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A lone Swift flies over the garden this afternoon. I had become so used to the packs of Swifts cutting through the skies and round the chimney tops, that their absence brings a strange silence to the evenings. Autumn is approaching.

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The return of Swifts to the village sky makes this a red letter day. News of their reappearance elsewhere in England was announced all over Twitter yesterday – I can’t quite fathom out why Gloucestershire should see them before we do in Norfolk, but that was how it appeared. Brampton Swifts waited until Ascencion day.

Walking back from the polling station, having been notified by Bill, there they were a circling group of eight Swifts over the village houses. Their sharp calls cutting through the air. It was noticeable that there was a hatch of flies about at ground level, so no doubt their arrival was somehow timed. From experience they will circle no gather for a few days before starting to return to roof eve nest sites. Sadly these sites have become fewer over the years as cottage roofs are repaired and gaps sealed up – the Swifts are barred from their age old sites. There is a real need for more Swift nest boxes to be constructed and installed.

 

Swifts in the dog days

July 16, 2013

As the village basks in the dog days of Summer, the grass of the Common takes on a tawny hue. The Swifts wheel and swoop around the cottage roofs. They gather in flocks at height and then descend in pairs or small groups, shattering the air with their screaming calls. There is a rushing sound of air as they brake and turn in front of their nest sites in the cottage roofs. We try to count them in the warm evenings but their speed and sudden changes in direction defy us.

Swifts return

May 12, 2013

Every year I eagerly await the arrival of Swifts. Brampton is home to a declining number, presumably due to the loss of nest sites as buildings are being re-roofed and closed off. This morning two pairs screamed their way around the roof tops of the village. Reports of their arrival elsewhere in Norfolk was causing a degree of anxiety about  a Brampton no-show. But they have got here. It is likely that the showery weather has pushed the insects down to lower levels, thus bringing the Swifts with them.  As the poet Ted Hughes put it, the Swifts circle madly “Racing their discords, screaming as if speed-burned..” As if to announce their ownership of the air space around the eves. 

July Swifts

July 24, 2012

Fine weather with clear skies appears over the village. The Swifts, which have been noticeably absent during the previous dull weather, have returned to their routine low level roof-hugging evening flight. Their screaming calls ring out even as dusk approaches. I assume that their favoured insect food has hatched in large numbers in the gardens and fields as the weather has improved. The groups of Swifts include their newly fledged young, now airborne and ready to stay that was until next years breeding season or perhaps longer. As I chat with Piet outside the cottage, another streamlined hunting form appears overhead – a Hobby causes panic amongst the Starlings, but the Swifts carry on without visible concern.

Swifts landing

May 14, 2012

After at least ten weeks of permanent flight Swifts are inspecting possible nest sites in the roofs of Brampton cottages. As Fiona quietly weeded her garden below, I watched one such Swift execute a deeply curled spiralling approach which ended in a small up-tick as it folded its wings and grasped some little purchase against the tile on the eaves of Trinity Cottage. It must be something like trying to park a car in a garage after approaching at 100 miles per hour, after spending months on the motorway. It only feels like Summer as the groups of Swifts race around the houses, with their high pitched screaming which seems to be borne out of pure exhilaration.