The Nature Diary of Compton Bassett

Common Dorrmouse

Many of you, I know, keep a nature diary in some form and what I am trying to do here is to provide a way of collating all this wonderful information into one place.



Swallows and House Martins

After many years absence, and then two years where those familiar calls had filled the summer skies I had dared to hope that the cuckoo is perhaps finding Compton Bassett a suitable place to lay its eggs once more? In 2018 a call was heard first on 2nd May but sadly last year had proved the reversal of the trend had in fact gone back to the recent pattern of a cuckoo-less sky

My fingers are crossed that they may just be late in their incredible journey and there may yet be more young from this iconic bird this summer. I can but hope!


Swifts Swallows and House Martins

Swifs Swallows and House Martins

This year the first two brave pairs of swallows flew across Compton Bassett heading northwards on 5th April perhaps the earliest for many years.

The house martins seemed to have sneaked in almost without recognition a week later. Although no-one seems to have noticed exactly when. They were just 'there' one morning.

It was then on 29th that five Swifts were spotted near Calne by Laurie Waite

This year they have all arrived safely and early.

Has anyone seen any Cuckoos? We seem to have lost some.



Swallows and House Martins

After many years absence, dare we hope that the cuckoo is finding Compton Bassett a suitable place to lay its eggs once more? Last year a call was heard first on 2nd May and you may have concluded from the swallows arrival being a week later than last year that the cuckoo might have been similarly late. Not so! Earlier this morning (20th April) that timeless call of the English countryside disturbed my toast at breakfast.

The Cuckoo is back!

My fingers are crossed that this means there will be more young from this iconic bird this summer and for many more to come.

Swallows and House Martins

Swallows and House Martins

This year the first brave pair of swallows turned up on the wires across the the small fieldnear Street Farm on 10th April a few days later than last year. Maybe they knew something of the late cold spell that hit us in March.

It was then on 13th that more were spotted near Compton Farm by Laurie Waite

As the weekend of 21st April draws close there are more significant numbers being seen swooping and diving in the skys above us.


Swallows and House Martins

Swallows and House Martins

This year the arrival of the House Martins and the Swallows was first reported by John Reis on 5th April at The Manor and on the same day by Adrian Elmer at Manor Farm. This year they seemed to have arrived with the intention of staying in sufficient numbers to have started their summer breeding season straight away.

In past years their habit has always seemed to be to arrive and spend a few day before moving on for short while before returning to start their breeding season. But not so, it seems, this year.



The Cuckoo, apart from the fleeting glimpse last year, which may have been attributed more to a bird still on it's homeward leg of it's spring migration hasn't been seen (or heard) around these parts for many years but this year has taken up a more permanent residence in the Cumberwell region of the village. As was reported on 2nd May this year by Laurie Waite who lives in that part of the village.



These summer visitors have again graced us with their presence around the 24th of April, and have again visited my office with a quick trip around the inside of my office, presumably to check that all is still in order. I am also blessed with visits from the swallows and the house martins but these more mysterious birds give me a particular thrill when their sooty brown silhouette flies in, around and out again, so quickly that you only glimpse them from the corner of your eye and they are gone as quickly as they came.

Their habit of being able to sleep on the wing on their journey to and from Africa gives them an added air of mysticsm for me.



Of late I have noticed a small number of young rabbits are returning to our hedgerows. Indeed there is one brave young thing has found its way into the garden and appears to have taken up residence there. Enough to get my poor black lab into something of a lather when he sees it.

Of course, if there are young rabbits there are adults and if there are adults there will be soon more of them! In many areas there have been sufficient numbers to have been considered a pest, but myxomatosis seems to have largely limited the numbers and it is nice to see them around again. Whether I shall feel so charitable towards them if they take a liking to my hostas as they show themselves above the soil remains to be seen.



On 22nd May Adrian Elmer heard the first Cuckoo in the hedges some way behind Street Farm Dairy. The Cuckoo hasn't been seen around these parts for many years, the first one for some time being heard last year but sadly only for a short time as it passed through on its onward journey to its preferred summer breeding grounds. It would sadly appear that this years Cuckoo was on a similar pathway as it hasn't been heard from since then.


On 12th May Laurie Waite witnessed the first of our returning Swifts this summer. The numbers, dwindling in recent years have dropped to just 4 adult birds this year and seem to be building their nests around Compton Farm. Do we just have the four birds in the village this year?



The customary Moorhens in the village pond seem to be absent this year. It was always so sad to see that one of the adult birds had succumbed to the traffic passing on the road. Although the surviving adult seemed to have no trouble attracting a replacement mate. Earlier in April 2014 I have noticed a female Mallard with TWO male escorts exploring the pond and surrounding ditches and streams. They appear to be setting up home in the undergrowth at the back of the pond, although I am unsure if she now has one escort or is still hanging on to the second, 'just in case'.


First Swallows

On the 9th April 2014 Peter Barnett saw the first two Swallows of the year at Compton Farm.

For centuries it was believed that Swallows hibernated at the bottom of ponds or lakes, sheltered by the ice, rising again in mid-April to signal the end of winter and celebrating the beginning of summer. Watch their flight patterns, if the Swallow flies low we will have rain, and if they fly high beautiful weather is to be expected.



April can bring many joys in the countryside and one of those is certainly the flowering of cowslips. We are fortunate to have cowslips growing in some abundance in Compton Bassett, mostly up on the downs, although as with much of the flora to be found there, the plants have adapted themselves to the thin chalky soils and are small and delicate and with very short stems. Please, please don‘t pick them, they need all the protection that they can get. In Victorian times children used to make cowslip balls or ’tossies‘ tying great bunches of the flowers tightly together just below the heads. And cowslip wine was a firm favorite.

Shakespeare, of course, had a lot to say about cowslips, most famously perhaps:

’Where the bee sucks, there suck I,
In a cowslip‘s bell I lie‘
The Tempest JSR

March 2013

Country people look forward to the arrival of the barn swallows. Last year Peter Barnett saw his first one on Sunday 15th April. What amazing little birds they are, flying from Cape Town they can migrate to Britain in 27 days given the right conditions. It is possible for them to fly 300 kilometres in a day.

The Sparrow has found her a home
And the Swallow a nest, where she may lay her young. Ps. 84 v 3.

Some Summer Thoughts on Swallows

June 2012 - The return of our swallows and house martins was a bit “touch and go” this season but in the end we have seen more of these welcome visitors than for many years in the past. Their hectic energy seems to add an impetus to the Summer which would be sadly lacking without them. They duly arrived on about their usual dates in April and early May and we enjoyed the thrill of their return; that feeling that all must be well with the world if this annual miracle can still take place. But, as has happened so often before, the day after their return we looked to an empty sky and saw them no more. A full two weeks passed before their return and then they frantically set about nest repairs and all manner of domestic tasks. Where do they go in this interval and what do they do? Are they waiting for more hatches of flies to secure their food supply before nesting can start? Or perhaps they have congregated in a place where there are easy pickings in order to build up their energy supply after their long flight home. Has anybody else noticed this phenomenon or got any ideas about what might be the reason for it?


Please e-mail me with any information you may have about the first arrival of our migrating birds or the blooming of an ancient magnolia or any other event worthy of note and I will start to collate it on these pages.