July 19th- swift diary

Well what a weekend! Saturday topped 30.7 Celsius here in Gilling East and the swifts responded with panache. The non breeders visited almost continuously in the afternoon going round and round, the noise at times almost hurt our ears. Fortunately in that heat we were able to stay at home and laze in the garden so a day of water fights, icy drinks and swift watching with the family was in order! Late in the morning some swifts began to dangle their feet to gain the cooling effect of airflow over their toes, something I have noticed that a proportion do above about 28C.

In another adaption for hot weather my first breeding pair roosted in the sky on Saturday evening, leaving their 31 day old chicks to roost alone in the nest box. I have seen this happen before but it is always a tense wait to see the pair return. They did so early in the morning, one arriving at 4.58am to be joined by its mate at 5.39am. After that it was business as usual. Their chicks are gazing from the nest box entrance often. You can see their white faces as they watch other swifts in flight and perhaps this is the reason those screaming parties pass so frequently at this time.

Strangely, Sunday although warm saw very little action until the evening. Swifts have their reasons but can be so unpredictable. Instead of the frantic and frequent fly pasts of Saturday the late evening saw noisy, large screaming parties of 20-35 over the village with about 15 passing very close to the eaves at about 9.30pm- one of the largest low level screaming parties we have seen here. The action has certainly escalated as we have gained more pairs as I have found with each growing colony at four different houses we have lived in.

Today I sketched outside on the lawn as the swifts repeatedly passed inches from me. The sketch sheet also shows a passing hobby; they give a mixture of awe and dread to those of us with colonies. They are beautiful and so impressive and I have seen them take swifts and house martins on several occasions.

It has been a magnificent few days, some of the best swift watching I can remember and I soaked up and will continue to soak up every moment.

Swifts at 9.30pm. Typical high screaming party towards the end of the swift season.
Sketches in the garden today- frequent fast passes, 33 day old swiftlets looking out of the nest, swifts with dangling feet and a passing hobby.

4 thoughts on “July 19th- swift diary”

  1. I shall never forget, many years ago now, idly looking up from my west London garden and seeing two swifts mating on the wing. Incredible sight.

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