This weekend the swifts arrived back over Havelock Rec. These African birds journey all the way to the UK to take advantage of our longer daylight hours to raise their families, and only stay until their youngsters leave the nest, before heading straight back to warmer climes.
Our local RSPB group is looking for volunteers to help survey the local summer visitors, as their numbers have suffered a decline of over 50%: [see the RSPB page here].
The British Trust for ornithology has tracked their migrations [see the BTO page here] and it is an epic journey: over the notoriously stormy Bay of Biscay, across the Sahara, and all the way south of the equator:
Every day that a bird has a nest, and is going to-and-fro to it, increases the chances of becoming dinner for a predator, so the swifts decrease the amount of time their young are vunerable in the nest by coming north to the UK’s longer daylight hours. Swifts are very air dynamic but it means their legs are not very useful, so if you find one on the ground, they need to be thrown up in the air before they can fly away. Once they fledge, they spend about 2 years on the wing, even sleeping in the air. This means that they can’t help their young once they leave the nest, so they depart straight back to Africa.