I recently spent a very pleasant September morning taking a slow and contemplative walk around West Harptree, a little village at the southern end of the Chew Valley, nestling under the Mendip Hills’ dark slopes.

It was a warm and sunny autumn day – the sort of day that you don’t have to think about enjoying because, well, its simply impossible not to do so.  Warm airs, the scents of flowers and mown grass – and not a little of my enjoyment deriving from the little birds – Swallows and House Martins  – that were ceaselessly flitting around the rooftops.  Both of these species are little insectivores that come up to England from Africa in the spring, breed here during our balmy months and then, when the weather cools and their flying prey is no longer so plentiful, return to Africa’s insect-laden skies once more.

I have of course been a birdwatcher and so am undoubtedly biased, but to me these flitting little creatures are an essential part of our summer – and I have to admit to a tinge of sadness when, as autumn draws on, I see them in larger flocks, on roadside wires and aloft, and know that, having bred, they’re gearing up once more for their return journey to the tropics.

So, in memory of that warm autumn morning, here are a couple of pictures to do with the Harptree swallows.  First, at the start of this post, a young House Martin in its nest, up under the eaves of the local pub, the Crown Inn.  The nest consists of little rounded pellets of mud, which the adult birds collect from around puddles and other wet places, mould in their beaks, and then plaster together while still wet and sticky, to make this little cup.  The individual pellets of mud can just be made out in its structure.

The young bird appears to have fledged, i.e. to have grown its feathers, such that it is now facing two stark challenges.  First, it has to jump out of that nest and start flying.  And then second, in a matter of a few weeks at most, it must fly south for thousands of miles – since to stay in England’s green and pleasant land would mean certain death from starvation and cold.  Such is the Natural World and yet of course these birds do face and surmount these challenges – and next spring, if it survives, this one may well be back around West Harptree’s rooftops, intent itself upon raising a brood.

And here is the main door of the little church of St Mary, just over the road from the pub.  First, there is the masonry and the stoutly hinged wooden door – with a swarm of fine holes where other notices have been pinned up in the past.  But today’s notice is not about jumble sales, coffee mornings or even exhortations to fervent prayer, but rather that all and sundry should ensure that the door is kept shut, or others of God’s Creations will be inside before you can say “knife”, breeding merrily on high and making pretty much of a mess down below.

House Martins (which are also in the swallow family) breed on the outside of buildings, like the one shown above (and before buildings, used to breed on cliff faces).  Whereas their close cousins the Swallows will be inside and breeding in any relatively undisturbed building (especially barns) like a flash.

And so, two snapshots from a Somerset village, on a warm autumn day.  Both can be seen enlarged by clicking onto them.  Details: 10 Sept 2015; D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens; 1600 ISO.

About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. bluebrightly says:

    I enjoy hearing about those little zipping flitters, whose cousins are leaving my area too, or probably already have. When you think of it, the sign is evidence of a village that hasn’t grown too big, because if/when it grew big and busy and full of traffic, this problem would be unlikely, wouldn’t it? A village small enough that swallows want to next in its churches…essence of England! At least in my American mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      I’m certainly with you re the “essence of England” thing – it was something that I was trying to bring out in this post, maybe even the post’s basic raison d’etre – happy you pick that up – thanks! A


  2. krikitarts says:

    We have swallows (house, barn, and cliff) here too, and martins as well. How could anyone who has ever dreamed of flying (and who hasn’t?!) fail to be enthralled, watching their agile aerial antics?


  3. paula graham says:

    Nature knows best? ? ! Many, Many fall by the wayside and a few survive…unlike people! Lovely shots, I hope the little creatures survive, there were very few here in the South in the last few years. They are indeed such a joy to see and hear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Survival of the fittest, I guess – as people used to be! I’m re-reading Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee, which is set near here, in the Cotswolds; and even back near WWI infant mortality was high – I’m certainly not saying that was a good thing, but the fact remains that H sapiens has to considerable extent left Nature behind and is now on his/her own road.


  4. Sallyann says:

    Such a long journey at such a young age but I suspect Ma Nature is very well practiced at helping, or hindering, the little cutie on its way, and she usually knows best. 🙂


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