Feather bed

The encyclopaedia says there are four seasons in temperate latitudes. Billy Connolly, however, said, “There are two seasons in Scotland; June and winter”. That’s not quite true in Westray, where the main industry is beef cattle. Here, I’m reliably informed, “There are three seasons; coos in, coos out and silage.” We’re currently in silage season and the farmers are all suffering from a different kind of hay fever.

There are 22 Swallows in the sky over my garden here at Einar. They’re enjoying the insects which the season of silage brings. I can see a mixture of adult males, with their long tail-streamers, adult females with their shorter tail-streamers and youngsters who are still keen on clinging to the washing line or perching on the window ledges. Here’s one of my photos:

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

All the nests in my ‘useful range of outbuildings’ seem to be empty. I’m enjoying their flying company as they’re certainly a challenge to photograph. There’s never a dull moment, except, that is, when it comes to the weather. It’s less easy to photograph them when the light is low, which is a shame because this Swallow came past with a feather in its beak:

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

I love a bit of behaviour so that a photograph is about something rather than of something. My favourite photographs are always verbs rather than nouns.

If you are interested in why the feather is a white one, you might like to know that the feathers they collect are always white. It’s a subject which has provoked intense study, including scientific experiments on Swallow’s preferences for feather colour, hypotheses about camouflage, since their eggs are also white, and new hypotheses about temperature control. I check one of the empty nests.

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

Yes, all white, all right. Given they’re still collecting them, I wonder if there’s going to be another brood soon. There may be many more Swallows in this season of silage.

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