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July 14th- siskins, crossbills and swift diary

We have a constant flock of siskins in the back gardens of our road still. They are very discrete. Occasionally a male bursts into song and performs a display flight, but generally they feed very quietly. They use their agility to hang from the leaves to feed on the aphids that hide underneath. I predict that later in the winter gardens will see plenty of siskins as natural food becomes scarce.

We had a lovely walk on the moors near Helmsley this morning. It was cold for July, but the visibility was as good as I have seen it. The Dales were so clear to our west as were Yorkshire Wolds over to the south east. The moors have a hint of purple now, mainly from the earlier flowering bell heather, though the really extensive purple of ling heather is yet to come. We heard a few crossbills and saw meadow pipits and skylarks, but the highlight was always going to be the bilberries which we scrumped in their dozens. A good handful swallowed at once is a true taste sensation, wonderful!

Small heath, ringlet and red admiral butterflies were on the wing, but as we drove away we were lucky to see a magnificent dark-green fritillary on thistle flowers, a gorgeous big orange butterfly and one we were not expecting to see.

Swift Diary
A swift chick I was given yesterday died overnight. But happily the swift chick I took to Linda Jenkinson is alive today and taking food. The consensus is that large numbers of chicks were not getting enough food during the cold spell. They were literally starving and forced to ‘jump’ from their nest sites. Many will have perished. I hope the worst is over now as the days are certainly warmer this week. Swifts were frantically flying around the house today and flying up to but not perching on nest boxes. In particular they perched on the occupied nest box to peer in and see what is going on.

4 thoughts on “July 14th- siskins, crossbills and swift diary”

  1. I love your blog, Jonathan. Your writing is as evocative as your painting and drawing. I’ve only properly ‘discovered’ swifts since my wife and I had two boxes installed in March. Now I am obsessed! She bought me your beautiful book for my birthday, which I absolutely love. And your blog brings a little beauty, interest and calm every day – much needed in these terrible times. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much Martin. I wish you luck establishing your swift colony. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for advice and I would love to hear how you get on. Are you playing calls? All the very best, Jonathan

      1. Thank you Jonathan! Yes, we’ve been playing calls since the first swifts appreared in North London at the end of April. I’ve created a playlist with 6 different ‘tracks’ which the swifts seem to like. Hardly seen any for the last couple of weeks, although there was a good screaming party yesterday. I do have a couple of questions: is it possible to tell when a prospecting swift (or pair) have selected your house/nest box for the following year? Or do you just have to wait and hope? Also, when do the young prospectors general head off for Africa? By the end oj July? Any tips more warmly welcomed! Thank you again. Best wishes. Martin

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