(October 1977) Sibford’s summer guests

On Battle of Britain Sunday we had our own private aerial display.

The martins, having arrived later than usual this year, had nested in this area for the fifth year in succession to the great delight of the local residents.

Some of the old nests had been taken over by sparrows, who were well entrenched before the summer visitors arrived, and who refused to give way under the angry protestations hurled at then, so the martins simply built more accommodation. Easy when you know how.

Last Sunday, the young all now well and strongly on the wing, we had an unusual display of improbable aerobatics. A dozen or more martins were flying, wheeling, banking and nose-diving with such speed as to defeat the eye, and every minute or so swooping up to one house wall or other to circle, settle and take off again, twittering ceaselessly with animated intensity.

With their days in this country now numbered this could hardly have been a nesting flight. Could the birds be making their reservations for next year, albeit mental ones? And what a mentality! guiding them unerringly thousands of miles to the far south and back to the country of their origin, yet not only to the country but to the district, garden and very building of their nesting days.

The scientists and ornithologists may study and explain as they like concerning orientation by stars, but to me it will remain a miracle.