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Swallows Have Begun To Arrive In Co. Tipperary

“To far off lands, the swallow now is speeding
For warmer climes and sun-drenched foreign shores.
While cooler breezes tell of summer fading
My heart with you, into the heavens will soar”.

The first swallows have begun to arrive here in Co. Tipperary, with the first of our welcome visitors observed and reported to Thurles.Info by Mr Michael Bannon who spotted them in the village of Littleton last week.

These swallows (Irish – Fáinleog) will have travelled some 11,000kms (Almost 7,000 miles) this year to get to Ireland, having spent the winter in southern Africa. They have now migrating back across the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert, to build their bowl-shaped nests, constructed I hasten to add by both males and females, out of mud in the barns and out-buildings they deem most suitable.

Excellent flyers, these adult birds are instantly recognisable by their glossy black wings and contrasting white underbellies. Up close, bird watchers can see the dabs of red colouring on feathers under the beak and neck area.

These welcome visitors feed almost exclusively on insects such as midges and flies, which they capture on the wing; avoiding stinging insects like bees and wasps.

Laying clutches of 4 or 5 white eggs; same are incubated by the females over a 14 -18 days period, with the male sitting on them only while the female is away, thus reducing any loss of heat.

In most cases the swallow is tolerated by humans because of their beneficial role as insect-eaters, but nests do get destroyed by householders who dislike same being attached to the walls of their homes.

My grandmother often predicted accurately the weather, while watching swallows. “When the swallows fly high, the weather will be dry”, she would announce.

In the case that swallows are not flying high she would explain that on fine summer days warm air rises upwards. Insects, the stable diet of swallows, are also swept up by this warmth, often hundreds of metres aloft.

Equally, during unsettled colder weather, same insects will seek the shelter of trees and buildings, so swallows can be observed swooping lower to the ground, to seek out and destroy.

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