The Greek philosopher, to whom the quote ‘one swallow does not make a summer...’ is attributed, obviously knew a thing or two about such things and he, of course, is quite right; a proper English summer needs not only Swallows cavorting in its azure skies, but also the other two members of the Hirundine family - the house martin and sand martin - and the similar but completely unrelated swift.

Lee Connor, Nature Notes and Dog Spot columnist for the Torbay WeeklyLee Connor, Nature Notes and Dog Spot columnist for the Torbay Weekly

The arrival of these birds are sure signs that winter is over and summer is on its way, and they have certainly managed to capture the imagination of man for thousands of years, appearing in songs, poems and folklore.

Until relatively recently, after observing these birds skimming close over lakes, people commonly believed they (instead of performing the equally magical feat of migrating 8,000 miles to Southern Africa) hibernated beneath the water!

Sadly, like a lot of our bird species, the Hirundine family have seen massive declines in their numbers.

As a child growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, the screams of swifts speeding overhead were part of the town soundscape. Sadly, this evocative noise is heard less and less today.

An adult Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) perched on a wire fenceAn adult Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) perched on a wire fence

This downward trend seems to have been compounded this year after a freak storm in the Mediterranean is thought to have claimed the lives of thousands of these plucky migrants.

There definitely seems to be far less swallows and swifts around Devon this year.

However, house martins - which tend to arrive a little later than the swallows - may have been more fortunate in avoiding the terrible storm and all the nests near me - made of mud and stuck under the eaves of houses - are filled with the excited twittering of prospective parents.

Several enterprising pairs have even nested under a balcony of the Grand Hotel - obviously birds with exquisite taste and appreciation of a sea view!

The good people of Preston, particularly around Orient Road and Torquay Road, as well as certain opulent hotels, should be commended for happily living alongside these (sometimes quite messy) summer houseguests and playing their part in helping these fascinating and vulnerable birds increase their numbers.

Find out more about the house martins at