Amazing Fall of Swallows

Thursday May 3rd
Took a stroll around Longham Reservoir North this morning hoping to catch up with the Turnstones, but sadly they had gone. On the island the 2 Ruffs remained, with the Black-tailed Godwits, now 2 Dunlins and, new in, 4 Common Sandpipers. 2 Shelducks were also notable and there was 1 female Wheatear at the south end, but the undoubted highlight of the morning was seeing an Otter, first crossing the causeway between the lakes, and then on the northern shoreline of Longham Reservoir North. It remained in place for at least 20 minutes, making very brief and shallow dives a metre or so offshore, totally unconcerned about being watched. Amazing.

In the late afternoon the sky began to fill up with Swallows. It was obvious at once that this was a major event, unprecedented for Longham. I started counting birds perched for a rest on the island in LR North; in the first bush were over 100, while the island itself and nearby emergent vegetation held about 600 altogether. The willows emerging at the south end were even thicker with Swallows, and I estimated 2000, and even while all these birds were perched, others were flying over the water, thick as mayflies. I estimate that there were at least 5000 all told on the site (this beats the previous high count by 4850). There were much smaller numbers of House Martins among them, probably several hundred, and similar numbers of Sand Martins, while up above there were literally cloud of Swifts, wheeling in large circles – at least 500 of them.

Not surprisingly a Hobby made a pass across the water, but missed. On a more prosaic note, there were still 3 White Wagtails on the island, and 4 Greylag Geese flew past.

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