🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Where are my swallows...?

It’s already the first week in October and I haven’t seen my Swallows yet. Usually they are here middle-September. Could it be that they’re waiting for the rain or could it be that something has happened to them and they won’t be returning at all? For the past 10 years I’ve been greeting them every September and watching them leave every April. I will be very sad if they do not return as I have built up quite a relationship with them, listening to their twittering on the TV aerial, chatting to them while they're sitting on my bathroom court-yard wall and just generally enjoying their flight over our smallholding.

The Greater-striped Swallow (Cecropis/Hirundo cucullata) - Grootstreepswael in Afrikaans - is endemic to Africa south of the equator, occurring from southern DRC, Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. Here it occurs across much of South Africa excluding the arid north-western Karoo and the extremities of Limpopo Province. It also occupies central Namibia, central and eastern Zimbabwe and small areas of Botswana. It generally prefers open habitats such as grassland, fynbos, karoo, open savanna, suburban areas, cultivated land and farmyards.

It is an intra-African breeding migrant, arriving from its central African non-breeding grounds around July-August in the Limpopo Province, Western and Eastern Cape. It reaches Swaziland, Botswana, and Gauteng during September-October, eventually leaving the region around April-May.

Last year's nest in the pumphouse

The greater striped swallow builds a bowl-shaped mud nest with a tubular entrance on the underside of a suitable structure. The nest has a soft lining, and is often reused in later years. The nest may be built in a cave or under a rock overhang or fallen tree. This species has benefited from its willingness to use buildings, bridges, culverts and similar man-made structures. Given the choice, it will select a high nest site.

 Nest-building process

One of the swallows adding some mud to the construction

A previous year's completed nest

They are monogamous, solitary nesters and one breeding pair usually produces 2-3 broods per breeding season. My Swallows have managed to raise at least one pair of babies each season for the past 10 years, taking the babies with them when they leave in April. And last year the parents returned with two extra travellers, their fully-grown youngsters, I presumed.

One of last year's fledglings patiently waiting to be fed

Thankfully this species is not threatened, in fact, its numbers have increased due to the abundance of man-made nest sites, but I will be extremely sad if my Swallows don’t ever return again….


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