Sunday, 3 October 2010

Last Minute Feasting

Many places are reporting huge numbers of swallows and martins moving through, coming from the north and heading south for their winter homes in Africa.

Swallows and martins feeding over our sour cherry trees.
A couple of days ago I was surprised to see a large mixed flock of Swallows and House Martins concentrated over our orchard. They were, in the parlance of my childhood, 'going mental', hurtling from one side to the other, flittering at tree top level and sometimes even landing in the cherry trees - I'd never seen that before!

There are at least 5 swallows actually in the tree,
and the cloud of flying ants is clearly visible.
As I got closer, approaching by way of the haymeadow in front of the orchard, I realised there were huge swarms of flying ants. I could see columnar clouds of insects that hung in the air about a metre above the ground at the bottom, and snaking up above tree top height. I'm guessing they are either mating swarms or swarms of males, but I don't know enough about this group to identify them. I've asked an expert contact, but may have to wait a few days for an answer.

This is the quarry.
Clearly the swallows and martins were stuffing their faces as fast as they could. These sorts of swarms don't last very long (a few hours maybe) and those little birds need all the food and energy they can snap their beaks around if they are to survive the trip to Africa.



Diogenes said...

Wonderful picture with all the flying ants and a very interesting post. Everything looks autumnal now...

Jean said...

"to survive their trip to Africa". What an concept.

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