Posted by: atowhee | May 3, 2012


May Day at Ashland Pond was actually Swifts’ Day. At least 20 Vaux’s Swifts were hunting over the pond in late afternoon, accompanied by slower swallows of at least 3 species: Tree, Barn and N-R-W. I just pointed my camera into the air and started shooting. Got one! That scimitar shaped wing span, the cigar-shaped body, the small round head. And the swift’s flight is a series of rapid wing beats, then a swerve or a curve or an arc at top speed with wings fixed. The swifts are a fascinating lot: can’t perch, but do hang on a ledge or chimney’s interior. Can’t land on the ground and take off. Spend their days in flight or hanging upside down. Their amazing flight strength has allowed them to colonize many of the most remote Pacific island chains, often getting even smaller through evolution and thus called “swiftlets.” Some of the largest swifts are Alpine and Pallid in southern Europe. One evening I watched three swift species hunting beneath a Roman-era bridge in the Spanish town of Merida: Common, Pallid and Alpine. Hundreds of speeding birds taking the insects that flew over the small river below. Same species the Romans would have seen 1800 years ago. At dusk the Common Swifts speed through the narrow urban canyons of Paris in hordes, their clicking drowns out even the mechanical noise of the small scooters and the sirens of les Flics.


  1. Love this on the swifts! Lovely to think of them in Roman times! xo Julia

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