19. Wild East Devon update
Nothing is a more symbolic sign of summer than the return of swallows, martins and swifts to our skies. These birds are a joyous part of our summer landscape, but often cause confusion. Here are some tips to identifying what is whizzing overhead.
Swallows, house martins and sand martins all belong to the same family, while swifts sit in a completely different group of birds more aligned to nightjars. Swifts look jet black in the sky, and closer sightings show a pale chin. The eyes are large and wings long and swept back in a stiff sickle. They land only to lay eggs or incubate, otherwise they are in constant flight.
Swallows have long trailing tail streamers, longer in males than females. The body colour is a smart navy blue which can appear black, white belly and a vivid crimson face and chin. Often seen swooping low to the ground, their calls are babbling and frequent, distinctive from the swift’s shrill scream.
House martins are slate blue and white in colour, with the white belly extending over the back of the tail. Wings and tail V are much shorter and more blunt than a swallow. These birds nest in mud hemispheres often constructed on the eaves of houses, hence the name.
Sand martins are the first of these birds to return from their winter grounds of sub-saharan Africa. They are a dusty brown colour on the body with a white belly and face with a distinct brown chinstrap extending around the face.
Whether you get detailed enough views to make an ID or not, simply enjoy these stunning birds against a sparkling blue sky and know that summer is well underway!