the ones that visit here in summer. They are very pleasant birds a marvelous to see in flight!

    • Thanks Terry. There are still swallows here but in a week or two they will mostly be on their way. I was watching lots of swallows and house martins this morning scooping up insects over some nearby lakes. I’m making the most of it!

  3. Well done. Will pass this on to family and friends. 🙂

  4. Swallows are utterly incredible – how do they do it? How delightful that your sister has her own little swallow family, and bats to boot!

  5. I used to enjoy watching the swallows darting across the evening park when I was a boy in Germany…I imagine that they were feeding on the flying insects, but it always looked like they were playing.

    • Hello Scott, they’re fattening themselves up for the 6000 mile trip to South Africa. They are currently busy in my locality and because the insects are low the swallows buzz around at head height and often come within just a few feet and at very high speed, they are very entertaining to watch. But within a couple of weeks they’ll all be gone, and I will miss them until they return next May. They are the harbingers of Summer.

  6. It is indeed quite amazing to learn that they return to the same nest, sometimes for decades. Wonder if it shows a well developed memory (or is it something else about the milieu that helps them identify theiur ‘home’).

    Wonderful pictures, as always, Finn.

    • Hello HaLin, they have navigational aids such as the stars that they are programmed to follow but I think it involves some sophisticated memory work too. It’s an incredible feat though, and weather permitting, they seem to arrive on almost the same date every year – how does that work?

  7. Great shot of the two young ones!

  8. Love those two fledglings. They look very thoughtful!

  9. Beautiful! I love reading about life in your part of the world.

  10. Awesome Post!!! 🙂 Take care and God Bless Kenny T

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