A pair of swallows have raised four chicks in a nest built in the roof of a Land Rover at a Norfolk nature reserve. The mud and twig nest was created in the roof of the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve vehicle, used to carry visitors around the 800-acre (324 hectare) site. Since then, the chicks have joined visitors on an estimated 100 guided drives around the reserve, with their parents flying back to feed them in between trips – or even during the tours.
Warden Darren Williams, 45, said he felt like a "surrogate father" and was
convinced the "hot air" from his tour commentary helped incubate the eggs. Two chicks fledged on Sunday and now follow the vehicle around the
reserve. The other two chicks remain in the nest at the reserve in the Wensum valley. Mr Williams said: "Two of them fledged yesterday, but they're still hanging
around because as far as the birds are concerned the back of the Land Rover is
"I feel like a surrogate father and I'm sure all the hot
air from my tour patter was keeping them warm. The nest is just on top of a speaker and we've rigged up a swallow hammock
from a little bit of netting in case they fell out as we bounced over the rough
terrain." The nest was initially removed from the vehicle to discourage the birds
nesting so close to the public, but the adult swallows began to build again as
soon as it was removed.
Mr Williams said: "This is uncharted territory for us. Initially we were concerned the birds might not incubate the eggs as they'd
be scared off by our passengers, but they insisted on building the nest and
there was little we could do about it. With a nest comes the added chore of cleaning up after the babies, but the
passengers have just been enamoured with them. It's very unusual to be able get that close to them in the wild."