UK swallows have reached Durban!

South Africans are welcoming migrant barn swallows back this weekend: in Durban a party is planned next to reedbeds at Mount Moreland. It will be a spectacle at dusk, as they come to roost – millions of whirling birds, only ever seen in small groups in UK.

Barn swallows are Birdlife South Africa’s Bird of the Year and you can see more about this at

The organisers add: Please join us for this unique event…  Come and see 3 million Barn Swallows gathering together at sunset, every day from 5pm until mid April. Bring a picnic, seats and binoculars. An unforgettable experience for the entire family.

Mount Moreland is close to the new King Shaka airport, soon to be used by international delegates for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.  Reflecting on this, I wrote the article below for Barn Swallow South Africa magazine.

This follows an earlier post on swallows in the Borders.

reaching Durban by air is simple

Swallows were here early this year – beginning of April. They sit on wires, preening, having made the flight over. Swooping for insects, refurbishing last year’s nesting sites.

Swallows are South Africa’s Bird of the Year this year. In November, there will be a welcome party for them near Durban: three million use reedbeds at Mount Moreland to roost after their migratory flight from Europe. The sight of millions of swallows landing at dusk is celebrated by local people who regard it as a breathtaking natural spectacle. Later on in November, United Nations delegates will be welcomed at the new King Shaka Airport for the International Conference on Climate Change.

Observing this coincidence, I am delighted to be able to distribute a special set of eight airmail stickers. The series stems from a South African design.

Airport expansion at Durban recently brought Boeing 747s and Airbusses into shared airspace with the barn swallows, who arrive from Europe to roost in Mount Moreland reedbeds on the wetland of Lake Victoria – less than two kilometres south of the new King Shaka airport. This attracted the attention of Birdlife International, concerned about the impact of the new airport. A compromise averted the drastic measure of eradicating the reedbeds, which had been suggested. Radar imagery warns airport controllers of twilight bird movements that might endanger aircraft and passengers by ‘birdstrike’.

The new runways at King Shaka Airport are big enough to allow Airbus and Boeing 747s to land and turn. This development is part of a planned Dube Trade Port, which rests on the vision of an aerotropolis, a city with an airport at it centre to assist the flow of cargo and capital.

This infrastructure will serve international politicians and delegates travelling for the Climate Change talks. As the United Nations conference website explains, getting to Durban couldn’t be easier:

“On the 1st May 2010, the new Durban International Airport situated in the north, at La Mercy swung into operation World Cup visitors were the first to glimpse Durban from a spacious, air conditioned complex with separate Arrival and Departure terminals. A range of relaxation areas, shops, restaurants and entertainment options keep passengers occupied while waiting for flights. Convenient hotels and conference centres also form part of the development which is minutes from the beaches and resorts of Durban’s North Coast. The new King Shaka International Airport (KSIA) provides international access to Durban and accommodates the largest aircraft in the world. With direct international flights by Emirates Air and other airlines expected to follow suit shortly, reaching Durban by air is simple.”


This develops previous work on ‘Swallow’ where I took a zoological specimen of Hirundo rustica as a point of departure. I flew with it to South Africa in 2007 –  permission was granted from customs on the basis that the dead swallow was ‘stable at ambient temperatures’  so I could take it to a residency at Stellenbosch University Visual Arts Department.  New work will be shown at the 4th Biennial Australian Animal Studies Group Conference in Queensland Australia (my submission will be sent by airmail). You can follow artistic developments on this blog. I will post research on For previous work on ‘swallow’, go to

Welcome to free airmail stickers – just contact me.

%d bloggers like this: