Thursday, 26 August 2004

Migration of Swifts

Last night, just after 7 pm there were several hundred swifts moving west, just above the height of the trees. It was a very clear and visble movement in one direction, lasting for between 10 and 15 minutes. The weather had been wet for most off the day, but cleared up around 7 pm, and I presume the insects on which Swifts feed had been brough low by the weather. Over 40 years ago I had been an avid bird ringer in the suburbs of South london, and each year we caught and ringed several hundred Swifts over Beddington Sewage Farm. And it was then that I first became enthralled by Swifts. These amazing birds are among the world longest living (for a small bird) -- surviving for 20 years or more, and they fly to Central Africa and beyond each year. One of the birds we captured at Beddington was later killed by a boy with a catapult in the Congo. And the nestlings can go torpid during bad weather when the parents fail to bring food. And perhaps the most remarkable of all is that once the young leave the nest, they may well fly to Africa and back, not actually breeding until they are four years old, and sleeping on the wing, never settling. Remarkable birds.

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