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Shilton Swifts

David Roberts writes:

We have been having a good year in Shilton again this year with our Swifts, up until the last couple of exceptionally hot days. It was a slow start in May and June but things picked up after this with good numbers of 25-30 birds.

I gave a talk with Veronica and Andy during Swift awareness week on 8th of July at our village hall and 50+ people turned out. It was followed by a short walk and back to the church with the Swifts giving a great display of low level flying and some visiting nesting holes in the roof. We finished off with cheese and wine in the village hall.

When we were unlocking the church at 10.30 on 10th July Jean found a this-year’s Swift on the floor of the vestry.  I picked it up and took it outside and while trying to take off a chunk of cobweb from its leg it flew off strongly from my hand.

Today (19th July), the second of the very hot days, a villager phoned me at 08.30 to say that when about to drive off in his car he found a Swift on the gravel of his drive and had put it in a box in the shade. I went down to collect it and it appeared quite lively. It was this year’s bird, not long before fledging and a quite healthy 39 grammes in weight.

I phoned Gillian Westray, an  amazing lady who gives up her summers to look after Swift casualties of the breeding season, also Swallows and Martins. It is specialist work. Gillian has raised over 1,000 swifts over the years. I took one to her last year (see here) and she successfully released it after a few weeks. She told me to bring it down and that – amazingly – she only had three down there, due mainly to this exceptional weather. 

I was about to set off and checked the bird, but very sadly it had died. I guess it had been down on the drive overnight and was probably dehydrated. With the heat over the last couple of days I would think that most of the young birds still in nests under roof tiles will have perished. A very sad situation.

I have counted up to about 50 Swifts flying around at about 9.30pm over the last couple of nights from my garden.

David Roberts, 19 July 2022