Posted by: atowhee | May 24, 2023


A friend of mine and his wife live much of the year in southern France. Eric May recently shared this message:
“The weather has been beautiful here in Beaulieu and the swallows [and swifts] have returned from wherever they wintered, dozens of them circling and shrieking far above our terrace each night.

“Yesterday, one had somehow made its way into our building lobby and was stunned after hitting the glass doors trying to get out.

“I picked it up and put it outside to rest on a tree stump in the yard. He didn’t seem to mind my gently stroking his head. We put it in a closed cardboard box and brought it up to a shady spot on our fifth floor terrace, with a jar lid of full of water next to it. Within an hour or so it started moving around and moved onto the jar lid for a very small bird bath.

“We left the lid of the box open, when we checked a couple of hours later the box was empty and it had silently disappeared. Hopefully now happily hunting mosquitoes above our terrace where he belongs!”

The bird is a Common Swift, one of three species possible in southern France. There is the much larger Alpine and the Pallid as well.
Click here for the amazing research results–swifts flying for endless months. Their tiny toes enable hanging on vertical walls, no walking or swimming or perching allowed. Swifts may follow insects a thousand feet or higher into the air.

Swifts are swift–but perhaps not the fastest, self-propelled creature alive after all.

BEAULIEU-SUR-MER is east of Nice. Isn’t that nice?
Eric grew up in Portland, Oregon, so there may be hope for the rest of us…

A response from Yani Sinanoglou, my dear friend who lives in Dulwich, South London: “Alas, we hear and see fewer swifts than in years past.  I used to notice them flying very high and making that very high-pitched sound from early May to mid/late July, when they would disappear. There seem to be fewer summer bugs than 20 years ago, when we would find them all around (and inside) light fixtures in kitchen and bathroom. At the moment, it’s mainly blackbirds [a thrush related to American Robin] and some starlings coming to feed on the mahonia berries in the garden.”


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