I’m used to seeing Pacific swallows around and about the place here in Indonesia, both in town and in the rainforest, or at least on the river next to it. They’re smaller and more washed out and watercolour like than the UK’s relative to them, the bold, acrylic barn swallow.
But when I picked up two friends at the airport at 7am the other morning I had to literally rub my eyes to be sure of what I had glimpsed as I tried to steal a nap in the back seat of the car.
Sure enough, I had seen a barn swallow, the same species that we have in the UK. The long, dazzling forked tail was unmistakable compared to comparatively stunted tail of the Pacific variety. It is the first time that I have seen this bird since I left the UK back in July. And it made my heart well with sadness at missing them back home but also fill with warmth: it almost felt like they had followed me here and finally caught up.
A few days later I saw another one over the river at camp. They’re supposedly migratory here and are meant to be around from August to April. But I’ve only just seen my first one. Maybe I’ve been unobservant, or maybe their migratory habits in this part of Borneo are different. Either way, just before the New Year arrives this enigmatic species has made me feel right at home, just when I’m missing it the most.