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North Highland Wildlife Diary for August 2013

Our monthly columnist from the Scottish Highlands A long-time associate of Vine House Farm is Roger Hughes, who now lives in the north of Scotland and the beautiful county of Sutherland. Roger helps us with a range of business services, but he’s also a keen bird watcher, is very knowledgeable about feeding birds, is a general nature lover, and also partly earns his living from writing. He lives with his wife, Julie, and they have a small croft with a wide mix of habitats from wooded riverbank to meadow and moorland – all good for wildlife of course. So with all this in mind, Roger now writes a monthly column for the Vine House Farm website which we very much hope you’ll follow and enjoy. North Highland wildlife diary – August Anyone who loves wildlife will also love having birds nest in their garden. And I certainly do. There’s something about truly wild creatures choosing your tree, your shrub, your little tucked away cranny right between the garden shed and slightly dilapidated trellis hanging on by a thread to the boundary fence, to nest and rear their young. But with Swallows it’s even more personal. Swallows don’t just nest somewhere on your land, they invade your living space a little and actually come inside to a porch, garage or outbuilding. In my case it’s a garage-come-workshop, and ever since we’ve lived here (4 years) a pair of swallows has nested in there. For me the relationship goes further though, because along with the enjoyment of having these long-distance migrants make their summer home right above my quad bike, they cause me considerable stress and anxiety. And they firstly do this by choosing the most insanely precarious rafter to build their nest on (though, in the mind of a swallow, no doubt there’s a different assessment as far as health and safety is concerned), and secondly, and partly due to the first point, I then have to contend with the pre-fledgling swallows who, unsurprisingly to me, fall out of the nest and end up in all sorts of inaccessible places – e.g. behind the chest freezer. This year the usual pattern of events has unfolded, and just two days ago I was rescuing a youngster off the ground from the pair’s second brood, and gently placing it into a shallow cardboard box up in the rafters – the nest being near impossible to access. The action seems to have paid off, as the adults have continued to feed it – despite the odd and somewhat premature excursion the fledgling has decided to take outside the relative safety of the garage. In another four weeks or so my Swallows will be away and heading south to Africa, with their departure spelling the onset of autumn gales and much shorter days. But I’m trying not to think about all that too much, as ahead of such weather and less daylight hours I have a new stable block and storage shed to get built. My wife sees the benefit of our new timber building as being purely for her ponies, but I rather have something else in mind: some new and safer nesting sites for my returning Swallows.