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Saying goodbye to the swallows for this year

Welcome to the
bi-monthly column by Gary Zammit at Feadon Farm Wildlife Centre part of the
Landal Gwel an Mor resort in Portreath, Cornwall

The swallow, also known as the barn swallow, is one of our
most well known and loved birds, commonly seen flying around the fields in
summer, nesting inside barns, porches and stables. With their seemingly cheesy
grins, the chicks have an amazingly large mouth with a distinctive yellow edge,
which is there to stimulate the adults to feed them.

As a child in the 1970’s I have such fond memories of
watching them in large numbers skimming around the legs of the cattle in the
fields as the hunted for small flying insects and the swallow chicks, all lined
up around the cup of the nest in stables. In my reminiscing, I have often
pondered about how many of those wildlife scenes of my childhood are no longer
around and something often on my mind when working daily with the wildlife that
surrounds us at Feadon Farm.

I have to wonder will the swallow, hedgehog and various other
creatures go the same way as the………..  I
was going to list a couple of extinct species but better you google It but be
warned it is scary the number and range of species that have disappeared from the
UK in the last few decades. Obviously some were natural extinctions, but the
growth and expansion of the human population is undeniably responsible for most.  At this point in time more than a quarter of
birds in the UK are at risk of extinction or rapidly declining, despite all the
work of the hardworking organisations such as the wildlife trusts and RSPB. In
the case of the swallow, their survival problems are made even more complex by
the fact they are migratory. Flying to Africa every year, this trip of around
3,000 miles that takes them through a range of countries en route has its own
dangers.  I remember seeing the bodies of
swallows, sparrow hawks and various other species littering the countryside in
Malta all having fell fowl of the hunters guns, when I was younger.

Peculiarly, back in 1666 it was believed that swallows over
wintered in the mud at the bottom of ponds or flew to the moon and these
theories were even backed by the Royal Society of London.  Facts can be just as strange as fiction, so
the detail that a bird weighing just 60g can fly from the UK to South Africa in
their migration and cover 200 miles a day, sounds farfetched but is true. So
why is such a survivor struggling? The problems are many, varied and complex
but the overall cause is undeniable – it is us. The growth of the human
population bringing more cars, houses, roads and pollution and less habitats
hospitable to our wildlife is the issue. So, what’s the answer? I really I wish
I had one. What I do know is that history has taught us that sticking your head
in the sand and hoping a problem will go away is not the answer, so lets start
talking about it as surely the most intelligent species on the planet can solve

Look out for the stunning swallows as they gather for their
migration to Africa

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