Swallows and house martins have provided some of the best wildlife moments this weekend here at Fen Drayton Lakes.
A group of families came to us yesterday for the first in a series of visits. Yesterday’s event was dry, though the wind was cold, so we went in search of shelter, behind trees. There, we found our flock of birds feeding on aerial insects just above our heads. We stood still, and the birds just flew over and around us all the time, giving the children (and parents) wonderfully close views. No binoculars were needed.
This morning's walk started off with sadness, as we watched the rising flood waters lapping at the base of a mute swan's nest. By mid day, the swan had accepted the inevitable and deserted the nest. We walked through the rain, listening to various warblers and stopping to watch a robin beside the path, then reached our destination, a nightingale's territory. Fortunately, the bird sang for us for several minutes, and we felt our walk in the rain had been worthwhile.
On the way back, we found a flock of swallows and house martins in a different area to yesterday, but also sheltering from the wind. Insects were still active in the rain, and the birds were even more impressive today. Perhaps that was because we were a smaller group and we stood a couple of paces apart. Incredibly, the birds flew between us and around us, supremely agile, missing us and each other every time. Some were so low that their wings almost touched the path on the downward beat.
If you see swallows and house martins feeding in this way, you should try walking slowly into the flock, then standing still and just watching the birds. You’ll probably say “wow” over and over, as birds fly straight towards you, then jink to one side at the last moment, effortlessly missing you by inches. Looking a swallow in the eye as it zooms towards you is a special experience!