Monday, 24 August 2015

Swifts and Swallows Scarce?

Swallow feeding fledged young (c. J. Fox)

Every year we end up discussing the summer migrants and how they are faring, a bit like discussing the weather, its a kind of Irish thing.

We tend to advise caution on subjective assessments based on just the personal experience of a few folk.  However, Swift watchers are reporting less birds from known haunts,and they are noway near as widespread as Swallows. They have of course departed for Africa at this stage, on of the first to leave our inky skies for the African winter.  Seeing and hearing them in numbers in say the old perched villages of the south of France, I always feel that our migrant Swifts draw a short straw or something, heading into such an uncertain season that is the Irish summer.

Swallows are still here, beginning to gather on wires, I wouldn't expect any solid migration movements until mid September and onwards, so this is a good time to take stock:   I reckon the late brood is all important for a good return on the breeding season: it was a pretty mixed/poor summer, weather wise. 

 Quite a few people e mailed us to air their suspicions about a lack of numbers around farmyards and buildings.  However, recent Atlas results reveal they occur in 98% of survey squares, certainly one of the most widespread breeding birds we have.

2 Young await a nourishing feed (c.J Fox)

I would be happy to get local opinion, news of Swallows in your area, 2015, and now is the time to check around telegraph wires and sheds!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Oran, - I too am always interested in the numbers of hirundines and Swifts that turn up here every summer and wonder how they're doing. Of course my observations are just anecdotal and do not tell us much about the actual situation. But for what it's worth, I thought Swift numbers were down yet again this year and I fear for the future of this bird. Even if we do everything possible to provide nest sites for them, it still may not offset the losses they are likely to be experiencing on their African wintering grounds, where the tropical forests are being reduced slowly but surely, removing the massive flyfest that Swifts rely on, especially as they fatten up for their epic return journey to Ireland. Those in Congo and Liberia are the most essential for Swift.

    I believe Swallows are still doing well in Ireland, it is still one of our most abundant summer migrants and one of the most welcome. I don't know how House Martins are faring, it would probably need a dedicated survey to determine their current status; I know they are very worried about declining numbers in the UK, but it is possible Ireland is benefiting from Britain's loss, as it were, through displacement of the population,most likely a range shift prompted by climate change.

    Likewise, I don't know how Sand Martins are doing overall, though one colony I know of was deserted this year, but that was because their nesting sand-cliffs were destroyed; hopefully they found another place to build their nests. However, to end on a positive note, I visited the colony at Shanganagh on the south Dublin coast two days ago (1st September) and there were still at least two dozen birds present, with young still to feed at their nests, presumably second brood birds. So that's a healthy colony anyway.