Tuesday 8 July 2014

In Praise of Swifts

It's a subject I keep coming back to, I make no apologies if I have written on this subject before.

I feel so lucky that we have a fair population of swifts here; as they disappear from many towns, our population seems to have at least stabilised, although there perhaps aren't the numbers I remember from my childhood.

By comparison, house martins have been reduced to one active nest site I've encountered - in a row of houses with suitable eaves on Earp Avenue opposite the Magnus field - and swallows aren't nesting along Millgate as they once did.

The first spring sighting of a swift, virtually always as I've been cycling home after an arduous day at work, always brings joy to a stony heart, and every day I feel grateful I share my urban space with them. Every time one screams down low and parts the hairs on my head, leaving me in their fluttering slipstream, gives me such a sense of excitement. "Whooah!" I will often exclaim, as they make a formation strafing run along Balderton gate, no doubt to the puzzlement of the sadly unaware passers-by, ignorant of the aerobatics above their heads.

I've identified plenty of nest sites this year - Aroma Chinese takeaway and the old church on Baldertongate, the London Road Congregational Church; several sites on Victoria Street, the Forge on Millgate. They need an older style of building, with a very particular type of roof and eaves they can get under to nest. Like Lucy Worsely, they have a fondness for heritage.

They like old fashioned pantiles, I think! Modern bland styles of construction are anathema to them.

We probably have no more than three weeks of our glorious rulers of the air before they head south; their dogfights and joy of flight a memory for another year. The seasons move on.

We don't know how lucky we are.

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