April 6th   Leave a comment

It is always uplifting to see the first swallow, this year particularly. I saw one swooping over the beach in the lee of the golf course at Balcomie this morning. The wind was blowing very strongly, two passes and then it was gone with the wind behind it, off further north. April 6th is a relatively early date: in 15 years there has only been one earlier arrival, spectacularly on the 29th of March. This made me wonder if they are getting earlier – climate change etc. So I plotted the graph (what else do you on a spring evening these days when your garden is already immaculate and the shed tidied). Surprisingly no real trend. Arrival dates are variable. Although some it is me not always being in the right place to spot the first bird every year, arrival dates have varied from the 29th of March to the 24th of April, with an average arrival day of the 13th of April. It’s interesting. I would have bet that the dates were getting earlier, but that is just a product of the last few years being a bit earlier than average, and nothing more than might be expected by chance given that there is a lot of variation. Arrival dates in the UK have been getting earlier, on average, for many summer migrants but it’s not happening very strongly for our swallows. I saw my last barn swallow in Liberia on January 20th: I was catching whinchats and had set up nets before dawn. I sat watching it get light over the forest and the barn swallows and common swifts starting to feed. I then saw an African hobby catch one of them. It’s a long way here but the swallow today could have been one of those dodging the dawn hobby, over a West African forest. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but one makes a start. There was another seen today at Roome Bay this afternoon and another at Cellardyke. There should be many more in over the next few days and they will soon be singing over the High Street again.

Two barn swallows having a mid-morning break from hawking over the rain forest in north-west Liberia this January. These could well be British birds.
First arrival dates for barn swallows in Crail since 2006. The dotted line shows the trend is a bit earlier but it’s not even close to being statistically significant.

Posted April 6, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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