Swallow nest update

You can see more video highlights of the nest on the Emma's Garden Live page.

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post for a few days as it’s a bit of a sad one I’m afraid.

If you’ve been following the progress of the swallow nest on Emma’s Garden Live or my Facebook page, you’ll know that four of the five eggs hatched in early/mid July.

The adults were fantastic - feeding their chicks every few minutes during the day, and mum brooding them at night.

They were growing fast and we decided to contact a BTO endorsed bird-ringer to come and ring the chicks. This was fascinating to see - Geoff from the Sorby Breck Ringers group came over one rainy morning last week and ringed the chicks in about ten minutes, with the adult swallows perched a small distance away, just keeping an eye on their young. He even let me ring the last chick!

Geoff came in for a cup of tea after and we kept an eye on the livestream, to ensure that the chicks and parents were happy. Before long, the parents were back to swooping in with beakfuls of insects for the chicks, as if nothing had happened. I was delighted that the nest was doing so well, especially after the events of last summer.

Unfortunately, the following evening we heard a lot of commotion outside, with swallows alarm calling loudly. We dashed outside and looked at the nest and we could see that there were only two chicks present, and some of the mud nest cup had been loosened and pulled away. Andrew rewound the livestream, and we could see a cat had managed to get to the nest and take two of the chicks. We think it was one of the feral farm cats that live not far from us.

We were so upset. The parents quickly abandoned the nest, and didn’t return to it that evening, or the following morning. The nest location itself is a bit of a poor choice - it’s under the eaves of our shed, at head height - within easy reach of predators. And as the chicks got older, they became more vocal, especially when the parents were flying in with food - this could easily have alerted the cat to their presence.

There is a ray of hope however. The following morning, I watched the nest for an hour or so, to see if the parents did in fact return. They didn’t. One of the two remaining chicks had perished in the night, but there was still one alive. I gently picked it up and was surprised at its strength! It had a great grip on my finger, seemed very alert, was warm, and was even trying to flap its developing wings. I decided then and there that we had to try and give this chick the best possible chance of survival!

I popped it in a cardboard box, with an old t-shirt for warmth and drove it up the motorway to a wildlife sanctuary, just north of Chesterfield. The lovely ladies from Pet Samaritans took the swallow in and called it ‘Lucky’. A very apt name, I’m sure you’ll agree. As I was leaving, it was being taken away for some food and a heat pad. Fingers crossed that little Lucky survives. I shall be sure to keep you updated as and when I hear anything.