They are a traditional sign that summer is here.
But while swallows have made their annual return to Britain’s skies, their numbers are much depleted, leaving birdwatchers baffled.
One theory is that a freak storm in Greece earlier this year may have killed thousands of the birds on their migration to the UK from South Africa.
Dead swallows were indeed found in Athens and on Aegean islands after high winds battered the country in April, just as their first sightings were recorded here:
Paul Stancliffe, from the British Trust for Ornithology, said: ‘People are asking, ‘Where are all the swallows?’ They are here but seem to be in much lower numbers than we would expect coming into summer. They really should be here and on their breeding grounds.‘
Precise numbers have been harder to gather than usual as lockdown is keeping the twitchers away from rural areas where swallows are normally best spotted.
Stephen Hussey from Devon Wildlife Trust said: ‘It is totally anecdotal but numbers do seem to be down slightly.
‘The only reason I’ve seen put forward was a storm over Greece that may have had quite high casualties.
‘All migratory birds are suffering long-term declines…‘
Problems with swallows
Swallows are migratory birds. They travel up to 10,000 kilometers between Europe (spring and summer) and Africa (winter). But right now, we are already in summer and, in some areas, swallows haven’t appeared yet.
I really doubt this year’s decrease in swallows is solely due to this gigantic wind storm in Greece. No way! It didn’t wipe out an entire bird population in a night. No way!
There is of course the problem of the agriculture and the abundant use of pesticides and insecticides, killing their main source of food: insects and even sometimes poisoning the birds. Scientific studies have shown that chemicals, insecticides and pesticides have reduced the swallow population by 30% over the last decade.
Moreover, extreme weather also plays an important role… In the event of drought, swallows struggle to migrate from the African continent (and through the Sahara desert) to Europe. Conversely, cold weather can decimate their population and hinder nesting.
But still I don’t think all of these threats explain the sudden disappearance of swallows in the UK and across Europe and other birds across the world.
So there is a clear increase in birds mysteriously dying and falling from the sky. But nobody really can’t tell the cause of these massive mass die-offs.
Are these bird deaths linked to poisoning? Extreme weather events? Diseases? New technologies like 5G? A bit of all? What’s your opinion and hypothesis?