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A summer visitor that nests in Dorset


Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Swallow: one may not make a summer but it makes my spring!

Post date: Monday, 31 March, 2014 - 00:00

All right, one swallow (Hirundo rustica) does not make a summer but at least seeing the first one each year does constitute a further sign that spring is with us. For me it is a turning point in the calendar; after not seeing them for six months or so suddenly there they are! Just where did they come from? 

I saw and photographed this one at Radipole Lake on the 25th March 2010 and what surprised me at first was actually seeing one in a tree! I am sure I had never seen this before. Then, looking at it, a tired, hungry little chap it was obvious he was happy to perch anywhere just to give his wings a rest. Despite a small group of people gathering under the tree for a look he had just had enough and wanted a breather! I have seen the swallows come and go over many years but took their presence in our skies each summer for granted and totally overlooked the enormous effort it must take for that tiny creature to fly all that all way to Africa each autumn and then fly all the way back again in spring. No wonder this one wanted a rest.

Although they said in the RSPB visitor centre at Radipole that they usually get swallows in Mid March I usually reckon to see them first week in April as I think that is peak time for these returning migrants. For me, at least, this one was very special. I hope he had a long and happy summer, had many fledglings, had a safe journey back south and that he was able to make the trip many more times in subsequent years. 


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Swallow
Alternative Name(s) Barn Swallow
Scientific Name Hirundo rustica
Status Locally common
Interest Level
Species Family Hirundines and Swifts
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
Preferred Environment
  • Farmland
  • Gardens and parks
  • Lakes and ponds
Look for Fast flying birds with a forked tail
Additional Identification Notes
  • Tend to feed at lower levels than the similar house martin
  • Nest in barns and in open buildings so often seen around farms
  • In Dorset they can be seen in their thousands in September as they start to migrate southwards