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The bike shed in Canolfan Clydau’s community garden has been colonised by swallow

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

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Canolfan Clydau’s garden volunteers, members of the committee and CARE’s very own Peter Kay, have been busy creating a beautiful and productive garden space for the local community and nature to enjoy. It’s Official Canolfan Clydau’s Bike Shed is now on the map, as a pair of swallows have started nesting in its rafters. They started making their nest in May after their long migration from Africa. Collecting soil, feathers and grass, fashioning these crude materials into a beautiful nest cup made predominately from soil and swallow spit, lined with feathers.


If we’re lucky, during our next workday on Saturday, 15th July, at Canolfan Clydau, we will see a brood of young swallows learning the tricks of the trade from their parents. During June, swallows have their first 'brood' of up to five babies approximately 18 days after the female 'feathers her nest.' Once the brood has hatched, they dart in and out with a delicious array of insects for their youngsters, including hoverflies, mayflies, aphids, flying ants and the occasional moth caterpillar. A brood needs 6,000 flies a day to survive! (Holden & Cleeves 2014)!





After 18 to 23 days, the five (or so) youngsters will start to fly and will be fed for a further week. Approximately 30 days after hatching, they'll be left to fend for themselves and will disperse in various directions during July. Our parent swallows will then, 'fingers crossed', have another brood. When they're not 'keeping house', most of their time is spent 'on the wing'. They fly low to the ground catching their prey as they go or snatch them from water. They feed wherever food is plentiful. You'll often see them around cattle, over manure heaps or along hedgerows where insects gather. This year you’ll see them flying over the Canolfan Clydau labyrinth…


Unfortunately, our acquaintance and familiarity with our swallows will be a short one. When September comes, they will move south and eventually leave Britain in early November. They will migrate by day, feed as they fly and roost at their known sites until they reach their destination - Africa.


Their migration in the Autumn lasts for about 6 weeks and includes flying across the Sahara desert! If they're lucky they could live up to 11 years and complete this epic journey up to 10 times during their lifetime. In recent years, there have been fluctuations in swallow populations. These appear to be related to the changes in Africa. In Britain and Ireland the loss of traditional nest sites, such as barns and food availability owing to agricultural intensification are the fluctuation factors and of concern for swallow populations of the future (Holden & Cleeves 2014).





To combat this, why not attract swallows of your own? The RSPB have some excellent information on their website about attracting swallows to nest. They feed on an array of insects, so providing habitats for insects to breed will encourage not only swallows into your garden but a whole host of our other feathered friends. With this in mind, why not build yourself a beautiful 'Bee B&B' or Bug Hotel, or check out our 'insect blog' for more information about providing habitats for insects.

We'd love to see whether you've had any encounters with swallows or built a bug home in your back garden. Please get in touch and tell us about your experiences. Make a comment on our blog or post on our facebook page, we'd be happy to hear from you...

We hope to see you at the workday on Saturday, 15th July, where you'll meet our swallows! For more information about the workday, please get in touch with Peter on peter@cwmarian.org.uk.

We hope to see you at the workday on Saturday, 15th July, where you meet our swallows! For more information about the workday, please get in touch with Peter on peter@cwmarian.org.uk.


Bibliography

  • Holden, P & Cleeves T, (2014), RSPB Handbook of British Birds, 4th Ed, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

  • RSPB,2020, Swallows Key Information, Attracting Swallows to Nest, Give Nature a Home in Your Garden https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/give-nature-a-home-in-your-garden/garden-activities/buildabeebandb/

  • Woodland Trust 2020, How to Build a Bug Hotel https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/09/how-to-build-a-bug-hotel/


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