Swallows' feeding habits

One of the joys of summertime is watching the swallows feeding near my house. Old country folklore says that, the higher the swallows are flying, the better the weather. As usual, the folklore holds more than a grain of truth: when the weather is warm, the insects upon which the swallows feed are carried up into the air by thermal currents, forcing the swallows to follow suit.

Over the years, I have noticed other ways in which the weather influences swallows' feeding habits. Last weekend, the weather was so cold and miserable that the insects stayed very near the ground, meaning that the swallows were flying at knee-height as they broke either side of me while I watched them from by back lawn. Earlier this week, during an uncharacteristically seasonal warm spell, they flew either side of my car chasing the insects in the shade of a local wood. One evening the summer before last, I watched them flying about the eaves of my house in pursuit of the craneflies that were basking in the residual heat radiating from my west-facing wall. On windy days, I look for them flying low on the leeward side of drystone walls, chasing the insects sheltering there. And on very, very wet days like today, they congregate underneath one of the sycamore trees in my garden, feasting on the insects sheltering from the rain.

Swallows feeding under tree
Swallows feeding beneath the sycamore in my garden this morning.

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Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
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