October 02, 2011

The last swallow of summer

Today I saw what must surely be the last swallow of summer. He was perched on the weathervane at Sissinghurst Castle, for all the world as though he was trying to work out which direction was south.

Most of Britain's swallows are long gone; the National Trust staff told us that there had been two nests at Sissinghurst that year, but that both broods had flown three weeks before. So why hadn't this chap migrated? Hadn't he got up to a good enough weight to make the trip to Africa? Or was the unseasonably warm weather keeping him here?

After watching him for a few minutes the reason became clear. He was holding his left wing awkwardly, and although he did take off twice, for short flights before returning to the weathervane, he was having to flap his wings more than he should have on such a fine day and with such good thermals. His ability to fly had obviously been compromised by his injury.

We speculated about how such a strong flier could have damaged his wing. But in the hop barn, a chalkboard headed 'wildlife sightings' told the story. 'Hobby:' it read. 'Frequent visitor'.