Swallows are acrobatic, much-loved birds that return to the UK for the summer after spending the winter in Africa. Swallows have nested in this location at the Castle for many years. Earlier this year, before the birds returned, we placed a tiny camera close to the nesting site. We are updating this web page with a new clip of the latest action from the Swallow camera every couple of days so you can see how the chicks are growing and developing. We hope you enjoy the action!
7th July snuggled up and keeping out of the rain!
6th July - All the chicks are now flying on and off the ledge
4th July It seems we have an extra chick! There are several other Swallow nests in the area and it seems one of these chicks has popped in to say hello!
4th July The chicks return to the nest ledge to snuggle up together!
1st July the first of the 5 chicks has fledged! But pretty quickly returned to the nest ledge!
The male Swallow tends to have longer tail streamers then the female - we think our male (we have named him Chris- after Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot who built the castle) has one snapped off tail feather. This makes him easier to recognise and distinguish from the female (who we have named Emily after Emily Charlotte Talbot). The female tends to sit on the nest more than the male although both will feed the chicks once they hatch.
April is the time that Swallows return from spending the Winter in Africa. They will return to nest at the same site each year- an amazing fact! Swallows can live up to 16 years.
The males are often the first to return and will make a claim on their nest site - defending it from other males. During May and June the male and female start to construct a nest. Made from soft mud that they form into a cup shape. The eggs are laid in the early morning and incubation does not start until the full clutch is laid, the eggs are covered by the bird during the night. The incubation period is fourteen to fifteen days, the fledgling period twenty to twenty-two days. The nestling Swallows generally have their eyes open by the fourth day after hatching, but in one case their eyes were not opened until the ninth day. The young are brooded in the nest at night, but the number of nights they are brooded varies. Some young are brooded each night until they leave the nest, others to within four or five days of leaving, generally all for a fortnight. The adults when brooding the young lie lengthwise along the nest; sometimes both parents brood the young, at other times only the one broods.
Parent swallows feed a wide variety of insects to their nestlings — including wasps. Flies are certainly favourites, particularly for first broods. Eight out of every 10 insects eaten are flies. Surprisingly, most are large including greenbottles, bluebottles and horseflies.
For the first few days after the nestlings have hatched, unmated male swallows are frequent visitors to the nest. Surprisingly, one way that such males can acquire a mate is to kill the young nestlings and then pair with the female who has to start a new family. One observer watched a male remove a whole brood by picking up each nestling, flying some distance away and then dropping it on the ground.