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Swallow in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

If you were to stop anyone in the street and ask them to name a migratory bird species, apart from them telling you that you are a bit strange, they would probably say the swallow.  The swallow is well known for its migratory lifestyle and this is reflected in the saying that "one swallow does not make a summer". The weekly reports show why this is true!

The first reports of swallows arriving seem to come as early as week 11, late March, so certainly one seen then is a long way off from summer! Two weeks later there seems to be a peak with a flurry of activity as the returning birds come in over the south coast and this is picked quickly here in Dorset. The inward stream seems to go until mid May and then reports die away for the summer. The lack of summer records is down to various factors but one is that swallows are not that common as a breeding species in Dorset and those that do breed here are often around farm buildings and the like and not on the sites that tend to be well watched by 'birders'. 

Although the inward bound peak is over in about six weeks the outward bound season is very different. It starts around week 34 (mid August) and continues for around ten weeks to week 43 in early to mid October. Whilst the inward birds do not hang around in Dorset for long given they have serious work to do when it comes to leaving they can choose the right time to go when their young are strong enough and when weather conditions are right. That said, there seems to be a major departure during week 42 which then becomes a trickle for a week or two. Some birds leave even later in week 49 at the end of November. Certainly none seem to over winter in Dorset.

The distribution map shows how frequent the sightings are from coastal sites and these are mainly migratory bird; the inland sites are more likely to be breeding birds. The most reports come from Abbotsbury, Portland and Durlston.

For the best swallow experience head to Durlston in late September and see the skies filled with swallows having a last meal before setting out to sea on the journey south.



This is just my nature note: for lots more information including distribution maps, status charts, identification guidance and more photographs go to the species home page by clicking/tapping the icon