Saturday, 25 September 2021
IT is 6.30am and I am outside my home looking skywards.
Something is missing and then it dawns on me, there is no more screeching and screaming from aloft.
The swifts have left and are heading home towards sub-saharan Africa after their breeding season has ended.
It is only the beginning of August but I noticed the same phenomenon last year. They used to remain until September.
With the dry weather that we have been experiencing, perhaps they found it difficult to build their mud-based nests under the eaves of our houses. About 10 years ago I scooped up a swift that I found cowering on the pavement at the side of St Lawrence’s Church in central Reading. I threw it into the sky and it was off like a shot — a happy little moment for me and maybe the bird too! These light little birds have very short legs, an impediment when they find themselves stranded on the ground.
With their swept-back and long wings, they will struggle to lift off when they unfortunately find themselves in such a predicament.
They spend most of their lives on the wing, reportedly even mating in flight.
Thinking about the swift’s departure, I notice that the house martins that nest here regularly have flown away too.
Why are they leaving so early — is this a sign of our seasons changing? There have also been some notable migrant absentees this summer.
I have not seen or heard a garden warbler and the willow warbler, once common, has seemingly vanished without trace, which I find worrying.
I have always been charmed by its delightful descending cadence.
Thankfully, blackcaps and whitethroats have been present in good numbers and have been reassuringly vocal.
Apart from our summer visitors, our resident birds seem to be bearing up despite the recent drought.
Mine are lucky as they can drink from the pond at the bottom of my garden, as can my other regular visitors — badgers, deer, woodmice, hedgehogs and foxes.
I would urge anyone else without a natural resource to provide some water if they are able to do so.
As we head towards a presumably early autumn, I am looking forward to foraging (responsibly) for edible fungi and late fruits if I can find them.
There is a lovely world out there and it should be cherished.
27 August 2018
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