As we bid farewell to summer, we investigate more about migrating birds who are bidding their own farewell to UK shores this month. Swifts and Swallows are due toembark on their rudimentary migration journey over the next few weeks and to mark the occasion, we wanted to discover more about these fascinating birds and their challenging yet inspiring journey.
Swifts and Swallows, though similar in appearance, vary in their migration patterns. While both species spend their summers in the UK, Swifts tend to migrate to Asia and China through the winter.
Swallows on the other hand migrate to Africa, beginning this journey around late September. It involves travelling approximately a staggering 8000 miles from the UK, however many have previously travelled from further afield in northern Europe before even reaching Britain. With a distance as far as this, you may expect it to take a vast amount of time, however swallows combat the distance relatively quickly. They can actually travel an average of an amazing 200 miles a day, meaning that it could take as little as 40 days to reach their destination. They fly almost non-stop, and since they feed mostly on insects and flies, they are able to eat plentifully and sufficiently during the journey.
The main reason swallows undertake this lengthy journey is not just to get away from the cold weather of the UK for the winter, but because their main food source of flies and insects is in short supply in the UK, through the winter months. By travelling to a warmer country where there are plenty of insects, they can continue to feed and survive all year around.
During the summer months, the UK however is the perfect home for swallows and they are able to enjoy a veritable feast in the form all of the insects and other bugs that are found here. These bugs are particularly bountiful on farmlands, in fields and in meadows where swallows can feed throughout spring and summer. This rich food supply is especially important because at this time of year, when swallows are making their all important preparations for the journey, farmers are harvesting. The action of harvesting means that the crops are displaced and the thousands of insects in the fields are easy pickings for swallows. In fact, here on Brinvale farm we managed to take several pictures of swallows from our combine harvester as they flew overhead, one of which we have shown above. This extra easy to catch food that harvesting provides enables the swallows to thoroughly fill up on food and get all of the nutrients they need before they depart on their expedition.
While the swallows are still flitting, swooping and lunging around, you can make use of this precious time and enjoy them in all of their glory but don’t forget, they will be back again in the spring!