Each year in May I spend a significant amount of time looking up at the sky. Not only do the warming temperatures trigger the formation of impressive cumulonimbus clouds (the huge fluffy ones), but we’re treated to the return of Swifts to our skies.
These birds undertake one of the world’s longest migrations of any animal, from the British Isles to Southern Africa, and back. Not only that, but they live almost their entire life on the wing – they eat, sleep and mate in the air. In fact, the only time that they land is to lay their eggs and incubate and feed their chicks.
Unfortunately, the Swift population plummeted by over 50% between 1996 and 2016. This is because they nest in rafters, roofs with overhanging elements that used to be commonplace but aren’t a feature of modern housing developments. From my window in The Meadows, I haven’t seen a single Swift, but when I cycle to our gardens on St Ann’s Allotments I can see and hear the aerial displays of these magnificent birds.
They are black-brown birds with a scythe-shaped wing, usually found in groups. Their flying style is one more of gliding and swooping than flapping, and they like to screech loudly as they pluck tiny insects out of the air.
So, the next time you’re outside enjoying the sun and you hear a cacophonous ‘screaming party’ above, take a moment to look up and appreciate our 14,000-mile visitor. It won’t be long before they start migrating back in August.
By Holly James
PS. If you’re interested in finding out more about the wildlife on our patch and what you can do to help it thrive then please come along to one of our upcoming volunteer sessions: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/manage/collections/158749/events
Image credit: Imran Shah © CC BY-SA 2.0