Have swallows returned… to wintering grounds?

For me Barn Swallows are the symbol of spring. © Gyorgy Szimuly

For me Barn Swallows are the symbol of spring. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It might be that I am new to the birds and birding in the United Kingdom, but probably the basic principle in bird migration hasn’t changed. In the Northern Hemisphere most of the birds are migratory and spend the winter off their breeding grounds. Swallows are no exceptions. They travel as far as South Africa to enjoy the Austral summer.

In every March I am excitedly looking at the sky and try to pick up the first swallows which is definitely a sign of the end of the winter days. This March I did the same, just like I have been doing it for about 40 years. Then I neither wasn’t able to find one in the first two weeks of April in England despite arriving birds have been reported through Twitter. On the 15th of April I found 2 Barn Swallows and 2 Sand Martins over the Blue Lagoon Park.

Now it is close to the end of April and, despite my efforts, NO swallows have been seen on a daily basis. Today I found the sky completely swallow-free in perfect warm and sunny weather in Central Milton Keynes, as well as in Bletchley. Very few birds have been appearing so far. In Hungary, where I was grown-up, the first swallow chicks normally hatch in May. Now they have not even started mating…

A few questions need to be answered:

– Is swallow migration that different in the UK than in Central Europe?

– Is the city center of Milton Keynes that sterile for swallows to build a healthy breeding population, hence they are absent or restricted to villages?

– Have they already returned to wintering grounds (just a sarcastic question)?


One thought on “Have swallows returned… to wintering grounds?

  1. Here in southeastern Massachusetts, USA, our barn swallows are all but absent… We usually have a few front runners by April 10, and a barn full by the 24th or so – about 20 nesting pairs. Now into the first week of May, and only 3 or so pairs… Are they crazy late or did something decimate the population this year…

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