The Last Swallows of Summer

 In Birds, Mudeford Quay

I was walking along Avon Beach on the 15th October and there they were, five swallows. It was not swallow weather being slightly chill and overcast. They, of course, knew that and were preparing for their migration. The beach was the final farewell to Britannia after that long, hot summer. Reports suggest that the birds did well and had many broods. These really were the last swallows of summer.

Bird Migration in the Past

In 2200 BC, what did Zuri think when birds disappeared, or indeed, reappeared each year? Suggestions have a spiritual edge, that the birds dropped into water, perhaps the sea, and hibernated. It is easy to believe that if people saw tadpoles emerging out of water to live on the land, imagining that birds hibernated this way was not so weird.

Swallows Roosting

It struck me that Zuri might know more about swallows than I first thought. Her people treated common reed as a commodity, which I described in an earlier post. Zuri would see the swallows roosting overnight in the reed beds during spring and autumn. The birds use these migratory routes because they offer them safe overnight roosts. As Zuri’s people had such a close relationship with plants they would be very aware of the other creatures that utilized them. Her people could read the environment and knew the time of year simply by what they saw and heard. The last swallows of summer really meant something to Zuri.

Where Did Swallows Nest?

It’s strange how one’s mind strays. There were no houses or barns, as we know them, in the Neolithic. Did swallows nest on thatched huts? It seems unlikely because with low walls the nest would be easily reached by a child or dog. Some say they lived in caves but with so few in Britannia, that sounds implausible. In the US, tree swallows live in cavities in trees. Did our swallows do this, and change as buildings became taller and more rigid?

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the Brent geese have arrived in Christchurch Harbour