‘A BOARD AND LODGING.’
Birds at times chose to build their nests in the most unlikely of places. It may be in the engine compartment of a car, making the use of that car a nonstarter, until the chicks have fledged, which will be up to at least five weeks from when the eggs are laid.
It is a long time to be without your means of transport, But it appears that we are nature lovers at heart and leave those birds in peace to get on with bringing up their brood, and it also gives us the advantage of seeing this done at close quarters, and we may even take the initiative to supplement their diet, depending what species they are.
But this week’s birds take the biscuit, when a pair of Swallow chose to take up residence in the derelict fishing boat aground at Ettrick Bay. They had obviously decided on a change of digs so they opted for a holiday at the seaside. A strange move as they normally come back to the same nest site for several years, which is usually barns and quieter places, and this boat has been there for a short time, and is certainly not very quiet at times I don’t know if this is a first for them to nest in such a unusual place, however they made their choice and got on with it.
They have peace and quiet during high tides and when it is raining, but on low tides and on good days their “des res” is climbed on by adults and children alike for hours at a time. They swing from a rope hanging from the masthead; they crawl inside the hold of the boat and explore every nook and cranny. And all this time the female is sitting on five white eggs with reddish spots on them.
She will sit tight on her mud cup nest as long as long as her nerves allow her to, only leaving when the danger gets too close for comfort. This will last for two weeks, and then she will take to the skies with her mate and search for food for their new brood, which consists of insects taken on the wing. The swallow may have between two and three broods between May and July, but as I write this story, it is the 24th of August and they are still nesting? I don’t know how many broods they have had this year, and if they were all on the boat.
It has been a good summer for them and there is plenty of food available so they may have decided to carry on and have another lot. At the moment they have five chicks in the nest so they have a big job on their hands supplying food when their ‘detached’ house is overrun with landlubbers and trapeze artists.
They can be seen flying around the boat with a bill full of food for their offspring. They will wait their time, and when they see a clear run they will dart in and feed them. It only takes a few seconds to do this, then and make a hasty exit and search for more food and then, run the gauntlet again and again, wishing the tide would turn or the heavens would open up. The Swallow, like many of our birds come from Africa, and even far south as The Cape , so they have a long and perilous journey twice a year and fly near continuously when they arrive, starting with gathering mud to repair or build new nests, and then searching for food . The female must be glad when she finally lays her eggs as she can then get a good rest, but the poor male has to keep her supplied with food during the egg incubation, and also to help in the supply of food for their families, and then at the end of summer head back to Africa for a well-earned rest for all of them. It is now nearing the time that this will happen, and soon you will see the swallows sitting in rows on phone and power lines getting ready for the off.
I hope that the boat lasts for many years as it looks quite good on the beach and has become the centre of attraction. A lot will depend on the weather, as the last time we had south westerly winds, it tore the cabin to pieces. If we have the same again we may see a large bundle of firewood where the boat once lay. It is strange that a pile of useless junk that was once a proud boat has now become an important part of, and talking point at our most popular beach. And also the homes of the swallows, which will probably use it, again next year, unless it was to fall foul of the weather. Another option is to purchase the all but abandoned boat tied up at the pier at Port Bannatyne, and transport it to Ettrick Bay, as I heard it was going- “Cheep”
First Published in the Buteman. 03-10-2003
No its’ 2013, and the boat is long gone. Never- the- less, it provided lots of fun for many, and home for many broods of Swallows. Looking forward to the next one?