I am writing this in a permanent state of distraction, stop, start diary writing! More swifts have arrived and they are ‘ripping’ the warm morning air. We have already had dozens of fast, high speed passes and I can scarcely remember a day so good for swift watching in the first half of May. Now the colony is clearly established I am relieved to not play swift calls anymore; I watch the swifts attracting their own kind naturally high in the air and enjoy the natural sounds of swifts as they come and go. The noise is incredible, not just their calls but the sound of air displaced by their wings as they hurtle around the houses, hedges and fruit trees. Each year the pleasure they give me is undiminished, in fact it increases exponentially. I want to draw every aspect of their behaviour and paint the skies they inhabit, they dominate my summer and I imbibe every flypast.
Social media is awash with swifts, SWIFTS written in capital letters and surrounded with multiple exclamation marks. These birds are held in such reverence, yet sometimes this makes me feel uncomfortable. I have studied and sketched swifts and been inspired by them since childhood and I’ve been part of the swift conservation movement for a couple of decades now and it is great to see all that has been achieved. But swifts are not better or more deserving than any other creature, including the parasites they carry; each species is evolved for survival but, a bit like barn owls, swifts are a bird we can directly help through provision of nest sites. I wish it were so for other species which have disappeared before our eyes. Spotted flycatchers for example. We can make nest boxes for them aplenty, but they no longer come. Like the swift, spotted flycatchers are a wonder of evolution, brilliant at what they do, but something has gone wrong and I miss them.
However I don’t intend to wallow in gloom on a day like this. The swifts are performing and they are a beacon of hope. The house martins mix with them in our airspace. It is not difficult to find where I live on a fine day in May- just look for circling swifts and house martins. I am proud that the six martins and four swifts(hopefully more to come) nesting on our house add to the ambience of our village on this beautiful day.
A SUMMARY OF THE YEAR SO FAR
Swifts in Gilling East 2022
9th May- first swift arrives and roost in box 2 10.32am
10th May- swift returns to box1 6.46pm (max. 3 swifts above village)
12th May- box 1 2nd bird arrives at 6.21pm (max. 6 swifts above village)
14th May- box2 2nd bird arrives at 8.24am 9 (max. 9 swifts above village) At dusk a swift landed on and looked in box 3. Probably the first of last year’s non breeding pair.
15th May- 5.38am swift enters and settles in box 3. 5 out of 6 birds back.
House martins in Gilling East 2022
25th April- 3 house martins prospecting house, 1 roosts in anc 3
29th April- anc 3 bird attracts a mate (max. 6 above village)
4th May- second male roosted in anc 3
6th May- single male adding mud to anc 3
10th May- pair in anc 3 and pair in anc 4
11th May- more martins arrive, max. 10 above village.
New hm into anc 6
12th May- pair in anc 6. So pairs now in anc 3,4,6.
New hms arrive over village max. 15 birds. New prospecting pair looking at potential nest building sites on our north wall.