Every year I wait for their return. As the days pass my longing for their return grows stronger. With their impending arrival comes the promise of summer and those warm barmy evenings that feel as though they’ll last for ever.
And then the sightings start popping up on social media. Swifts have made it back to the mainland. Slowly they move like a wave northwards across the country, sweeping back to the places that they have returned for countless summers. And then they’re here; the date marked in the diary.
My connection with these tiny and amazing birds seems to get stronger every year. That longing for theses charismatic dare devils of the sky is linked to the passing of time. I feel that I notice them more and more as though the ticking of my biological clock is intrinsically linked to their arrival.
Their return home gives me that deep sense of hope that the turning of the natural world is ok. The seasons pass and the swifts come and go. I know that nature is under pressure like never before but these little symbols of summer (like butterflies) bring joy to everyone who notices and watches them.
Watching the swifts is one of those simple pleasures in life. I can guarantee that they’ll be more drama watching swifts for half an hour than tuning into the latest turns and twists of Eastenders. The aerial gymnastics of these tiny birds is astonishing as they rise and fall out of the sky, as they weave in and out of buildings.
Standing in my back garden I can just watch them. Individuals flapping furiously as they look to join a gang, taking those extra risks to join in. Or groups of swifts flittering through the air at high speed, buzzing just above ground level and then climbing high into the sky until they’re just little dots.
For me nature is a tonic. I love spending time wandering or watching wildlife. And the show that swifts put on year after year is one of the highlights of nature’s calendar.
For a third of the year the skies above our house are full of swifts. This annual summer treat always has me smiling. It’s something that I look forward to with a real relish and I have a sense of anticipation about their return as I type.
I love all four seasons for the diversity and changing of natures guard. However there are always specific things that light up the natural world for me in each season: it could be the starkness of a tree bereft of leaves in winter or a summer field of wild flowers.
The return of the swifts in April is one of them. I’ve seen my first swallows of the year; a pair flying with purpose across the road between Burton Bradstock and Bridport in Dorset.
And talking to my neighbour I know that the swifts are getting nearer. Tom has seen them eight or so miles South of Bath. It can only be a matter of days now until they are back in the neighbourhood, soaring high with that ever so distinctive call as they fly their loop the loops.
For me summer isn’t summer without the swifts. These birds with their astounding feats of migration across the hemispheres enrapture and delight. I always need my fix and will spend many an hour during the long hours of daylight just watching and listening; whether in the garden or looking out of a window.
In many ways swifts neatly sum up the powerful bond that we have with nature. We need the changing of natures guard as the seasons change and the ebb and flow of the natural world provides us with a real re-assurance. Swifts provide a sense of awe and wonder as the huge distances that they travel.
When the young swifts appear their playfulness creates the effect of aerial gymnastics as they chase each other through the sky; with a steady in increase in excitement building by the minute.
Think of those warm and barmy summer evenings that we all love and it’s likely that swifts will be part of those thoughts and the accompanying soundtrack to our summers.
I need to hear and see the swifts. It lifts my spirits when they’re back and I really do love seeing them command the skies.