Thursday, 11 February 2010

Barn Swallow

As everyone knows, one swallow doesn’t make a summer. However, there are hundreds here now and we’re still less than half way through February.

There is a wealth of ringing-recovery data to demonstrate that Barn Swallows from Northern Europe migrate to winter quarters in South Africa. Coincidentally, the first such recovery in South Africa was of a bird that had been ringed in our home county, Staffordshire - that was in 1912!

Mount Moreland reedbed near Durban, holds a roost of more than three million Swallows, a spectacular sight that I was lucky enough to witness some years ago when leading a tour for Avian Adventures. You may recall that this reedbed was threatened by an airport development associated with the forthcoming FIFA World Cup.

We have seen Barn Swallows here in the Algarve in every month of the year so clearly not all the population makes that long journey south. The photograph was taken this morning at Castro Marim. I wonder how far south this bird has been, whether it has returned to the Algarve to breed or whether it is just on its way north.

We know people in the UK who are still resistant to the ‘new’ name Barn Swallow, preferring instead to refer just to the Swallow and as a result failing to differentiate it from 50 or more other swallow species. In fact Barn Swallow isn’t a new name at all. It seems likely to have been a direct translation of the Swedish Ladusvala and is referred to by the Rev. Gilbert White in his Natural History of Selbourne, published as long ago as 1789. It does seem to be a wholly appropriate name and there really doesn't seem to be any reason to object to it.

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