Swift time

As March becomes April and the calendars are turned over I start to think about the arrival of the swifts. I tap deep into my memory bank thinking about the day that they might arrive. Will they be early or late; or will they not return.

The three or four months that the swifts return to where I live are really precious. They provide the soundtrack for my summer. Their aerial gymnastics is a welcome way to start or finish the day and I often just sit in the garden watching and listening.

Its feels as though my love of swifts is growing year on year. The two swift seasons of 2020 and 2021, as I like to call them, have had a special resonance, given the impact of the pandemic on all of our lives. Last year they arrived in the midst of the first lockdown and departed as things eased. There was a comfort – like a big warm blanket or a welcoming mug of coffee – when they arrived. Little did they know about how the human world had been turned upside and how much their return mattered.

Seeing the tweets and Facebook posts each spring clocking the arrival of the swifts along the south coast of England always quickens my heartbeat. I scroll through the timelines to see where they might be and feel a pang of nervousness if there has been sightings north of Bath.

I look up into the sky each morning. Opening the loft window, straining to see if I can see them. On my daily walk – pretty much the same route each day – I keep an eye out. Then I spot a solitary swallow. It feels as though its only a matter of time before the swifts come home (though this is one of two homes that they have).

Then it happens. Usually I hear them before I see them. They’re back. The world is still turning and the swifts have flown their epic journeys from south to north. Its such a relief. A tonic. My love for these birds and the incredible life that they lead is a constant. Even before the pandemic took hold over our collective lives my connection to the seasons had become heightened and the swifts symbolise this more than anything.

As we near the end of our swift time I will continue to smile as I see them in flight. Yes they will be gone soon but as they travel south countless people will look up and tune in to see this astonishing bird journey back to its other homeland. These are birds that light up so many lives.

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