June 25th- surprising swifts

Swifts continually surprise me, to the extent that I am no longer surprised by them! Today, as I write at 11am it is 13.3C with continuous drizzle and a strong northerly wind which is really blowing the trees around. To my great surprise the swift activity here has been frantic all morning. The activity is multi layered. If I look up now there are swifts hanging, faced into wind and feeding high up in a leaden sky, while at lower altitude they easily negotiate strong eddies around the house to scream past the nest boxes. There are swifts at different heights between approximately 10-200 feet. When a breeder returns to feed chicks or change over incubation duty the younger birds slam in behind them, sometimes landing on the nest box entrance.

The first photograph shows this morning’s watercolour with the backdrop of some of our nest boxes. I deliberately tried a few different designs when we moved here, but decided to avoid bottom entrance boxes with a drop of just 4.5 metres. The first box to be used, the second summer after we moved in, was the box to the left of the window. The swifts have to make a sharp 90 degree turn to enter. The window, even when wide open does not present a problem. Perhaps my main motivation for positioning this box was to sketch some dramatic manoeuvres as they approach. The views of swifts are spectacular from the window. This design has proved successful and I have watched several young fledge from it with no problems. I put the box up on 21st July 2018 and a pair was in it by 23rd July!

This morning I sketched swift silhouettes; today they really do look black, against pewter clouds it is impossible to see even a hint of brown. They look menacing as they approach, my heart rate rises as they scream a few inches over my head. This morning saw the largest number swifts I have seen above the village this year, so perhaps there has been an arrival of younger birds or perhaps conditions here for some reason are suiting more transient birds who are lingering for a while. Either way I’m going back out now to enjoy the action, wrapped up in warm a fleece!

Look closely and you can see a swift about to enter a nest box by the window!
The first nest box to be used on our house.
Swifts in strong northerly wind- 13.3C, continuous drizzle.

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