Mild winter sees swallows avoiding the long flight back to Africa
The swallow’s return has long been regarded as an indication of the end of winter and the emergence of the first signs of spring. But according to Niall Hatch of BirdWatch Ireland, “over the last few years there have been records of a few birds who haven’t bothered to migrate at all”.
Traditionally, swallows have left Irish shores to overwinter in Africa. The birds generally depart in the autumn and return in large numbers in about April. However, last year, swallows were recorded in counties Wicklow and Waterford well into November. “We would expect a couple of winter sightings,” explained Mr Hatch. “The weather in Ireland was mild enough that they could have survived.”
He said the first “reliable” swallow sighting in Ireland this year was near Clonakilty in Co Cork last Saturday, March 3rd.
The online school study Greenwave.iehas gathered no less than 18 sightings of swallows around the country since January 29th, when the first swallow was reported by Claregalway National School. Participating schools monitor the signs of spring, focusing on hawthorn, frogspawn, horse chestnut, ash, primrose and the swallow. Project manager at Greenwave.ie, Caroline Coleman, said records for the current season had to be opened early due to the mild conditions.