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Showing posts with label swift. Show all posts
Showing posts with label swift. Show all posts

Sunday, 16 April 2017

More Swallows

Yesterday, we spotted a couple more swallows. As April progresses there will be more and more until they leave later in the year. The next thing will be the swifts. Screaming swifts to me represent the height of summer and bring joy to the heart.

Cuckoos often lay their eggs in reed warbler nests, so a trip up the nearby lode (waterway) is likely to result in a sighting of a cuckoo in May/June.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Swifts gone

It is now several weeks since I last saw (and heard) swifts overhead. I guess they have started their journey south. For a few months they are an English summer. Then one day you realise they've gone. I miss them and look forward to their return next May.

I had the rare privilege of holding a swift many years ago when one landed accidentally in the road. We kept it in a box overnight and fed it insects. The next day it just flew away. They really are lovely birds.

Farewell and safe journeying over land and sea. See you next year.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Migrant birds

Around this time most of our summer migrant birds are heading south for warmer weather and more insects. Most swifts will have gone now to return here at the end of April or the start of May next year.

Today I saw a swallow and that may be the last this year. Some young birds may be around for a few weeks and it is just possible some may remain in South Devon and South Cornwall all year. Just a few may survive on the coast where there may be insects near seaweed all year. I once saw some swallows in South Devon on Dec 7th but that is very late. No, most are now gone to return next spring, at least gone from East Anglia. Some travel thousands of miles all the way to South Africa - a truly remarkable journey -  often returning to the very same next site they left. Quite remarkable.

The migration of birds is almost miraculous. I am sorry to see them leave but my heart is always glad when they return.

Of course, to some birds we are seen as warm! The Whooper and Bewick swans join us for our winter as do the fieldfares and redwings.

Waxwing
If really lucky, we might even see a waxwing. I keep looking but have failed so far. Some winters there are thousands, but I have not been lucky, as yet. They are often seen on berries in supermarket car parks. You just have to be in the right place at the right time.

See http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/w/waxwing/ .

There is something good in every season.

UPDATE 1750z:  There were 2 swallows overhead in the pleasant afternoon sunshine.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Swifts

This evening, in a further attempt to beat my giddiness, I went for a decent (for me!) walk. One of the joys of an English summer evening is seeing swifts on the wing high in the sky and hearing their calls - a high pitched scream. To me, this is the sound of summer. Their wings are scythe like and they spend most of their lives on the wing.

They arrive late (around the end of April) and go before summer is done. It an ephemeral sound that they make. When you hear it, it is truly late spring or summer. Soon the summer migrants will head south to warmer skies and we will be joined by migrants from the north such as whooper and bewick swans from the high Arctic and Russia as well thrushes like redwings and fieldfares from Scandinavia. To them we represent warmth and mildness!

For now I am content to hear those swifts, although they will soon be on their way. Hopefully, I'll still be around for their return in the spring. Seeing the first swifts in late April brings joy to my heart. The cycle of life that has happened for thousands of years goes on. No doubt this cycle went on when we still lived in caves and when Roman soldiers walked these lands and this cycle will still be going on long after I am dust again.

See http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/s/swift/ .

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Swifts

One of the joys of an English summer is the sound of screaming swifts in the air. This is most common in May and June. The swifts are one of the first summer migrants to leave. It always seems a long time until they return again next spring. Usually the first ones arrive here by the end of April. Once, long ago, I found one on the ground. We kept it in a box overnight. The next morning it flew off as if nothing had happened. Swifts spend most of their time on the wing and if they do land on the ground it is not easy to take off again. I found this out much later. It was lovely to handle this scythe like bird.

See http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/s/swift/ .

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Sand martins in Devon

Spring has (almost) sprung! There have now been several sightings of 20+ sand martins in South Devon. These are among the first of the migrants to return. They are the smallest hirundine.  Sand martins have dark brown upper parts and they winter in Africa.  In recent years sand martin numbers have plummeted and they are now on the RSPB's "amber" list.  There are estimated to be 54,000-174,000 nests in the UK. This sounds a lot, but numbers are dropping because of droughts on their migration routes in some years.

