Common swallows (Hirundo rustica), returned from their long migrations, come hawking over our fields and ponds in search of insects at this time of year.
The park is preferred swallow habitat: fields of low vegetation, with nearby water and plenty of flying insects. There are open structures, barns and stables, on the farmland around the park to provide nesting sites, and exposed locations such as wires or bare branches for perching,
Importantly, we also have mud: a large pond of it, regularly stirred to just the right consistency by diligent water-loving dogs. Swallows build their nests out of mud, high up against the walls or beams of buildings or bridges. The adult birds collect mouthfuls of mud from the edges of ponds, streams and puddles; they add saliva and shape the mud into pellets that they use to build up the walls of cup shaped nests. While the nests look insubstantial and precarious, the mud and saliva they are made from dries concrete-hard, more than sufficient to safely rear up to five chicks.
Header image: Swallow by Ferran Pestaña (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Other images as attributed in viewer.