Wednesday, 27 July 2011
Why swallows sit on phone wires
Seventeen swallows on the power line. Four more are flying around but I couldn’t grab the camera quick enough. Every year they turn up in April, usually two pairs and they produce two broods of babies and then set off for Africa. This year they seem to have produced even more than usual, but I doubt if any more will come back next year. It must be a hazardous journey.
I did once start writing a children’s story, along the lines of the 'Just So' stories. It was about how the swallows book the places that they are going to stay. It has to be a very complicated business, when you think about how many swallows there are and how many barns and roof eaves are available. How do they know where to go? I can’t imagine that they want to be rushing around the country trying to find a place to stay, especially after they have flown all the way from Africa.
The answer of course lies with the telephone wires. The reason you see all these birds sitting on the wires is because they use the wires to phone ahead and book their places. Sitting on wires and not falling off is obviously very important to them; after all, no one wants to be homeless. The very first thing the swallows teach their babies is how to fly around our quad and get back into the nest. Once they have done that they start practicing sitting on wires.
They don’t just sit, they get fed when they are little, they preen their wings, and they sing. Why spend so much time on the wires? I imaging that the swallow booking service is no better than BT, they probably keep you on hold for ages, so you have to have things to do.
If you don’t believe me, try listening to a swallow’s song. It sounds just like those noises that old-fashioned analogue modems made. One of these years it will all change and we’ll know the swallows have gone digital.