Every year, swallows fly home from Africa, to old nests of mud, moss, feather and hair in the wooden stable roof . The parents spend a while mending and renovating, before the eggs are laid and brooding of the young begins.
This year, one nest fledged early. Two tiny fledglings died on the stable floor, but, in a shivering, gaping huddle amongst the wood shavings, a group of three survived.
Temperatures fell, especially at night, but the parent birds fed their youngsters well. Squealing and chattering over the rooftops, skimming the wide fields for insects, they swooped in and out, over the stable half doors, all through the daylight hours.
At night, the tiny bundles of new life clustered together, vulnerable on the floor.
Outside, Lucy kitten passed by on a well supervised moonlit walk around the yard. She ran up a tree and slid down again by her claws. She chased moths around the grass, but never did she guess that three young swallows were so vulnerable, just behind a nearby wooden door.
By day, the empty nest showed that the parent birds were always on the wing. Out catching food for the growing trio of chicks on the stable floor.
Part of an old ladder was put in the stable, as a half-way perch. It seemed such a long way up to the half opened door and freedom.
For more than two weeks, the fledgelings huddled on the floor. Cats were kept on curfew. Magpies were shoed away.
One morning, the stable floor was empty. I feared the worst, but then I heard soft cheeping and a flutter of wings. Up on a rafter sat three fine young swallows. I walked away. When I came back they were gone. Now that the family has fledged, the stable is empty by day, but at night they come back. Roosting with their parents on high places. At last they can fly and their days on the floor are at an end.
Through the kitchen window, I watch young blue tits learning to feed on apple, and being fed by the parent birds.
In the evenings, "Springwatch" has an audience of humans, cats and dogs. Lucy Kitten stares entranced at the inside view of a Redstart`s nest.