Why 'Symbiosis'?

SwallowWe thought "Nature Notes" was a bit of a boring title so this page is about "wild" life that likes to live in close proximity to humans. 

For more on symbiosis, have a look at this 
Wikipedia page.  

We'd like your stories and especially pictures of wildlife that's chosen to live with or near you - send them to the

Right -  a swallow in its nest in Kennerleigh church porch taken on
27th August 2010.

2011 Season

We'd like your reports on the first date you see swallows near you. 

June 17th   Spotted near Black Dog, this is not a giant spider's web but the larvae of a moth. We thought at first it was the Ermine Moth, but it has now been identified by the Natural History Musem as the relatively rare Small Eggar.  Read more

Ermine moth web

Safe from predators, the caterpillars feed in peace.


Ermine moth caterpillars




Travellers on the A377 north of Copplestone will have noticed large patches of similar webs in the roadside hedges. The caterpillars strip the plants bare but there is only one brood a year so the plants will recover.

For Ermine Moth pictures
click here

June 24th  A member near Morchard Road has sent us some photos
An unusual visitor -

Black swan

This black swan may have come from just up the road where they have been seen on some fishing lakes, or possibly from the colony at Dawlish.

Swan and other waterfowl
It stayed a few days and was uneasily   tolerated by the resident waterfowl.

May 5th  Here are  this year's hatch of Canada goslings.

A Canada Goose family

"The family is quite tame" he says, "I got within 10 yards of them without them even leaving the bank.

Geese on the bank

"April 27th  Found this blackbird nesting on a shelf in our toolshed. This is an old nest (not used last year) nicely refurbished with fresh moss etc.


"April 21st  Got back last night after ten days away - this morning noticed the house martins have returned while we were away. About a dozen checking out last year's nests.

"April 8th  The first swallows flying round today. That's seventeen days later than last year. Counted five or six in the air at a time. They've certainly chosen the weather for it! The female Canada goose is on the nest now.

"As of 2nd April 2011, no swallows yet. That's quite a bit later than last year when I noted in my diary seeing one doing a recce on March 22nd. As we've had a fine spell recently with plenty of flying insects about, I suspect that reflects conditions at the point of departure, or en route, causing them to delay their journey.

Canada Geese

"Here's the family of Canada Geese that was raised at our place in 2010. The male arrived first, attracted a mate, and they hatched five goslings. Four survived to maturity (pictured above in July 2010). This year we first saw them on 5th February - I'm pretty sure it's last year's pair, who came back with three of their offspring. Since then the adults have been persuading the teenagers to leave home: the pair seem well settled and I expect them to start laying about half-way through April."

2010 Season

We asked you to let us know the last date you saw swallows. Here are the responses.

A correspondent in Kennerleigh tells us they still have a nesting pair in their garage on 6th September.

Another Kennerleigh member writes:

"Kennerleigh residents report seeing a migratory flock of more than 75 swallows assembling on the overhead lines above and around the shop on Tuesday, August 31. It used to be hundreds. It is thought they have all gone now. None is nesting in the church porch.

Swallows have now joined the list of migratory birds in serious decline, along with whitethroat, willow warbler, sedge warbler and red start. According to Richard Gray, science correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, those species are now all amber listed as species of conservation concern. British swallows record a decline of 42 percent over the 20 year period between 1996 - 2006. Of even greater concern are the turtle dove and tree pipit, now red-listed and both down a massive 85 percent over the same period.

Quantifying the causes is not simple as different factors, some of them maybe unknown, affect the decline in numbers. However, it is more than likely that uncertain or poor rainfall has affected the amount of seeds, fruits and insects available to the birds when they arrive to feed in the southern hemisphere Spring and Summer at this time of year. That and climate change in both hemispheres may be the problem. This year lack of rainfall may well have affected the birds in the UK as there were noticeably fewer bugs to be seen in our gardens. These species breed here and feed in Africa."

A correspondent from Morchard Bishop writes -

Swallows in Utility

"We moved from Black Dog last year. In 2008 we had a swallows' nest in our utility room there. Here they are on August 31st.

We had to prop the back door open so the parents could go in and out, and put a plastic sheet over the washing machine below as the droppings were carefully thrown out of the nest


I'm not sure if there are any swallows still around here at the time of writing (8th September 2010) but there are plenty of house martins. Here are some (2nd September) having a rest from flying practice.




And one (4th september) still using its nest.

They have bred well this year, especially considering the previous owners had knocked most of the nests off to paint the house. They were rebuilding busily earlier on, and they must have got rid of quantities of flies feeding all their young.

(Added late October)  Most of the martins had left by the end of September. There were still individuals about in the first week in October but I haven't seen any around after the end of that week.

Something else we've got quite a few of here is hornets, which seem to have become less rare during the last couple of years.

Here's one coming out of it
s nest not far from our back door.Hornet
Despite their rather daunting appearance, they are not aggressive, and don't get into your beer or jam.

I was pleased to find one in our polytunnel with a large fly in its jaws."

Another member tells us:

"A few years ago on a very hot summer's day (remember them?) we had all our doors and windows open. One of the cats started hissing violently in the living room. We were wondering what was going on when a four-foot-long grass snake wound its way out of the fireplace, across the carpet, and out into the garden.

Grass snake

I didn't have time to get a picture of that, but a couple of years later this young one gave us a photo-opportunity when we were working on a flowerbed.

I think it was the same year I photograped this dragonfly on our garden pond.I think it's a skimmer. Note the other species with the red body you can see (a bit out of focus) behind it."


A member has sent us these pictures of some insects enjoying the Indian Summer in his orchard (taken 11th October 2010)




Speckled Wood