Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Isn't nature amazing?

More swallows are arriving every day to take up their residences in one or other of our barns.
Already the first arrivals are swooping down on muddy puddles and carrying the mud off to repair last year's nests.
Any day now the house martins will be back and they will be doing the same to their nests under the eaves of our house.
Then we hope that the swifts will come. We shall no doubt hear them long before we see them - the air will suddenly be full of their high pitched shrieking. What an amazing bird they are. I posted my poem, below, last year around this time, but I am tempted into writing about them again because of an article in the May edition of the RSPB's Birds magazine. The information that the article gives is quite amazing. Did you know the following facts about swifts?

1. Babies born this year will stay in the air continuously until the Summer of 2013.
2. The swift flies about 500 miles each day - at a speed of 25 m.p.h. and will often pop over to France to its next meal if there's nothing to eat over here.
3. Although they have only a tiny beak, when they open it they have a big yawning mouth and can swoop up quantities of insects - then wash them down by scooping up water from a stream.
4. They can live as long as fifteen years.
5. They sleep on the wing, high enough up in the atmosphere to glide and doze - they can't see where they are going as their eyesight is quite poor and they glide for miles overnight.

Isn't that truly remarkable? I saw many hundreds of swifts - or rather I heard them - when I was in Marrakesh a few years ago. Their noise was louder than all the passing traffic in Jma el Fna and that takes some doing.
And a few years ago one baby landed on our lawn. I picked it up and saw that it really had no feet to speak of - its scientific name is apus, which means footless. Had we not taken it into the field and launched it into the air it would have died.

I hope you are as amazed as I was at these facts. Anyway, here is my poem again. I make no apology for putting it on my blog twice - such amazing birds need all the publicity they can get as their numbers are declining and nobody seems to know why.


In Summer
for a while
the swifts come.

Birds of speed
and light,
they nest in the eaves
and come and go
where I am standing
at our highest window.

Blue-black arrows,
they course through
the damp air,
their trajectory
cutting a swathe through
the dancing midge.

These are the real
birds of the air...
eating, sleeping, mating
on the wing,
their ill-formed feet
not suited to the land.

For the time it takes to raise
the next generation
I watch them.
You aptly named creatures,
how I love your speed,
your accuracy,
your mystery...
but above all
your wildness.

One day I look down
and you are gone.
I can hear your scream
high above me;
I look up,
strain my eyes,
try to catch
that last burst of speed,
that last manouvre of
aeronautical perfection
before you head away.

Make the most of them if you have them where you live - they will be gone by the end of July.


Reader Wil said...

Yes, nature is amazing!! I learned some very interesting facts about the swifts.I hadn't realised that this bird practically lived in the air.Thanks for your information!

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

Thanks for the info. Hard to believe that a bird can remain aloft whilst asleep! Enjoyed your poem too.

Jane Moxey said...

What fascinating facts! Just to imagine them dozing way up high is an awesome thought! We have swallows whizzing around our house here in the Pacific Northwest! A couple of them seemed like they were dive-bombing our deck the other day!

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Such interesting facts about a bird I do not know. Lovely poem too ... perhaps it will draw them to you!

willow said...

For years, we thought they were bats stopping for a few days every September on their way south. Come to find out, they've been chimney swifts all these years. About 100 of them use the manor chimney for a hotel!

Nice poem.

Welcome To Wilmoth Farms said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE your poem!!!! i never knew all those facts about them, only a few! How awesome is nature!!! It always amazes me! We can learn so much from the animals! It was so good to read your blog after my almost 8 month blogging hiatus. I'm back tho, and hope to be back regularly! missed your writings!

Heather said...

Swifts are truly remarkable birds - I had no idea of those facts about them. How ignorant some of us are of the wonderful creatures around us. Thankyou so much for passing on this information and for reminding us of your lovely and very fitting poem Pat. It must be a delight for you to have them nesting in the eaves of your house.

maggi said...

Lovely poem, thanks for repeating it. I read that article in my magazine yesterday and was amazed. They are truly beautiful.

Babette Fraser Hale said...

A lovely poem. I knew none of it and you have written it so beautifully.--Bdogs

Cloudia said...

You make us SEE!

Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I do wish we had them here. Remarkable facts about them. Imagine staying in the air continuously! And popping over to France for lunch. Just amazing. Lovely poem, too. Captured them well!

Hildred and Charles said...

Love your poem Weaver, - it tells the story of the Swift beautifully. I am amazed at all the information you have posted, never having known the Swift or the fact that they are always airborne. Nature is truly amazing.

jeannette said...

500 miles? That's incredible! Thanks for sharing:)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for all the comments. I would like to answer you all individually but am not quite up to standard yet and must not sit too long at the computer.

Sandy said...

I really enjoyed this post about the swifts. And I agree what an amazing bird! I know we have swallows here but not sure about swifts. Must ask the hubby.

Teacup Lane (Sandy)

BT said...

Another super post. We only seem to have swallows but I just love to watch them darting about. They gang up on the magpies and our cats!