The warm weather has brought the best swift watching of the year so far. To think two days ago I was wondering where they were. As our breeding pair continue feeding their two chicks, the younger one, two and three year old birds are speeding round outside. The youngest of these have returned here quite recently and they really mix things up. The parents often return to their nest box to scream at the younsters as they fly past or perch on their nest box. The behaviour of young birds clinging on to potential nest sites has become known as “banging”. The bangers hurl themselves at the eaves often at the entrances of occupied nest sites. This induces wild screams from the occupants which seems to encourage the bangers even more!
It is great fun to watch and at times you can have wonderful views of the swifts as they cling on. People trying to attract swifts to nest boxes sometimes become very frustrated watching this behaviour because they seem to go anywhere but into the unoccupied nest boxes! But, it is worth remembering that many of these birds will not have landed since fledging the year before. In part this behaviour is probably practising approach and landing for the first time. They are too young to think about breeding at this stage, but they are probably learning far more than we think with each miss.
But yesterday evening was really special. I have rarely seen so much low level screaming activity in one evening, even at much larger colonies. They were very loud and very fast, fuelled by the abundance of food in the warm weather. At 8.19pm I decided to start a tally of flypasts because they were so frequent. The noise at times was incredible; my youngest son was kept awake by the swifts’ screams so he came down to watch the show from the garden at 9.15pm! The last flypast of three birds came at 10.15pm ending one of the most spectacular evenings of swift watching I have experienced. Between 8.19- 10.15pm there were 104 low level flypasts, mainly of three or four swifts but occasionally up to six. There were many more passes before I started counting. But there was not much rest for me. At 4.35am, it all started again as presumably the same three that passed at 10.15pm returned to shatter the silence and my sleep!
Today has been similar and I am looking forward to seeing what this evening has in store. But you never know with swifts, it could be very different even though weather conditions are similar. Swifts really teach you to enjoy the moment.