Hazel, willow, beef and storytelling from Bedfordshire

No swallows probably makes an autumn

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Barn swallow (Image via Wikipedia)

Through September I was watching out for swallows, Hirundo rustica, passing through, on their way south. Most seem to be going north but I suppose that must be my imagination.

The summer brought lots of swifts, Apus apus, as usual, but we seemed to be poorly supplied with swallows and House martins, Delichon urbicum, something that is a bit worrying even though my observations can hardly be called scientific. Presumably difficult crossings of the Sahara and the Mediterranean as well as enthusiastic hunters on the way contribute to a decline in numbers, if that’s what is in fact happening.

Numbers of swallows seemed to increase in September which makes me wonder if it’s just our local population that has declined – perhaps we are lacking in good nest sites or hunting habitat? Our fields should be a bit of a dream come true for the average passing swallow; they are rich in all sorts of flying insect life in summer, something that can be partly attributed to the cattle, but also must be helped by the river, good old hedges and plentiful mature trees. I wonder if the past few decades’ agricultural intensification and its consequent reduction in hedges, trees and rough ground has reduced the population of our Gravenhurst swallows. I believe they tend to return to the area they were fledged so perhaps if you lose a population, they take a long time to spread even if many individuals fly through in spring and autumn. I want to put up some nesting platforms for them before next spring.

One swallow may not make a summer, but no swallows certainly makes an autumn. The very last one I saw was on 30 September – hopefully there will be more to miss this time next year.

Update 14 October – 2 more swallows passed through today.


  1. little cat little cat
    October 18, 2010    

    hello my name is Collin Wilson i am a twenty year old native American hoop dancer from Amarillo Texas U,S
    i am in need of 50 willow hoops
    i have tried to contact you but unfortunately the email does not seem to be working

    • November 14, 2010    

      Hi Colin,

      Good to hear from you and sorry to be so very slow replying.

      I admit to being a little disillusioned by your request! Us Brits have a romantic view of Native Americans fashioning, as we know you do, canoes from willow bark, axe heads from the very rock under foot and respecting every last buffalo, hamburger and Oreo biscuit you kill and eat. Surely you can hunt the willow and use craft, passed from father to son over countless generations, to make your hoops?

      Actually we would be delighted to make willow hoops for you, but the carriage charge would be of the same order as NASA’s monthly fuel bill and I suspect your US customs officers may not approve.

      I hope you find your hoops from others and enjoy dancing with, in or through them. If you are still looking, try searching for basket makers in the USA – I’m sure any basket maker would make you a lovely set of hoops if you talk to them nicely.

      With very best wishes from the UK.


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