After last season, I was really hoping that 2019 would finally bring back my favourite bird of all to actually NEST with us again - 8 years after filming them in our old place, "Swift Half", in Reading.
But last year was a different kettle of fish, weather wise , at least here. (Well... it was unlikely to be the same as last year's prolonged heatwave eh?).
That said, this year, the weather in the Med at migration time was quite similar to last year - and when I say quite similar, I mean much worse than normal, with storms and cool temperatures. Last year that unseasonable weather lasted a few days.... this year, unfortunately it lasted a couple of weeks or more and there were many reports of dead and dying swifts all over the Med - dying as they attempted their annual northerly migration. Some of those unfortunate swifts could have been ours. By that I mean the young birds that explored our attic last year. The birds that I hoped might return to nest with us this year. A horrible, horrible thought.
Again, you may remember that last year I wrote about this and wondered if it would be a blip last year or a sign of things to come - has climate change already made this "unseasonable" weather in the Spring in the Med, quite normal? Well... two years on the trot is still a blip at present... but if we get more years like this in the next few... then I'm afraid to say that it may be the case that we may have to get used to not seeing swifts in any numbers at all in our British skies in a couple of decades or less.
A dreadful thought.
But look... if we continue to blast all insects with pesticides and tidy up our soffits and fascias… we give swifts no food and no shelter. And that's IF they get over here at all, after we've buggered up the climate, meaning that their ancient window of migration north to breed, in late April... is blocked by low temperatures and storms.
This year though, despite what Nick Brown absolutely incorrectly says in this piece, we had a warm, reasonably-SETTLED May here and a reasonable June too... albeit worse than last year's scorcher)
We've just got to hope that last year and this was a blip - in terms of poor weather in the Med JUST when the swifts migrate north.
And as for the new "Swift Half" here. Well... I fear it may be back to square one. It's taken me 7 years to get swifts to explore our attic boxes last year - and we had NO swifts explore our boxes this year. NONE.
Oh sure... we had regular swifty fly-bys in the last three months and each fly-by was announced by the familiar scream - and they DID seem to be screaming at our house (and Mp4 call!). They were here most days (dawns and dusks)… it's just that NONE banged on our roof... and they've been doing that for at least four years and exploring the attic for the last season.
I occasionally see a swift high in the sky over the house in early September, moving south - but if I see no more this year, then the last I saw im 2019 was a week ago - at dusk, giving the house a fly by again.
I'll try to be positive now, at my LEAST favourite time of the year, when my swifts disappear... but this year in particular, it won't be easy.
We've lost HALF our breeding swifts in the last decade or so.
Last year was quite poor across the country (admittedly not here at "Swift Half") and this year has been REALLY poor - and the worst year ever here at the new "Swift Half".
Graph below courtesy of Bird Track and the BTO.
Last year provided me with a gurt big steaming ladle of hope (see photo below).
But this year.... well....
We'll just have to try and save some of that hope, if any's left. We can't lose hope! This is too important!
May 2020 isn't that long away....