Almost empty skies

I should not say that in my childhood the sky was full of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and Common House Martins Delchion urbica. Where I grow up we had 3-4 paris of Common House Martin in the balcony on the 7th floor of our block. This year only one pair tried to raise their chicks.

As we make our daily walkings with Kea, I always look for birds on the sky but now there are long-long minutes without seeing any Barn Swallows or Sand Martins Riparia riparia over the Old Lake. Oh, I just realised that I have seen Sand Martins for a single occasion this summer… In Spring it seemed to be a good year for the swallows but then in May we had a never experienced cold and rainy weather resulting a huge loss of adult birds which already started to incubate. Our local guys found several dead or completely exhausted birds which tried to find food in the heavy rainfall without any success. Rain was falling non-stop for 4 days making it really challening to find enough food for survival. Finally many died of starvation. As a consequence the chicks were also lost from the first clutch in most of the cases.

Above all, there was only a single nesting attempt after the failed one which is, in a way, unusual in Central Europe. Normally swallows raise their chicks two or even three times during a single nesting season. Having only a single nesting attempt in this season results a very low annual reproduction rate. It means next year we cannot expect decent number of birds to be returned and the population crash will continue.

According to MME/BirdLife Hungary the population of Common House Martin has decreased by 67%, Barn Swallow by 44% and Sand Martin by 30% in Hungary in the past 10 years (1999-2009). The future of swallows in Hungary seems to be quite dark. I’m waiting for the first reports on the effectiveness of artificial nests which is supposed to be useful tool to stabilise the population at this level. Until it comes out I keep enjoy watching the few still alive…


One thought on “Almost empty skies

  1. This is really bad news, Szimi, it seems we cant do anything to stop this decline, as weather is playing such a big part. I also saw lots of dead and dying Barn Swallows in November last year during a very cold wet snap in Natal, South Africa. Yet I havent really noticed a decline in numbers when they reach us here, but our Atlas project might show this.

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