By the month end we should have house martins and swallows back in Devon who will have flown 6000 miles to be here in the UK again. When the swallows return here in East Anglia you know all is still well with the world:. they have been making this journey for many thousands , if not millions, of years. Most return to the very same nests they used last summer, if they can. I find the return of the martins, swallows and swifts a real joy. It makes me glad to be alive.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Over-wintering swallows?

A swallow was seen in South Devon just a few days ago. I have seen swallows in the South Hams as late as Dec 7th.  It makes me wonder if a handful now stay for the winter, and survive, and do not migrate to Africa? Certainly in places like South Cornwall, South Devon and the Channel Islands this must be a possibility if the weather is mild and there are enough insects around.

I have seen no records for swallows in January in the UK. Such records would tend to suggest over-wintering. Those that remain late could be indicative of very late broods or those that somehow lost (if they ever had it) their ability to migrate and perished when the weather turned colder.

Here in East Anglia, I rarely see a swallow before April 7th. When they return from Africa it is an important day for me. Swifts are usually first seen here around the end of April. Hearing swifts scream in the spring air makes me glad to be alive: it reminds me that all is still well with the world.

At the moment, we are approaching the shortest day with long, dark nights. Long light evenings seem a way off. Mind you, in just a few weeks' time the nights start to shorten and the days start to get longer. We'll blink and it will be spring again.

We are very lucky to have our seasons as each has its special features to be enjoyed.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Late swallows and house martins

Earlier this week I sat next to the Mere in Knutsford. Cheshire. Several swallows and house martins were seen. Most swifts have now gone south, but it was good to see so many swallows and house martins still around. There was even a nest with 3 young martins in at Little Morton Hall.

In past years I have seen house martins in the South Hams (Devon) as late as the end of October. One year there were still swallows near Salcombe, Devon as late as Dec 7th. Not living in the South Hams, I don't know how common this is i.e. this late. The return of house martins, swallows and swifts is something I welcome each year but sadly at this time of year we bid these migratory birds farewell before they fly thousands of hostile miles to lands with more plentiful insect food. With the Sahara getting bigger their migration routes are getting more and more hazardous. There seem fewer of these birds than there used to be, presumably as more die on migration.

Fare thee well little friends and see you again next spring when the cycle of life goes on, I pray. The return of these little fellows between early April to early May fills me with renewed hope and joy. I tend to have tears in my eyes when the swifts return. I pray I'll be around to see these return in the spring.
http://thesteepletimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Henry-Williamson-450.jpg
Since my stroke a year ago, these simple affirmations of the continuance of the cycle of life mean even more. I guess I am more aware of how finite our lives are.  Somehow I think Henry Williamson was right about the cycle of life.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Swifts

For the last week or more, swifts have been a common sight on the wing in the skies overhead. Swifts return from Africa around the end of April and the start of May. Usually, most have gone again by late summer, although I suspect many linger in Spain where in September they are still plentiful as are insects.

At this time of year swifts are very common, perhaps more common than many other species. There are a good number of swallows around, but, so far, I have not seen a single house martin. I may just have been unlucky but fear numbers are down yet again. The returning swifts are a real sign of summer. As the poem goes, "all's well with the world...".

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Swifts -- "the globe's still working"

There is a famous poem by Ted Hughes about the return to the UK from Africa of the swift with this extract:
"They’ve made it again,
Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s
Still waking refreshed, our summer’s
Still all to come —
And here they are, here they are again
Erupting across yard stones
Shrapnel-scatter terror. Frog-gapers,
Speedway goggles, international mobsters —

A bolas of three or four wire screams
Jockeying across each other
On their switchback wheel of death."
The return of the swift at the end of April is a highlight of my year: each spring the screaming overhead of this scythe-winged bird signals the return of  warm summer days and reminds me (and Ted Hughes) that the world is still working as it should. There is a danger this may not be for ever though: there are plenty of hazards on the migration paths of summer visitors and many bird species are suffering great reductions in numbers e.g. cuckoo and house martin.