Sunday, September 11, 2005

Garden Breeders 2005

This year the list of birds breeding in the garden is:

Common Quail
Littel Owl
Eurasian Collared Dove
Crested Lark
*Red-rumped Swallow
Eurasian Blackbird
Garden Warbler
Sardinian Warbler
Great Tit
Woodchat Shrike
House Sparrow
European Serin
European Greenfinch
European Goldfinch

For the past two years the passageway between the house and the garage/workshop has been "investigated" by Barn Swallows which we hoped might nest. This year, in the last week of June, the beginnings of a nest appeared just above the door to my officina (workshop) but the first attempts ended in small piles of dried mud on the floor. When I realised that the "builders" were not Barn, but Red-rumped, Swallows I immediately created a mud-bath in a corner of the garden to provide them with raw material. After ten days the nest was completed.

The birds were very active and furnishing the nest with feathers of chickens and Helmeted Guineafowl (very posh!) from the small farm along the track. After four days the birds disappeared and I feared that they had deserted because of disturbance (we have seven cats) or had just found an alternative site. One morning, a close inspection of the nest revealed a Greater Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolphpus ferrumequinum) roosting attached to the outside of the nest. After careful removal (and rehoming) of the bat the swallows returned within a few hours and, to cut a long story short, proceeded to rear a brood of four young. Most interesting was that at one point four adults were feeding the young - perhaps Aunt and Uncle, or just an immature pair which had not bred?

Adults and young continued to use the nest as a roost but after two weeks it became apparent that a second brood had been produced and by the end of August another two (possibly three) fledgelings appeared. At the time of writing (11th September) the birds have left the nest, one or two occasionally returning at night, but they are clearly preparing for a long journey south. I feel very privileged to have had these swallows nesting in "my back passage" and look forward, hopefully, to their return next spring.