When we moved to our home in Canterbury there were house martins nesting on neighbours’ houses; we did not get them because the chicks would have baked in the direct noonday sun. One house opposite had hung little balls from the eaves to warn the martins off. Super house proud, or possibly paranoid about droppings. Remember Tobit!
It’s been years since there was any excuse for excluding the birds. No martins have nested hereabouts for many years. Newcomers have never seen them nesting: what you don’t know, you don’t miss. The same goes for the martins: their memory of living on our street has gone; they will not return.
I’ve seen very few matins or swallows this year, but last week as I was walking across the field behind our house I saw two martins overhead. I guess a couple of this year’s brood, getting into fettle for the flight to Africa. God Speed them there and safely back!
September had turned warm again, it was a good day to enjoy a sandwich in sight of the sea near Rye Harbour, and watch the world go by.
There were fewer humans than the last time I was this way, which was in August, but there were plenty of birds, as always. What first caught my eye was a small group of sand martins, swooping and swirling, stirring themselves up for the long flight to Southern Africa. Not quite ready to go yet! Was it a family group, the parents imparting their final advice before taking off in earnest?
A cormorant passed by, purposefully facing the light westerly breeze. A different spectacle altogether: its flying looked like hard work, though we know the grace they acquire as soon as they are in their watery element.
It must have been the frequent sightings of fighter planes this Battle of Britain month that set me comparing the martins to Spitfires, all speed and aerobatics and the cormorant to a ponderous Wellington bomber: killing machines both. So are the martins and cormorant killers, but not of their own kind and no more than necessary to feed themselves and their children.
Just too late for St George’s day, the cuckoo was calling from the railway bank (See ‘Vandalism takes many forms’) yesterday as I sat out for lunch and later for afternoon tea. The clamour of our local blackbirds and robins did not quite drown him out. The two cocks take turns to sing from our apricot tree.
Saint George’s did have one returning migrant to show me – a kittiwake gull by as I cycled along the beach against a brisk East wind, only to find my appointment cancelled. The health police would tell me the ride did me good; I know the kittiwake and the cuckoo did!