New barn swallow study – foraging in an arable landscape

Barn Swallow By Andreas TrepteBy Dr. Niamh McHugh, Postdoctoral Scientist

After a long winter in the lab analysing data and identifying invertebrates the Farmland Ecology team are excited to be back in the field!

This summer we have started up a new project looking at barn swallow foraging on arable land in relation to agri-environment scheme habitat options. The swallow is a fantastic study species that is often overlooked in farmland studies, particularly in an arable context.

Since the 1970’s European swallows have seen widespread declines that are independent of changing weather patterns. Farmland intensification has been implicated as a potential contributor in these declines through reducing nest site availability and/or aerial invertebrate abundance.

The UK’s agri-environment schemes contain several options that may boost aerial invertebrate abundance (e.g. floristically enhanced margins, nectar flower mix), however, to date farmland bird studies have focused on bird species that forage either on the ground or within the vegetation and so the potential benefit of these options to aerial invertebrate feeders are unknown.

Foraging swallows are a familiar sight across the countryside, they feed almost exclusively in flight, suddenly changing their path in favour of a new pocket of food. Over the coming months we will be recording this activity across farmland in Hampshire and Wiltshire in addition to measuring the abundance of their prey items in different arable habitats.

Photo by Andreas Trepte.

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Swallow study

at 22:36 on 05/07/2016 by Graham Denny

Not as many swallows at Brewery farm , Suffolk they seemed to be late making a start this year due to the extremely wet weather , one was found dead presumably caught in a heavy down pour not under weight . 1 nest of 4 have been ringed and another brood pending ,swifts seemed to have done slightly better with a brood of 3 ringed and two broods of3and2 pending with 3 nests with adults sitting still . Two years blanket spraying for orange blossom midge in Suffolk in heavy seed growing area knocked the stuffing out of insect eating birds still paying the price unfortunately ,we don't grow anything that is not resistant now and do all we can for all the birds 25,000 have been ringed in last 10 years !

Swallow decline

at 10:27 on 29/06/2016 by Ailsa Farrand

I live in the New Forest, keep horses (muck heaps are a great source of food for birds) and my paddocks are beside a stream. No insecticides or sprays are used but my historically very healthy numbers of swallows that have always nested in my stables and hay barns are predated heavily by the corvids - as are my robins, blackbirds, wrens etc that so far this year only one nest has managed to fledge 4 baby swallows, the parents are laying again but the success rate is dismal.

Swallows and House Martins

at 8:38 on 29/06/2016 by Susan Brown

We have large numbers of swallows and house martins nesting behind the eaves in our farm buildings and feeding over arable fields. When they gather in late summer on our electric cables we count from 80 to 100.

New barn swallow study – foraging in an arable landscape

at 16:12 on 28/06/2016 by Ian Whettingsteel

Plenty here in Norfolk. We have had all 7 hatch and fledge from their nest in our log store. This is their second year in the same nest, and 5 fledged last year.

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