Six weeks or so ago our flocks of martins suddenly departed southward and the swallows gathered on the telephone wires above the road passing the front of our house. They chattered and fidgeted, stretched their wings and tails and preened busily ensuring that they were in the best of trim for their long migratory adventure.
Then one day the skies were silent and the wires empty.
But a week later as we were working away in the garden borders we heard excited calls overhead and dozens of swallows were swirling around just above shrub height. They were so close to us as they enjoyed a feeding frenzy. They must have been en route south from further up North, Scotland or the Lake District perhaps, when the big old oak tree in the paddock behind us and the gardens of our little group of houses called them down. This place meant insects to gorge on to refill and prepare themselves by stocking up for the next leg of their long migration. As we watched stunned by their excitement, their noise and flying acrobatics, they were joined by an equal number of house martins.
They periodically stopped in mixed groups on our roof ridge to chatter and catch up on the latest migration news. For us of course there was the added bonus of all those garden pests being hoovered up by gaped beaks. Great pest control!
Now in early October they have definitely all gone. We miss their constant chattering in the sky above the garden and await their return in the Spring.