NORTHERN bird-lovers, particularly children, are being asked to take part in an important scientific trial to study any potential threat to the swallow, the bird that traditionally heralds the arrival of the British spring.
The British Trust for Ornithology, which monitors bird populations, is anxious that changing conditions both here and in Africa, where the swallow winters, are affecting the bird's traditional migration and breeding patterns.
One question they need to answer is how long it is taking for swallows to reach their nesting sites in the North after first being monitored as fly into England over the south coast.
The BTO is the first charity to make widespread use of the Internet to gather important scientific data using thousands of amateur volunteers. It is asking volunteers - and in particular, school children - to note down important events in the lives of swallows nesting in their area this summer.
Says trust official Graham Appleton: "It is a simple survey. We want to know things like when swallows arrive, when they start to build, when the young hatch and how many successfully leave the nest.
It will be great if children can get involved in the survey. There is no need to disturb the birds - especially if you look into the nest by using a mirror attached to the end of a cane."
More information on the survey can be downloaded from www.bto.org/migwatch