The May blossom stood out against leaden skies this morning. It conspires with the cow parsley to produce the most wonderful effect along our hedgerows at this time of year. We had a good walk along the Holbeck, but already it seems some species are falling quiet as nesting begins. The yellowhammers and reed buntings sang constantly, joined regularly by the soaring (literally) notes of skylarks. Red campion and comfrey flowers now brighten the edge of the beck.
My prediction came true yesterday evening. When it was almost dark the second of last year’s swift pair returned. I should say this is speculation based on reason and strong evidence. A swift that enters a nest box in near darkness is clearly practised at approach and landing. Our first swift was tucked up in the box with his(?) new mate from the village hall. Last year’s mate suddenly entered and all hell broke loose. The fight lasted approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. It culminated in the losing bird being dangled from the entrance of the nest box by its tail, its wings flapping helplessly. Eventually it was released. Clearly exhausted it only just avoided landing on the lawn and nearly hit the fence, but flew off into the pitch black.
I was determined to try and find out which bird was evicted. To do this I made some pencil and watercolour studies of the three birds that have visited the nest box this year. The first bird to return( probably a male) returned on 5th May. He was joined by a bird from the nearby village hall on 9th May. I knew at this time that there was a very strong chance that last year’s mate would return. She(?) returned yesterday evening. I had to look very closely, but there were tiny plumage details that I could observe and trace back in photographs. By doing this I was able to find that our first bird is now paired with yesterday’s bird. The interloper from the village hall was the swift evicted in darkness. It remains to be seen whether she (?) makes another takeover bid.
Below- swift fight in box 1. May 17th, 10pm.