black white and red bird on black wire during daytime

How many swallows make a Summer?

Where are all our swallows and swifts?

Joan

6/21/20244 min read

Ever since I first spotted my first swallow of the year back in late April, I have been scanning the skies looking for more. For sure , I told myself "one swallow doesn't make a summer." But where were the others? Would they never arrive? After that single sighting I saw no more, and the skies around St Etienne de Gourgas remained stubbornly empty. At last I spotted a few swifts circling the skies above our house , while a few days later a group of swallows darted and skimmed above the village houses in Gourgas. "At last", I thought," summer has truly arrived." But I'm afraid my optimism was short lived. Gone, it would seem, are the days when our skies are full of summer visitors. When I ask friends about this, they too confirm that they have seen far fewer swallows and swifts than usual. What on earth is up?

A Swift
A Swift

"I'm sure to see swallows on the canals," I said , for they are a common sight from our boat , as they skim low across the water catching flies in the early evening. But there again, they seem fewer than usual.

Earlier this morning I spent some time parked in the middle of town waiting for Brian to return from an appointment. Lodève is an old town with tall , often shabby looking buildings, that belie their erst while elegance. But Halleluiah! Lodève offers perfect nesting places for swifts. Soaring above me scores of swifts flew backwards and forwards above the roof tops, seeking flies on the wing, and emitting loud screams. What a glorious happy sight. Did you know that in fact swifts rarely touch the ground. They not only eat, they sleep, and mate on the wing too. What's more the old run down houses of Lodève with their open lofts and eaves provide them with the perfect habitat. Sadly, more recently built houses, with their closed soffits are hostile to swifts, and this partly accounts for their demise in other parts. Unfortunately I couldn't catch on camera the many birds that I saw this morning. They fly too fast , darting backwards and forwards like streaks of lightning, and casting their shadows across the ancient stuccoed walls in the bright sunlight. But believe me, although the sky looks empty in the above photograph, there were plenty of swifts in the sky this morning above Lodève.

Lodève roof tops.
Lodève roof tops.
An older Lodève merchant's house
An older Lodève merchant's house
Lodève is full of old houses.
Lodève is full of old houses.
A swift casts its shadow on the wall