Swallows in Scotland, a bad year?

I felt i had to write about my sadness for our swallows this year. I am in rural Aberdeenshire out in the sticks and like much of the country we have had an appalling summer but in particular here we have had days and days of continual rain. I was aware of the problems this could cause for the birds like tits etc not finding food for their babies but hadnt thought about the disaster this persistent rain would cause our beautiful swallows. We had a nest in our donkey shed with five beautiful swallow babies inside. Its a low roof so i could easily see them every day. At some point last month we had almost five days of continual rain and one morning i checked my babies and heartbreakingly three were dead and two were hanging on by a thread. A very sad sight indeed and nothing i could do to help them. The parents were no where to be seen so i assumed that they couldnt find insects and were probably wasting their energy trying to do so. I was devastated. I know nature just gets on with it and after a few days the rain subsided and another nest of eggs were laid. Anyway we have had heavy rain nearly every day throughout the summer so its very bad indeed. This year we have also had several unconnected swallow disasters, one hit a window, another i found dead sitting in an empty nest this morning. I think we unwittingly disturbed the bird from its roost/nest last night as we had to go and check the donkies late and put the shed light on. It was flying all around and i guess it found its way to an empty nest in another shed but did it get cold? Exhausted? I dont know but that was another heartbreak today. We have unplugged the light for now. I guess this situation is happening all over? Have you had reports of such starvations this year? Its great to see nature so close up but it also means you get to see the ups and downs. Can you also tell me where the swallows are when its raining so bad? For example i dont see any here this morning when theres been a fair few just recently between showers. The 'new' five in the shed have recently fledged by about a week and are returning to their nest to roost but where are they today? I am nature crazy and keep notes on everything i see since i moved here in 2010 and i have NEVER seen such a disaster for the swallows, bees and butterflies. I can count on one hand the butterflies i have seen here this year. Thanks for your time to read this as i feel very helpless for them all :-(. Any thoughts please?

Cally

  • Hello Cally, sorry to read about the devistation with your swallow, that must have been so heart breaking for you to see. We have always had swallow around every year, but this is the first year that I had none returning. They are a beautiful bird, a favourite of mine.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • In reply to Catlady:

    hello Cally,

    I've spotted a few in Hamilton South Lanarkshire at the retail park. I was visiting recently walking along the path & grass of what was once the venue for T in the Park main stage & spotted quite a few picking airborne insects from just above the grass. Bees I have a hive in the cavity of the wall below my window annually the bees return but this year I have only spotted a few in flight, none have landed on the window ledge which is common practice.  

    Regards

    David

    “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I’ve seen.”

  • In reply to David:

    Hi Cally,

    Quite the opposite in Manchester. I have never seen so many around - so much so that we decided to put a nest up for them this year - they are coming in substantial numbers well and truly into the suburbs area. Before worrying I would wait to read the overall RSPB report for the species.

    I truly sympathise though, I can understand how devastated you must have been seeing them pass away. We've tried hand feeding young swallows with insects in the past and they haven't taken them. Maybe one way round the 'starvation' problem is to try leaving near the nest some insects (you can buy some from pet shops, they sell them for reptiles) and see if the parents take them to their youngsters.

    My Gallery

    "Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way." John Muir

  • In reply to Catlady:

    Thank you Catlady.  Yes everyone loves swallows! We have had a fair few but not as many nests taken up this year as last.  I think seeing this sad situation shocked me, although i am aware of the delicate balances in nature, this was one situation i hadnt thought too much about, well not with swallows anyway.  Our nests are situated very low so i have easy access to see them....i am lucky when things go well! The second brood fledged successfully and were absolutely gorgeous :-) it must be very sad for you not to see your swallows returning and i dont know why that would be but i hope they come backnext year for you xx

    Cally

  • In reply to David:

    Thanks David, yes although i dont think we have had as many swallows at our house (there were five nests last year and only two this year) i think theres probably lots about and good to hear about the sightings.  I was really more concerned with the effect this wet summer would have on them.  I guess this sad starvation situation, because of such heavy and continual rain, could be happening all over the country and possibly going unnoticed due to nests being high up out of sight.  I guess every species has good and bad years but when you get so closely involved you see it.  As with your wonderful bees, you tend to compare the goings on year by year.  Not many bees at all here and i didnt take part in the big butterfly count because i had very little to record!  Worrying indeed.

    Cally

  • In reply to Marina P:

    Hi Marina so glad to hear of so many swallows, and its normally swifts that you see more of in the towns! We put up 'manmade nests' a couple of years ago and a few were taken up!  This year they have totally ignored the ready made jobs!  I too racked my brain as to whether to attempt feeding the remaining two chicks, desperate to help but decided on not getting involved in case i brought them on so far and then the parents didnt return and so on......omg theres so much we dont understand about nature!  Strangely enough at the time of this, we had a horrendously high pile of donkey poop (not advisable right outside the stable but we were moving donkey acommodation around) and that should have attracted a lot of flies right on the swallows doorstep but the rain really wiped out the flying insects :-(. As you say though i am wondering if to buy some of these insects next year...just in case! X

    Cally

  • In reply to Cally:

    Well, the truth is we learn by trial and error. My guess is if the chicks are really hungry they will take the food. I can't see the parents not returning if you don't touch the chicks .. you can always attempt to feed whilst the parents are out searching for food so they don't see you. Alternatively leave the donkey poop around (I am not kidding) to attract the necessary insects ...

    Interesting observation about the nests - I wonder why they did not take them up this year.

    Btw, you are so lucky to have donkeys ... my husband's dream is to start a farm for old / retired / abandoned / unwanted donkeys! Care to share any photos?

    My Gallery

    "Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way." John Muir