Monthly Archives: June 2009

Decline in swift and swallow numbers

I keep hearing  that in some areas there has been a devastating drop in  swallows returning.  Also  house martins and swifts. 

I have been  asking questions and reading. 

It has been said it could be

  • global warming across the sahara and
  • increased predation by Hobbys – they can fly faster than swifts.

There is anecdotal stories about a big mortality around the Zambezi River when air temperature plummeted 20 deg C – swallows fell out of the sky.  As I say this is only anecdotal but could be true.

There have also been two bad breeding seasons in England.


 One  comment I have received is –

I live in Brackley Northamtonshire, we have had swallows nesting in the apex of our house roof for as long as i can remember, however this year have not even seen a single bird, or a swift for that matter, where are they all? Mike


Please – if you have any info, stories, have read a report about this,  or have actually seen a decline or increase in swallows, swifts and martins please let me know.   It only takes a jiff to leave a comment.


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Peanut Granules are brilliant bird food  they are power packed with proteins and oil which makes them a nourising nibble for our garden birds.

  Peanut granules  give birds  energy for the day and night ahead.  This is important at any time of the year,  but more so when it is winter  because in winter birds need high protein to survive the dark, cold nights.  So peanut granules are a good all round bird food

Peanut Granules - Energy Food for Birds

Peanut Granules – Energy Food for Birds


  • Bite sized pieces of peanut heart
  • Easier for bird to eat and digest than whole peanuts
  • Packed with protein and oils
  • Appeal to all garden birds not just birds that can feed from peanut feeders.
  • Can be fed from bird tables, the ground, ground feeders and also tube feeders – which is why peanut granules attract more garden birds.
  • An energy food that helps birds survive the winter nights


  • Robins
  • Dunnocks,
  • Chaffinches
  • Blackbirds
  • Blue Tits
  • Coal Tits
  • Great Tits
  • Greenfinches
  • Sparrows




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Badgers and TB

How to tackle diseased badgers

Surely, killing tens of thousands of cattle a year because of bTB cannot continue. 

Something has to be done to help the financial and emotional survival of many farmers who produce the food we all eat.

In Wales last year more than 12,000  cattle were slaughtered because of bovine tuberculosis. 

Already this year (2009) between Jan and  the end of April more than 5,000 cattle have been killed as a result of the disease. 

Surely, the increase in infection year after year must not / cannot continue. 

Badger number used to be dealt with humanely.  There was a healthy badger population and no TB.

TB has wiped out large and small herds across Britain.

Some of these cattle were hardy, born on the farm and never housed.

One farmer had for years been champion of  Britains indigenous native breeds.  Then, because of TB,  he had to watch his prime cattle go off to slaughter.

Prime cattle going to slaughter because of catching TB.  Such waste.

Years of care and breeding go into having a herd of cattle.  Knowing this can be wiped out because of something out of your control – well how would you feel if your favourite pet could easily catch TB and have to be put down.

We are not self sufficient in food.  In fact we import nearly half the food we put on out kitchen tables. 

To waste any of our home grown food is, to me, a crying shame. 

  • Badgers have no natural predators. 
  • Badgers are now living on land laying between 1,800 and 2,000 feet – this has never happened before. 

What does a badger deliver for the countryside.

Cattle deliver

  • quality beef,
  • milk and
  • cream ,
  • leather shoes and
  • belts.

Badgers also hoover up the ground   – destroying habitats of ground nesting birds, their eggs and pollen carriers.  I have never seen this fact recorded anywhere, have you?

What do you think?


Have been wondering about the migratory paths of swallows so  I  contacted  Mothers Garden, Catalonia, Spain by email to ask if there had been a decline in swallows in their area.  This is their reply


Nothing has changed – we still have our swallows in the barn and drinking from our reservoir.

They seem as plentiful as ever.  Hope this is helpful.

Catalonia is an autonomous region of Spain located on the  Mediterranean Sea next to France. 


Related Posts




Bird Ringing

 The comings and goings of the swifts and swallows near our house has always fascinated me and it seems it has fascinated other bird watchers over the years.

About the 12th Century in Germany a Prior in a Monastery fixed a parchment to a swallow’s leg asking –


‘Swallow where do you live in winter’

The following spring the Prior received the reply attached to the swallow’s leg

‘In Asia, the home of Petrus’.


Amazing.  What a simple idea.  How did the Prior catch the swallow?  Did he expect a reply? 

From that piece of parchment it was discovered that swallows flew from Germany to Asia. 


About 1740 a man called Johann Leonard Frisch tied some wool to swallows’ legs. 

He wanted to find out if the same swallow returned to the same nest year after year. 

The following Spring he found out that they do!


I anticipate the return of the swifts and swallows every Spring and know they return to us from warmer climates.

 I have never considered that  a swallows disappearance may once have been a mystery to people. 

Although I remember I was told  that many years ago people thought that swifts and swallows hibernated in winter!  I didn’t believe that fact, but now wonder if it’s true.

