September wildlife- House martins and swallows

Three barn swallows in a row on a barbed wire line.

If you have visited Lanhydrock over the summer months you're bound to have seen our healthy population of swallows and house martins, swooping and reeling amongst the buildings and courtyards. September is the time of year when the season begins to change once more and the tiny visitors prepare to head south once more.

Swallows are particularly agile and graceful in flight and are fond of open pasture and quiet farm buildings, such as those here at Lanhydrock. They favour dark nooks and crannies in outbuildings and barns to nest, requiring very little light and only a small space to enter.

House martins are perhaps even more renowned for living in close proximity to people. By the turn of the last century, the species had almost entirely abandoned their traditional nesting sites on cliff faces in favour of building nests in and around buildings, particularly under roof eaves. Parents like to nest in colonies of several nests and frequently produce two or three broods per season, with the offspring from the first brood helping to feed younger siblings.

Young swallows ready to fledge the nest.
Swallow chicks in nest made of mud and straw under the eaves of a rooftop.
Young swallows ready to fledge the nest.

The mature birds are glossy blue-black, with a pure white underbelly, unlike the dark blue swallows with their peachy-orange throats. The birds can further be told apart by tail shape; the house martin's is a short, stubby 'V' akin to a fishtail, whilst the swallow sports long, slim tail streamers. Both birds spend long hours on the wing, feasting on insects mid-flight.

Between September and October, both swallows and House martins begin to leave Lanhydrock and the rest of the UK to head south for the winter months. It is a hazardous journey of over 200 miles a day towards destinations in Africa, Arabia and the Indian sub-continent. Next year, they will return to the same nesting sites to raise the next generation of Lanhydrock fledglings.