An impressive flypast -) -) -)

As one impressive, but highly polluting flypast takes place over our capital city today there is no flypast I would rather watch than a group of swifts propelling themselves on a fast approach towards our eaves; they pass a few centimetres over my head, rock steady, making the house martins bomb-burst before they peel off just before hitting the wall. Today the weather has at last been injected with a little warmth. It has taken a while after an early ground frost(1.8C), but now the air is still and warm and the swifts are responding.

There has been a lull in low level swift activity around colonies during the last few days. Nothing surprising about that as it often happens when birds start incubating and the weather is cool, but this morning something is different. Some new swifts have arrived, many probably last year’s non breeders that occupied nest sites, though some of these are already paired and incubating eggs; most of these previous occupiers should breed, often several weeks later than the oldest birds that arrived in April/May. The arrival could also include some of last year’s older non breeders that didn’t occupy nest spaces but could potentially breed this year. 

When an arrival of swifts occurs there is often much excitement high above the colony involving newly arrived birds and those already here, and so there was this morning. Many of these birds will already know each other. Colony members of the previous summer will reunite and there is often a lot of chasing and sometimes high speed screaming parties.  

I am trying to prepare for North Yorkshire Open Studios which starts this weekend but the distraction is ridiculous. They time their flypast immaculately to coincide with me starting a task and I cannot not watch. Each pass is different, be it in numbers or flight path taken, the different sound of air rushing over wings according to speed or the make up of calls. Unlike the Red Arrows unrehearsed, yet impeccable in execution, millimetres from certain death against bricks and mortar, all fuelled by tiny insects.

North Yorkshire Open Studios- 4/5 and 11/12 June


House martins
We had a house martin taken by a sparrowhawk today. I bear no grudge against the magnificent female sparrowhawk that took the house martin in a very impressive back flip by the kitchen window this morning, but it could be the start of a new hunting behaviour. Sparrowhawks recognise new feeding opportunities. The loss of one house martin with the population so low is very significant. This bird is likely incubating eggs which will result in several weeks of wasted effort and quite possibly now one brood being raised in this nest box rather than two. Ever since the kill the mate of the suspected victim has gazed continuously from the nest box entrance. At a time of low house martin numbers this bird will have to try and find a new mate now and start the breeding process all over again.

All images and text copyright ©️ Jonathan Pomroy 2022

Swift trio flypast
Swifts and cumulus cloud

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