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Monday 22 September 2014

Hitch-hiker swallow heralds spring

Published 14/03/2014 | 02:30

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Thousands of swallows swarm the October sky -Hitchcock style- over Mountbellew, Co Galway prior to their journey south for the Winter. Photo: David Walsh
Thousands of swallows swarm the October sky Photo: David Walsh

THE first swallow of the season hitched a ride on an Irish naval vessel – on the last leg of a 6,000-mile journey from South Africa.

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And bird lovers say it's a real sign that springtime has arrived.

The naval authorities have reported the long-distance flyer "took a pit stop" on one of their ships off the Kerry coast. He then flew off – and completed the last leg of his long journey under his own steam.

Bird watch experts believe this is likely to be the first arrival of the hundreds of thousands of swallows who will come here in the next few weeks. The flight path of the exhausted bird was logged by experts, and Niall Hatch from Birdwatch Ireland said the arrival signals the start of the annual swallow migration to Ireland.

"It is the first report so far this season," he added.

"It is very interesting this bird has been seen off the coast, and we should see the first arrivals on land any day now. Most of our swallows come from around Johannesburg."

He also revealed how Irish bird lovers are the biggest contributors in the world to a project called Spring Alive, a huge online database, which extends across Europe, Asia and Africa.

It tracks the populations of the well-known migratory favourites such as swallows, cuckoos and swifts. "We have the highest per capita participation in the world. We had nearly 14,000 records last year."

However, he also pointed out the database is showing a decline in the number of birds who now make trans-continental journeys here.

Irish Independent

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