Got any good trips planned next month? Some of our birds have!


By the end of September most of the swallows in Alpington and Yelverton will have begun their huge migration, all the way to the far south of Africa. So there’s only a few weeks left to see them in the village, before we lose them again for another year.

Swallows in flight

We’ve noticed them often on the telegraph wires and flying around above Cherrywood, but they also zip around above the church’s trees, and you might see a few above your head as you walk near the pond, as we think a few nested in the barn down dranes lane.

Typically they’ll start flocking together at this time of year in larger groups, perched on telegraph wires and branches before taking off together on their epic voyage.

They’re fast and powerful in flight, quite “flappy” as they’re flying, quick wing beats, and they change direction a lot, catching their food in mid air, hoovering up insects like mosquitos for example.

A swallow

They’ve got long thin tail streamers trailing behind them, and a red chin that you’ll spot if they’re close enough.

They can drink in flight as well, quenching their thirst by skimming over the water and opening their beak. Not sure where they do this in our village though, I’ve not seen the technique in action over the pond or anywhere else. Have you?

A swallow’s in flight drinking technique

House martins

Have you noticed the house martins flying around the village as well?

House martins. You’ll have guessed it’s not a real-time photo 🙂

They’ve been nesting up under the eaves of a few lucky houses! We noticed one nest on the side of a house on church road this year for example. We’ve noticed them often in the skies around church meadow, and church road towards the school.

To me, compared to the swallows, they seem less “flappy” when they’re flying, but still fluttery with quick wing beats. They’re a bit more steady, more prone than a swallow to glide on straight wings for short periods, and they’ve got a shorter forked tail with no streamers.

Side shot of a house martin
A house martin’s back while banking left

If they turn their back to you in flight, you may notice they’ve got a distinctive white patch on their bum. And in contrast to the swallows’ red throat they have white instead.


A swallow nest
A house martin nest

You can see from the pictures above, if you see a nest on the side of a house, it’ll likely be a house martin’s, a quarter-sphere shape with a closed top. Apparently swallows don’t nest in eaves, and their nests have an open top instead.

You may have a nest on your property, and depending on your point of view you’ll think that’s lucky or unlucky! Did you know that these birds like to reuse nests that they’ve built? They’ll often find the same nest they built in our village after returning all the way from Africa. And empty nests get reused by different birds. It makes sense, it takes an awful lot of energy to construct one, about a 1000 trips back and forth carrying material.

I guess if I spent each winter abroad and then had to rebuild my house each time I came back home, I’d also try to find the house I built last year!