I had an early evening phone call from Dave Maynard, Helmsley Swifts’ nest box fitter, to say he was watching a swift over Helmsley. I had to see it! On arrival in Helmsley the swift was circling in a known aerial territory; it was anything but swift, circling slowly with shallow wing beats alternated with brief glides. It was not feeding but consuming as little energy as possible after its long migration journey, before descending to roost for the night. The fact it was on its own suggests there are very few back because if there was even one other they would likely be flying together.
I experienced that annual rush of the year’s first swift and Mayday seemed a very appropriate day to see it. For me there is a visual shock on seeing the shape of a swift after a long winter, so unlike any other bird silhouette- pointed, sharp, black on an evening like this one, but aesthetically perfect from all angles.
So the swift watching season begins, the intensity of it all; of early wake up calls from non breeding swifts screaming outside our bedroom window at 4.30am, the neck straining and eye straining that comes from looking up into bright summer skies, prayers for decent weather at critical moments of their breeding season and just taking it all in while they are with us.
Across the country people are doing the same as me, those with new nest boxes anticipating and hoping, those who already have breeding pairs nervous as to whether their swifts will return. Swift groups planning events and frantically putting up boxes still. People stirred by swifts, a bird that unites so many of us in joy and wonder for three months of the year.
So, as I watched this single swift I resolved to set myself a summer project- to sketch and write about swifts, again! Today the blogging begins, I will share my sketches and observations through the summer along with a very healthy dose of house martin! You can receive the blog by email if you wish to by signing up on this homepage.