'One swallow doesn't make a summer'

Maybe not, but fifteen or more certainly do and that's about how many I've been watching along the Thames towpath at Kingston this spring.

For me, the swallow, with its blue white and red plumage, like a mini Union Jack and mesmerising speedy jinking flight would win any avian x-factor contest.

For the past fifteen years I have enjoyed the antics of a growing colony of swallows selecting the riverside at Kingston as their summer residence, nesting under the wooden boardwalks.

Although nests are positioned less than a metre above the river' surface, after heavy rain the water level can rise somewhat so when the young eventually take their first fight they must perform a very precise and risky manoeuvre to avoid plunging straight into the water below.

When fledged, the young birds perch on boats moored along the river bank, begging for food.

Sometimes, an adult and chick fly fast directly towards one another and join beak to beak in mid-air for a split second to transfer food from parent to fledgling and that is such a joy to watch.

Each pair of adults patrols an approximate hundred metres of river catching flies at low level. The lower mandible of a swallow's beak is slightly longer than the upper, enabling the bird to scoop up water to drink as it skims the surface.

Truly remarkable birds and a real success story.