Friday, 22 May 2015

Is It A Bird? Is It a Plane?

They come bombing out of the thunderclouds like Japanese shuriken. They're on a mission so frenetic, so fast and so purposeful they simply don't touch down. They are ninja stars that eat and sleep and mate on the wing. They are swifts, and they're back.

I stand among them as they scud up and down the river. Blue sky and towering white cumulus nimbus are their backdrop, not their element today; they seem big, impressive 3D birds instead of the screaming distant silhouettes and specks of high summer. Couples shadow each other silently - speed dating I suspect, but too dizzying to keep track of.

The return of these summer visitors makes some people want to tell the world. Ted Hughes wrote a poem about them: 'they've made it again, which means the globe's still working'. Local group Fulbourn Swifts celebrates their return to the Cambridgeshire village where new housing was developed to integrate the existing colony rather than dislodge the migrants and wave them goodbye forever. The group encourages people to join them on a weekly swift survey every Wednesday on summer evenings (see Natural Occurances, this blog's events calendar).

The RSPB is running a swift survey this year so wherever you live news of these birds would be welcomed. It's the VE Day Anniversary Air Show this weekend at Duxford Imperial War Museum. Watch out! Local road signs are warning that the bank holiday roads will be jammed. Kids are going to get bored waiting for those spectacular flying displays. Maybe they should look to the skies and count the swifts while they wait for the shuttle bus at the Park & Ride...

Photo by Dave Curtis

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