July 20th- a day of swift days and comet Neowise

I stayed up until 3.15 this morning, mesmerised by the night sky. I woke up my 8 year old son who joined me between midnight and 1am. We had fun navigating our way around the night sky. My birding scope was great for seeing the comet, though due to field of view I think binoculars gave a better overall impression. I saw several meteors and we could clearly see the moons of Jupiter and rings round Saturn with the scope. The milky way looked spectacular incorporating two of my favourite constellations, Cygnus and Cassiopeia. It was a joy being out on a chilly July night with fox, little owl and tawny owl providing the sound track. There was always some glow of daylight on the Northern horizon even a month after the summer solstice, but from about 2.30am this was intensified by a beautiful show of noctilucent cloud.

A lie in then? Fat chance- soon after 6am the swifts hurled themselves round our eaves, a very effective alarm clock for me. Straight downstairs and outside into the cold air again with strong coffee to keep me going. What followed was a morning of intensive swift activity, Lots of prospecting with landing on several new boxes. Each time this was interrupted, as soon as a bird landed another would scream up and pull it off. However there were heads right in boxes, so all very encouraging for the future of our colony. Meanwhile our two swiftlets are growing very well and occasionally starting to venture to the entrance of the nest box to look out

When they prospect like this it is hard to know where to look. They fly sometimes in opposing directions, missing by millimetres, crisscrossing each other’s flight paths. I dropped all my plans, sat out with my sketchbook and soaked up every glorious moment of the best few hours of swift watching this year.

Our garden pond is establishing well now and today we were visited by a brown hawker; my favourite dragonfly. It was restless and darted around above the pond preying on other insects but never settling. I don’t know whether it would breed in a garden pond but certainly it was using it to feed. We also have a female great diving beetle who rises to the surface regularly to trap air beneath her wing cases. The whole project has been so rewarding and this is only the start. A large open beach area is a magnet for birds already as they drink and bath and I can’t wondering which species we will see there in the future.

Below. Views of comet Neowise. The lower image shows noctilucent cloud near the horizon.

Below. Swift nestling peering out of entrance to nest box.

Below. Non breeding swifts prospecting/ banging.






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