A Swift lunch

Martha endsI met up with local(-ish) artist Carry Akroyd today to give her a copy of Martha her artwork is the most striking aspect of the book, after all!

On my way there I saw an amazing number of Swifts over one single field of oilseed rape.  There must have been c500 of them – at least.  And they were over just the one field, on the right hand side of the road. The wheat field on the other side of the road had no over-flying Swifts. And nor did the adjacent oilseed rape field either.  There must have been something going on, insect-wise, in that one field to attract so many scythe-winged insectivores.

I thought I’d investigate on my way back – but over lunch, which was lovely, there was a thunderstorm and heavy rain. When I returned, with time to investigate, there wasn’t a Swift to be seen.



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9 Replies to “A Swift lunch”

  1. I think the art work is stunning and sure the words are going to be very interesting and moving. Roll on publication day.

  2. It is difficult to pick a favourite bird but any comment about swifts has me reminiscing about how they have fitted into my life over many, many years. My very first job was working as a lab technician in a mill in Ramsbottom and anyone who knows the town will remember the prevalence of stone-built buildings including where I worked on Kay Brow. The swifts had no shortage of nest sites and Kay Brow being a narrow thoroughfare, provided a spectacular play area (not to mention a convenient place to watch at lunchtime). Swifts screaming in excitement is awesome at the best of times but channeled within an artificial canyon of stone...well, it is almost beyond description.

    I also remember sitting outside the Old Coach house in Potton with some of the talented team from Conservation Science one beautiful summer evening and watching a group of swifts climbing up to sleep. To complete the picture, just last evening a hatch of insects on my local reservoir brought in several hundred to skim the water and surrounding hedges. On a really good evening, it is possible to have swifts virtually parting one's hair if they are feeding over the dam wall. It takes some nerve to look a swift in the eye when it is flying directly at one's head but a tremendously thrilling experience too. Great birds!

  3. The information we know about Swifts is amazing [but we need more!]. Your Swifts could have travelled 100's of miles from where they were nesting and the insects were driven by the rain front. The Swift Conservation - http://www.swift-conservation.org/ are doing a great job even a world conference held here in Cambridge this year. My work trying to move Lord de Mauley into action in DEFRA even after explaining the work done in Northern Ireland by Defra themselves seems to have fallen on death ears. May be because the RSPB have claimed 'we do not know enough'. Try telling the Passenger Pigeon ha Mark! We know there are not enough nest holes for them and we can do something about it. Every new building could have some. Screamer is moving to Northern Ireland to promote the making of Belfast a Swift City by the RSPB and others. May be some times the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing!!!

  4. The artwork looks lovely. I saw masses of swifts and house martins in Lucca over in Italy when I was there in May. There were house martins nesting in Beaulieu when I was down there recently

  5. Hi Mark,
    Several years ago we had many hundreds of swifts over our Cambridgeshire home in advance of a mass of black clouds preceding a violent thunderstorm. It seemed that the advancing storm was driving swifts in front of it.

  6. I agree with the comments above - they are really wonderful birds and they have great resonance especially with people living in cities and towns of course. To really help swifts what is needed is exact locations of nests rather than vague reports of "10 flying over Ambridge"....so that's a challenge to birders (including me) to make better and more detailed records - and perhaps to make a special effort to locate exactly where they are nesting.
    In Derbyshire a new survey is just getting underway, initiated by the county ornithological society and wildlife trust. We hope to work closely with the rspb who have been running a national survey for some years now. There's much to be done...and swift numbers have definitely fallen away very rapidly in the last 10-15 years, partly due to houses being renovated and swift holes being blocked up (I've just heard of workers replacing roofs throwing live swift chicks into skips!).
    As mentioned above, Swift Conservation, among others, has done sterling work in many parts of the UK so there is huge potential to feed off their experience and skills.
    If anyone reading this lives in Derbyshire please get in touch.....so far we have only a handful of volunteers....and an evening with swifts whizzing over your head sure beats one watching yet more football/tennis etc!
    Email enquiries@derbyshirewt.co.uk
    Ps. Standing in a downtown street the other morning about 7.30 am with swifts screaming up and down the street, a passerby, clearly on their way to work, stopped, looked up and said "Aren't they just wonderful!" It made my day.....


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