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For April's bird of the month we have three for the price of one - the Hirundines.
At this time of the year we welcome the return of those summer migrants who, some would say wisely, decide to spend the winter far to the south in Africa. However, it does expose them to a twice yearly flight of thousands of miles across the deserts of North Africa.
These 3 birds are confusing because they have a similar profile, similar diets, appear at the same time of the year and are members of the same family, the Swallows and Martins. Hirundine means ‘swallow like’ and, indeed, they are with triangular wings, forked tails, pale undersides and twittering calls. All three nest in and around Ludlow.
The smallest, the Sand Martins , are the earliest to arrive in late March and are best seen near water. They usually nest in colonies in burrows they dig in sandbanks. Unusually, a few pairs nest in drainage pipes in the town walls overlooking upper Linney. There is a large colony nesting in the river bank near Leintwardine. They are pale brown above with a clear dark band across a white underside with a small forked tail
Next to arrive is the Swallow in early April but they have been later this year. A dark blue head and back, red throat and white underside mark them out as does their long tail streamers and deeply forked tail. Swallows nest singly in outbuildings, porches and sheds; building a cup shaped nest of mud and grass, lined with feathers. They favour farm buildings and find the smallest of ways into a building and happily ignore any humans they encounter.
Finally, the House Martins, easy to spot with their chunky bodies, dark blue upper side with a broad white band before the tail begins. They nest in colonies and build mud nests with a small entrance hole at the top under the eaves of houses and on other man-made structures such as bridges. They can be seen in various places in town and the Leisure Centre building is a good place to look.
All these birds are declining in numbers due to a variety of reasons including the hazards encountered on their migration, disturbance by humans, pesticides reducing the insect populations that they depend on for food. Anything we can do to encourage them is to be welcomed, but I do realise that both swallows and house martins can make a mess immediately below their nests. However, that is off set by the privilege of being ‘adopted’ by a wild bird as a safe place to nest. ... See MoreSee Less