Bird ringing in Britain has been going on since 1937. 

  • Numbered metal rings which carry a return address are used. 
  • The records are put on a computer and stored using an international standard method of recording.

Here are two amazing facts have been found by bird ringing.

  • A swallow has been recorded as covering nearly a quarter of a million miles on its migration journies.  This was over a period of 16 years.  A 16 year old swallow!

It’s interesting to see what happened in the past.

  • In 1963 during the cold winter a redwing flew 2,400 miles in three days searching for food. 

Birds still search for food.  We cannot help swallows but we can help other birds. – so help a bird.  Feed a bird!

Decline in Garden Birds

In 2008 robins, great tits and garden warblers had their worst breeding season that has ever been recorded.

 These birds, along with other species, have been monitored by a ringing scheme over the past 25 years by the British Trust for Ornithology

 The  organiser of the Trust’s Constant Effort Sites (CES) ringing scheme, Mark Grantham stated that  last year’s wet and windy summer once again played a large part in reducing the number of chicks birds were able to rear successfully.

 The blackbird, great tit and song thrush had a drop of more than 30% in the number of young they reared.  This is a disaster.

 2008’s breeding problems followed on from 2007’s breeding problems – when May to July was the wettest on record.

  Rain over long periods in the breeding season can stop parent birds from finding food for their young.  The parents have to stay away from the nest for longer as it takes longer to find food when it is torrential rain as food is inaccessible (This must be  why I have so many birds at the feeders when it is raining)

 The young chicks can also get wet in the nest, get drenched, wet and die in the nest.

 If this bad weather in the breeding season continues how this garden will birds cope.

 What I wonder is – with such a drop in the numbers of garden birds rearing their young shouldn’t the RSPB look into the matter of Birds of Prey attacking garden birds. Surely if the number of birds being reared is declining then the fact that birds of prey are taking garden birds as well much effect garden bird numbers.

Lets feed these garden birds and help them survive.

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Do Sparrowhawks prey on weak and old birds

I had a question a while ago from a lady who wondered if a sparrowhawk had come to her garden because there were some birds there that were ill and so were easy to prey on.

I replied –

Hi, What an interesting view. There could be something in that.

Maybe the sparrowhawk saw weak and ill victims that were an easy source or prey. Like a lion stalking it’s prey – looking for the old or the very young or the ill.  But not sure sparrowhawks hunt like that all the time.


I was pleased I got a reply

Hi Trish,

It seems my theory could be right as I have found the following information on the RSPB website

‘Sparrowhawks don’t specialise in particular species, but take whatever is available and easy to catch. As a result, the most frequently caught birds are numerous and conspicuous, or easily caught.
They go for easy prey such as the sick, old, weak or injured and remove primarily birds that would have died of other causes anyway. This makes the remaining songbird population fitter and healthier.’

I found this fascinating Trish, nature is amazing isn’t it?


Hi J, It’s really fascinating and believable. The trouble is I’m not sure I believe  

  •  I have seen a sparowhawk with a healthy blackbird in its talons.
  • Over the years I’ve heard of sparrowhawks hunting and attacking healthy birds. 
  • I know two people who stopped feeding birds because sparowhawks were killing any healthy bird that landed on the birdtable.  They had to clean blood off the  birdtables! This was in the suburbs of York.  The two women were fed up of the blood of birds on the bird table so they stopped feeding birds.

My personal view is that it could be correct up to a point.

Sparrowhawks may take the easy option and take the weak and ill first. But they also take many breeding birds and healthy birds .

A group called Song Bird Survival  put the point that “many conservation bodies avoid the issue of uncontrolled predation on song birds for ideological reasons”So we have two groups saying different things.

  •   RSPB say sparrowhawks don’t do a lot of damage.
  •   Songbird Survival say that there could be ‘uncontrolled predation’.

Songbird Survival doing research into predation and it’s effections on garden, farm and woodland birds. I have joined Songbird Survival.

I already belong to the RSPB so I could get both sides of the bird story. Sorry if this note is a bit long, but as you say it’s fascination. Best. Trisha


  • Hi again Trisha,
  • Thanks for your comprehensive reply, the more I look into this subject the more complicated it becomes.It seems that both arguments have validity and I suspect a lot more research needs to be done before any definite conclusions can be drawn.However in my own case I do think the Sparrowhawk was initially attracted to my garden due to it spotting easy prey as a result of some birds showing signs of illness. I just hope if that was the case then having removed any sick birds he will move on to another hunting ground and that my garden will once again become the tranquil place it used to be …..apart from the dratted neighbours cat that is!

    Best wishes, Jan



  • Very interesting.  But I believe that what  SongBird Survival  says does make sense . 
  • Birds of Prey must have an effect on the bird population that they prey on. It’s like us going into a supermarket – we leave the shelves a little emptier than when we walked in.


 Any comments welcome.