Hope swoops into the barn with the swallows

The first swallows arrived in one of our sheds this morning – it is funny how hopeful these swooping, chattering birds make me feel every year. This year, the year of Corona, the irony hit me that they have flown thousands of miles to get here, almost certainly from south of the African Sahara, while we humans are locked down, our wings clipped by a global pandemic.

These joyful birds, skimming past me and the horses this morning are such a welcome sight. Over the next few weeks many more should appear here – our collection of old barns normally houses upwards of 30 pairs.

A few years ago numbers dipped worldwide due to late winter weather meaning many didn’t make the flight. Last year though numbers were strong and I hope this year that our barns are once again full of their chattering and yes, even with the mess they bring.

There is something timeless about standing in a paddock on a summer evening at dusk, with the horses grazing quietly round about you, and these birds all around, swooping low to the ground catching insects on the wing.

In Scotland, they were thought to carry a drop of the Devil’s blood under their tongues and so were left well alone, as who wants to pick a fight with the Devil.

While in most of the UK and Europe the swallow is seen as an omen of the return of summer fruitfulness, in Scotland, they were once thought to carry a drop of the Devil’s blood under their tongues and so were left well alone – as who wants to pick a fight with the Devil? However, if they made a nest in a corner of one of your windows it was thought good luck would fall on your household.

In our sheds they are noisy, gregarious, messy birds (they like to keep their nests tidy by pooping over the edge of them so our floors and stable doors and sometimes rugs get covered), however in these strange and frightening times as I watch the first pair soar into the sky they feel like harbingers of hope.

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