What did Barn Swallows do before barns?

Our UK Swallows are known as Barn Swallows in the USA. It’s a good name because they love nesting in barns. Here’s one having a yawn in Devon earlier this summer:

Barn Swallow - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


Here’s another shot of it. I’m relieved to find one that’s still-enough for me to photograph. I’ve been creeping up to it which is great, as it gets me closer, but it’s also a problem because I’m more and more underneath it:

Barn Swallow - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


At Einar, on Westray in Orkney, Swallows have been nesting in almost every outbuilding. They are in the tiny stables at the back of the house as well as in the old school toilets. They are not nesting in barns, but still, you get the idea. Barn Swallow sounds a lot better than Children’s Toilet Swallow or Stable Swallow, doesn’t it?

Swallows - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


I’m very impressed with their ability to stick mud up on the rafters and to get it to stay there. I think some DIY firms could learn a lot from them. This chick looks long-suffering. It has the expression of a child with too many siblings and not enough beds. Having to top-and-tail with your brothers and sisters must be a real pain:

Swallows - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


I’m also impressed that they seem to have the good sense to start building where there is some support. This nest is supported by a large nail. I’m tempted to get my hammer out once they’ve all gone back to Africa and give them a few more easy places to build with inbuilt support when they hopefully return next year.

Swallows - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


I think they might need a bit of underwiring on their cups to help give them some extra support, don’t you?

They are wonderful birds. This year has been a good one for them on Westray, with multiple broods. One morning I had fourteen Swallows on my washing line, and no, I hadn’t pegged them out there to dry.

Swallows - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I’m delighted that this year they haven’t left anyone behind. Here’s wishing them a safe trip and happy fly-hunting in Africa, with hope that we’ll meet again next summer.

Until next year, fly well my feathered friends.

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