Yesterday, approximately twenty days after laying, the first swift egg hatched. It is possible both eggs have hatched but the parents are so attentive we have just had one very brief glimpse of a tiny featherless chick. The parents are coming and going quite frequently with food. This can be seen in the bulging throat pouch which can carry hundreds of tiny insects back to the nest. Our swiftlets have had great start with fine weather from the moment they hatched. They have been brooded constantly by each parent in turn, while the other collects food.
Outside the nest there are frequent low level, high energy flypasts, usually by three birds but occasionally up to six. I made a watercolour today of five approaching head on. I love this view of swifts and delight in them passing inches above my head. Their wings look needle sharp, sometimes criss crossing each other when the formation is tight. The noise can be impressive too with multiple calls overlapping. We don’t know the full function of these flypasts but I imagine they are a social gathering for the colony. We do know that they become increasingly common and larger as the season progresses, especially shortly before they leave for Africa. There may well be an element of display involved too with individuals showing their flight prowess.
Swift flypasts are very common at dusk, when the flying can be particularly energetic. The energy used is clearly substantial as flypasts all but stop during cold or wet weather. We had just one flypast yesterday evening as sea fret set in. They are perhaps the piece of swift behaviour which people most look forward to as summer approaches. They are a certainly true indicator of fine weather and for many, including myself, the ultimate natural sign that summer is at its peak.