n September the first the swallows hatched. Finally Summer, as the ancient Wessex song goes, is icumen in. The wire-tailed couple have been building their nest and settling the eggs for the past month and a half, eagerly watched by my binoculars, and much to the general bemusement of guests collected around the cake at tea-time. In the lee light of the roof rafter’s spine, they have moulded their nest from promethean clay – the dredgings of a potter’s tray: mud and spit and pure exhilarated, sunlit, soul. They scythe the sky above the Zambezi and stitch it back together again, razor edged wings and tails seemingly defying the laws of physics as they smock the blue, materialising in and out of the ether with the flash of Prussian iridescent and French white.
Watching them slide onto the nest edge like a squadron of fighter jets, is to witness sheer aeronautical genius – breaking such extraordinarily dynamic power and speed with a single lifted wing, perching to out-portion a regurgitation of small insect snacks to hungrily cheeping babies. From below, all that can be seen above the rim of clay and soft down-feathered lining is the trademark rust coloured head and bright beady eye, an occasional ruffle of feathers, a stretched wing and the wire-tail tapering poinard sharp toward the roof’s stretched canvas.
While there are, of course, other, more convenient, nesting sites for the family of swallows, such as not directly over the main area of Zambezi Deck, you do have to admire them for their determination in the face of the adversity of wafting ceiling fans, relaxing guests and busy waiters. There is also the new, looming presence of the yellow billed kite to be considered, prowling the skies, tail turning and turning in the widening gyre. For now though, they are safe under the sloping eaves of canvas, watched protectively by binocular and camera lens.
Words & Image: Tara Vivian-Neal