Hazel, willow, beef and storytelling from Bedfordshire

Hurrah for swifts

When the first swallows arrived in Gravenhurst a few weeks ago I sent a text to Jane saying “swallows!”. At least that’s how I remember the gist of that particular communication. I was quite excited. Jane claimed later to think this was a good thing – the text. Oh and the swallows having arrived.

A couple of weeks later I was working in the barn making something or other. Jane was at the willow beds doing willow things. I heard swifts screeching and ran outside. Although the calls were distinct, they were distant and I couldn’t see the birds. This time I called Jane to ask if she could see them. She could.

The swifts are extraordinary masters of the air; a space that unaided, we are utterly unable to exploit. Their reckless flight is breathtaking. I wait now with some excitement for their mid summer gatherings, often in the evening, when groups of perhaps thirty or more twist, dive and chase through Gravenhurst’s airspace.

A swift by Guy - aged 54

A swift by Guy – aged 54

Later the same day a pair were doing some particularly high speed, show-offy exercises over our Gravelpit field and I thought I’d photograph them using my phone. To emphasies how daft an idea this was, I’ve illustrated this post with something of my own creation which I think, captures these birds’ beauty. OK, perhaps not, but it’s certainly better than anything I could capture on my phone.

I mention this only to emphasise how I feel about the arrival of these wonderful birds. After a long absence they appear suddenly having flown several thousands of miles across a substantial part of the continent of Africa (including a crossing of the Sahara Desert), the Mediterranean Sea, much of Europe, south to north, the English channel and finally 100 miles of southern England. Some days in England would be welcoming but we’ve had a few real cold ones – two pullovers and a coat cold – and that feels hard on these fleeting insect eaters. Despite this, their arrival truly marks the moment I finally let go all thoughts of winter.


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