Swallows cause stir at Thornham farm shop

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Nesting swallows are proving to be a big draw for staff and holiday-makers alike at Thornham’s Drove Orchards Farm Shop.

They swoop over customers heads as they come and go with beaks full of insects for their clamouring young.

It is five years now since these summer visitors from South Africa first decided the covered entrance to the shop would make an ideal place to bring up their young.

Now three nests of mud, only a foot or so above head height, are stuck to the rafters.

Two are believed to hold eggs on the point of hatching and the third squawking, hungry young.

“Now we are a grandmother,” said delighted staff member, Christine Pinder, as she heard the clamouring young brood while serving a customer.

“Holiday-makers come each year and ask me ‘are the swallows back?”

Locally they are well-known and so used to humans they come and go without fear.

“Early in the season, when the birds first arrive, they sometimes even come into the shop and do a lap without landing and fly out again.

“They’re obviously looking for nesting sites,” said Mrs Pinder.

Later in the year, when the young have fledged, parents and young will sit and watch customers from vantage points such as the newspaper and seed stands, and special perches put up especially for them outside the shop.

Nests usually hold three or four eggs.

Manager Tom Wheeler said that he had been told people had seen a parent and all their young lined up on one of the perches watching people come and go.

Swallows and house-martins are summer visitors who feed on airborne insects.

They land to collect the mud for their nests usually from the edges of rivers, streams and ponds.

Swifts, whose diet is also entirely made up of flying insects, are from a different family of birds, and are more secretive in their choice of nesting site.

Unable to perch they collect mud in low swoops without landing and, nesting apart, spend their life on the wing, even sleeping aloft.

All three migratory birds tend to return to the same nesting sites each year.