Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Swift turnaround

Production editor Matt Merritt writes:
In a piece appearing in the forthcoming, June issue of Bird Watching, regular contributor Mark Ward says that each year, he reminds himself he must spend more time watching Swifts.
I'm with him all the way on that one. I live on a small Victorian terrace, and Swifts have nested under the eaves of the house three doors along every summer since I moved in, back in 2000. You can sit watching from the living-room on an early summer evening, listening to the screams, seemingly of sheer exhilaration, as they hurtle back and forth.
By last Sunday morning, I was getting a bit concerned as to their whereabouts, and worrying as I do every year that maybe the householders had had their roof fixed. Then, as I sat down with the papers and a cup of tea, I heard them out there, and went to the front door to watch. There they were, two of them, fairly high up at first, wheeling above the old folks' home opposite. Then they swooped down, almost skimming the walls, and passing so close to my head that I could feel the rush of air from their wings, before making as if to enter the nest hole.

Swift by Mike Weedon

But they didn't. I watched for maybe 20 minutes as they repeated this procedure again and again, then had to leave, rather downcast at the thought that a bit of DIY by my near-neighbours seemed to have left a pair of Swifts homeless. Don't get me wrong - maybe I'd feel differently if they were nesting in my roofspace, waking me early each morning, but it was still a sad moment. The hole, I assumed, was gone, with the Swifts likely to follow.
When I got home at about 7 that evening, all was quiet. It was only an hour or so later that the screaming started again, and I was outside in a flash. This time, without any hesitation, first one bird then the other flew towards the house at breakneck speed, before, with a bit of last-second braking and contortion, disappearing into the join between wall and roof. Relieved? I could have jumped for joy. OK, OK. I did.

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