The Last of the Swifts

The last of the swifts

It is about now that we start to lose our swifts for another summer.  They seem to gather and we are aware of them for evenings especially in the places in the town close to where they nest, as they fly in what are probably family groups, the young birds preparing for their first migration to Africa.  So, we see them around the mill pond and St Mary’s tower and near and behind the Red Lion and down around the station and post office.  Then, all of a sudden, or so it seems, they are gone, and it is just the odd bird in transit that we may see for a few weeks yet.

Earlier this year I read, Swifts in the Tower by David Lack - whose better known book on the robin is a classic.  These works from more than half a century ago bring us so much careful attention to detailed research that, even yet, they are hardly much superseded.  The photographs have been upgraded in the new edition of Swifts in the Tower, but otherwise the text is unaltered.  The author had discovered that though adult birds normally stay in their same pairs from year to year and return to the same nest hole, they do not necessarily travel together and may arrive and leave on different days.  The screaming that we hear from the swifts in the evenings (especially just before they leave on their migration south) is thought to be a way of unifying the group.  Anyway, it will be good to hear it next year on their arrival back in May 2022.

John Mann