The world is divided into two groups of people. There are those who adore Sylvia Plath and those with a dark callous heart who ignore the fact that Ted Hughes contributed to her untimely death. But The Bell Jar probably became more well known because of this and his Birthday Letters did nothing to make you think he was not over compensating.
For my part I don’t remember Plath capturing any bird in the way that Hughes captured one of the most exciting birds to grace our skies. Swifts.
Many species allow you to distinguish between those other two great divisions -birders and non-birders. Just think of your last Reed Warbler and now try to generate some interest with your non-birding friends.
This is not the case with Swifts. Both groups will stand open mouthed and watch the spirals and chases of black streaks in a summer sky without seeing any plumage detail. Both have a special place for Swifts.
Fifteenth of May. Cherry blossom. The Swifts
Materialise at the tip of a long scream
This is how Hughes begins his reverence for the Devil Birds. The ones that David Lack studied in the Tower. The ones in this sanitised world -as we seek to redevelop older buildings; and reduce their food through pollutants and insecticides see return in ever smaller numbers.
They arrive late and leave early. Barely here long enough for us to call them our swifts. Before returning South of the Equator, the adults leaving their screaming kids to find their way down the 5000 miles to Mozambique.
For me this will be a late entry into the race to get into the 25 Club -birds seen in every tetrad. But like the Lesser Black-backed Gull it is likely go from the current one tetrad to all 25 in a matter of weeks. In fact the length of time it takes me to get around all 25. For this species I am even tempted to be lazy and stand on the points where four tetrads meet and let them find me.
If morethankittiwakes is about anything it is about enjoying birds. Get out there and enjoy swifts while you still can. It will soon be Autumn and they will be back home to return in smaller numbers next year.