Swallow family

Baby swallow: 'Where's my food?'

Baby swallow: ‘Where’s my food?’

Parent arrives with food, having decided - eventually - to ignore me and my camera lens

Parent arrives with food, having decided – eventually – to ignore me and my camera lens


A couple of days after the demise of the unfortunate baby swallow, an entire swallow family emerged from the nest: four fully fledged, perfect young birds. All the more reason to conclude that the dead one was the runt and considered superfluous to the survival of the family group. Nature takes no prisoners.

We think there are four juveniles. What with the occasional visiting adult of unknown relation, and all the fast and playful dipping and swooping done by the newly fledged, plus the fact that they are only just discernible from adult birds, it’s hard to be sure exactly how many there are. Nor have they completely left the nest. They spend most of their time back in there, being fed by the parents, and how they all fit inside is a mystery. They do not emerge at the entrance to the tunnel to take food but do peek out occasionally, then retreat if one of us is around.

The parents are less tolerant of us than they were. They endured the daily photography during the nest building. After nest completion, everything went rather quiet for a while. This wasn’t the loud, in-your-face hatching and rearing performed by the sparrows last year. Just the simple, sudden appearance after the appropriate amount of time – about five weeks – of a group of perfect young birds. Now that the parents have newly airborne young, if we stand too long at the entrance to our own home they are inclined to fly towards our noses then jink before contact. I wouldn’t say it’s aggressive, exactly. I don’t think it’s over-friendly either. All the same, we love them, the entire Red-rumped Swallow family, and it’s wonderful to think that they are likely to return year after year.

If we lie on the sunbeds in the garden at the end of the day (such as when a house-guest is taking care of the evening meal; see below), we can watch the parent swallows as they circle endlessly overhead, collecting food. We can also watch the Bee-eaters. They glide their fabulously coloured geometric shapes against the brilliant blue sky as they return to their roost in a nearby valley. Between long glides they will fast-flutter then brake and spin on the spot, perhaps plucking insects out of the air, perhaps testing and displaying their flying prowess.

A young visitor from New York stayed with us this week. She slept out under the stars, which is perfect in the month of August. I did it myself about ten days ago, to watch the Perseid shower at its peak on the night of 11/12th. I made a comfortable nest on the sunbed, gazed deep into the infinite stars and waited for the show to begin . . . then woke up as dawn was breaking, having missed it all. Our starlight-sleeper woke up after her final night with one eye half closed thanks to an insect sting. She googled a remedy, reluctantly concluded that sourcing it from the side of a hill in back-of-beyond Portugal was unlikely, and approached Husband for help.

Husband went to the knife drawer. This caused initial consternation.

He sliced a leaf off the Aloe vera plant in the garden and squeezed out some gel to soothe over the swollen eye. The eye was back to normal within a few hours.

‘Wow, you guys have everything here,’ she said. Coming from someone born and bred in one of the best-supplied cities on earth, this is something. And I think she might be right.

The googled remedy, by the way? Aloe vera.

Our next anti-oil action is scheduled for Sunday and is to involve kids. Among the activities there are to be human letters in the sand again, but I’m going to let it be more ad hoc this time. No more angsting over that for me.

I never tire of visiting beautiful Tavira. By the Roman Bridge at midday, low tide

I never tire of visiting beautiful Tavira. By the Roman Bridge at midday, low tide


  1. BeckyB

    I am sure I read somewhere that most of the aloe vera we see in the hills is the remains of commercial production?! Good to know you have some in the garden.

    1. Edith (Post author)

      Hi Becky, the a.v. was planted by our predecessors. It’s in the cultivated bit of the garden, not the wild bit. It grows very happily here.

  2. Hazel

    Congratulations on having raised the birdikins family so successfully! Wish we were there to watch them! But we have a family of FIVE frogs in the garden! All doing well. They take a dim view of the FFH, esp. when he stops for a swig from their ‘pond’.It’ll be a sad day when the little red rumps decide to leave you for a few months with an empty nest!

  3. Patricia Roberts

    It is so good to follow your airborne summer visitors in such close detail, just love the picture of the baby swallow peeping out at the new world, great shot. Good luck to you on Sunday, l feel you are all making at least a noise in an attempt to halt the destruction of the Algarve.


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