It’s true, one swallow doesn’t make a spring or even a summer. But swallows are being seen in January here in Devon. And December was a bumper month for Devon swallow sightings. So how many do we need?


Swallow Preparing For Migration
Swallow Preparing For Migration

know we are told that swallows migrate to Africa in autumn. That they fly nonstop, sleeping on the wing, on a journey to sub–Saharan Africa each year. And that the spend our winter flying the blue skies in places such as South Africa and Namibia. And most do. But not all of them.

In December 2021 there were nine sightings of swallows in Devon recorded on the birdwatcher’s site, BirdGuides. And whilst that’s the highest number recorded in December for the last 10 years, they aren’t isolated cases.

December swallows have been recorded in Devon in all but two years in the last 10. It might be a sign of global warming but it certainly points to a lot more than the presence of swallows. Swallows weigh around 19-20 grams. And they eat a lot of insects. Some sources claim they catch around one insect a minute. So there must be a lot of insects flying for swallows to survive into December. And insects generally fly when it’s warm enough.

Various bird organisations claim the first swallows appear in the UK on, or around, March 20 each year and that they start breeding in April. They also claim that they leave again for Africa in September or, at latest, October. That was probably true until recent years. But isn’t totally true any longer.

The experts also claim that swallows have three-four broods a year, all packed into the few short summer weeks they are here. But can we be sure of this any longer? Might they now have more broods?

What is clear is that BirdGuides only recorded two sightings of swallows during December in the previous decade. Link this fact with the increased numbers in the last decade, plus the much higher number this year, and clearly more research is needed.

When only a few birds of a given species are present in an area as big as Devon it’s easy to miss them. Of course twitchers and birder watchers are always on the lookout for unusual sightings and they are recorded on BirdGuides and other online sites. But they can’t see everything.

That’s where you can help. And not just with birds. We need to record all the plants and animals in the Sid Valley. Anyone can take part in Citizen Science projects and record sightings of plants, birds, butterflies, and other animals.

It’s not difficult as there are numerous books that illustrate species and apps that will use any photos you take to identify them.
Last year local people helped us record the flowering plants in the area and we were able to establish what was flowering each month. This year we are continuing with this plus recording grasses and birds. Later in the year we will also be recording butterflies. So why not take part?

Interestingly, since this article was written in February, the British Trust for Ornithology, (BTO) have published an article that concurs with our local findings. 

For more information contact us through our website,


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