Fota Frameyard Swallows

Fota Frameyard Swallows

Our Frameyard swallows have returned!

With great determination they’ve built their nest in an unusual place on a beam under the roof.  It’s not the most elegant looking build but now it’s home to four chicks and the adults are kept busy feeding their demanding brood. Swallows usually arrive in Ireland in April and May and bring the summer with them. 

That they arrive at all is a wonder, as these 6 inch, 3/4 ounce birds are faced with the perils of climate change, a widening Sahara and hunters. According to Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland, their numbers are nowhere near to where they were years ago. 

Determination. Swallows epitomise this. They travel over 9,500 km to spend the summer here (are they crazy? Many of us are flying out of the country!) The intrepid males arrive first and the females about two weeks later.

Ours is a late brood but swallows can have two or even three. Given the hazards faced by the young fledglings on their September flight to Africa, this isn’t really surprising. For a pair that might raise 100 chicks, maybe 98 of these will die.


Pecking Order in the nest!            (Photo J. Fleury)

Since the chicks have hatched, we’ve watched the devoted parents work non-stop to prepare their offspring for migration. There are many ways that the swallows know when it’s time to leave and one of these is the shortening day and decreasing daylight.

Our swallows have learned to accommodate us as we work around the Frameyard. We consider their late arrival here and the possible reasons for this – did they stop off in Spain for a break, did they get blown off course by one of Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Winds” or did they simply fancy a change of address from nearby Cobh – whatever the reason, we’ll miss our swallows when they leave. We wish them well on their journey and look forward to their return next year, when Nature’s powerful, fearless and enduring cycle continues.

A damp wind coils around the cliff.
Sycamore keys whirl towards the sea.

And when you look back, they are gone.

                                                                                           Swallows by Marion Adams.

More about Migration

Dick Warner on Migration