The one event, more than any other, each year that makes my spirits soar and my heart beat faster is the arrival of the swallows and house martins after the long months of winter. And the great news is that they have indeed, in the third week of April, now arrived.
This year it is later than normal. I guess the weeks of cold easterly and northerly winds have slowed them down in their northward migration.
Each year we see one or two solitary house martins and swallows first, resting on the telegraph wires or flying around the farm feeding on flies and other insects. These seem to move on, presumably heading further north, and then, a few days later, the main body of these welcome summer visitors arrive.
They swoop acrobatically around the farm buildings, exploring old nesting sites, eating hungrily the plentiful flying insects and chattering excitedly on the telegraph wires. I like to think they are reminiscing about their epic journeys from the southern point of Africa, across the Equator, following the Nile Valley northwards, crossing the Mediterranean to reach us in deepest North Devon!
Soon they will be refurbishing old nests or building new nests under the eaves or in the rafters of our farm buildings, laying and incubating their clutches of eggs. We shall see them bringing in beakfuls of insects to feed their young and then the fledglings struggling to perfect their flying techniques. But all that, and the long days of a, hopefully, hot summer in the countryside, are still to come.
Meanwhile the swallows have arrived and we can rejoice in that. Summer is on its way. The hedgerows are filling with colourful flowers, the trees are starting to shoot and will soon be in leaf. And maybe, just maybe, we shall soon hear the call of the cuckoo in our woods…