gathering swallows

Walking the same route everyday opens the eyes to the small changes, that in ‘new’ places go unnoticed. The changes at the start of September can’t be captured better than the overly-familiar Keats “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness … and gathering swallows twitter in the skies.”


Here in the Vale of Pickering the swallows gather in very large numbers before they fly south of the Sahara (we like to imagine their twittering sound is them asking one another: “Have you been to Bamako? Have you been to Bamako?”).


Richard Mabey recalls the fascination that Gilbert White (1720-1793) had with these birds (and the house martins, sand martins and swifts) and his attempts to understand  their migration. At the time White’s contemporaries believed they ‘disappeared’ in the winter as a result of their hibernation underground or within hedges. It is a great episode of ‘discovery’ from the development of natural history, and another example where close ‘local’ study enables a better understanding of much bigger issues.

And I suppose that as the skies fill with their twittering sounds another earth building ‘season’ starts to draw to a close. I just wish we count mount a camera to the swallows to get a birds-eye view of all those amazing earth buildings they are about to fly over!

This earlier post explores the connections between building with earth and swallows:

More information:

Richard Mabey, (2006), Gilbert White: A biography of the author of The Natural History of Selborne is a great read.

More on swallows on the RSPB website:

About Louise Cooke

Louise Cooke - landscapes, archaeology, earth buildings and other interesting things
This entry was posted in Earth Building, Heritage, landscape, Vale of Pickering and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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