Here at Wheatland Farm we’ve been waiting for the swallows to return, so we can bake the annual celebratory cake!
Kim saw something distinctly hirundine-looking flying over Popehouse Moor last Sunday afternoon (3 April), when we were doing our bumble bee transect walk. And on Friday 9th Maggie saw something swoop across the lodge field when she was getting Beech Lodge ready for guests arriving as lockdown lifts in a few days time. She even got a grainy picture, but wasn’t certain enough to get the baking trays out.
And of course, the swallows we see here at Wheatland Farm aren’t the first to return to Devon – we’d seen them flying up the Exe Estuary a full week ago, having just made landfall in the south west.
But in terms of cake, it only really counts when the swallows are back in the farm yard, swooping around the eco lodges and generally lifting our spirits. So when we saw two in front of Otter Cottage yesterday we were delighted, and stopped work for a moment to mark this turning point in our year.
These two even posed for a picture, resting on the phone wires. Aren’t they amazingly blue! And those wings…so powerful and elegant.
And here’s the cake… This year made by Euan.
The swallows’ arrival is about-average timing. Last year, swallows turned up on 4 April, the year before it was a bit earlier, on 30th March, and other dates have been 12 April 2018, 9 April 2017, 7 April 2016, but not until 14 April 2015.
When we first came to Wheatland Farm, there were nine successful swallow broods. Then the numbers declined (despite our best efforts). Last year there were one or two nests, after a gap of several years, so we’re really hoping that these returning swallows will breed here again this year. Swallows do somehow represent the frailty of our wildlife efforts. We manage the place for biodiversity, but we can’t control what happens to wildlife beyond our Devon fields, and the pressures are huge. We all need to pull together to improve wildlife’s chances overall.