After a week in the Highlands we returned yesterday to plenty of swift activity. Some low level screaming passes welcomed us home as we unpacked, even in the cool showery conditions. All three occupying pairs returned to roost around 9pm. They act very much as a colony, feeding together before darting into their boxes in a short space of time. The nearby village hall also has most if not all of its occupying birds roosting so there is plenty of swift action to see. At least 83% of breeding and occupying non breeders returned to roost in Gilling East last night. All younger non breeders without nest sites seem to have departed.
One of our roosting pairs is a late breeding pair, their young should fledge around 20th August and I would expect them to stay until then, but the other two pairs are interesting because they are lingering; our original breeding pair, this year breeding for their third year saw their young fledge eleven days ago but they still roost every night and they are still nest building in a defined period around mid morning, bringing in feathers and thistle down and really bolstering the nest cup after this season’s wear and tear; I still find it amazing that that some swifts build a new nest or repair a used nest ready to use in the following year. To me this seems to offer a great message of hope and trust that all will be well.
Our third pair first entered their nest box on 4th July this year and they still roost each night. By now, having followed our breeding birds they will have extensive knowledge of colony life. They will have learnt all the prime feeding spots in different weathers and at different times of the day from May to August. When they first enter the nest box together their soft piping calls are intense before they settle. The bond they have formed is unbreakable for now. If both survive the next nine months they will be prepared to breed without delay in May 2022.
So yesterday evening I counted our six swifts home to roost, listening to the air rush over their wings and sketching their dramatic silhouettes as they sped towards the eaves against a gorgeous dusk sky. Next spring will be very different to this year’s when we welcomed home our only pair. The colony is growing now and there is some security in knowing that there are more birds to keep it alive for next year and that is a lovely thought to have in the middle of winter.