‘Our skies will be a lot quieter without their screaming call’

LEAVING TOWN Swifts are heading out of the UK to winter overseas
LEAVING TOWN Swifts are heading out of the UK to winter overseas
Copperfields Hair Studio, on Hayling Avenue in Baffins. Picture: Google Street View PPP-171118-153719001

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THE last of the swifts will sadly depart this month, migrating back down to Africa to spend the winter, leaving the skies over Portsmouth a little quieter without their distinctive screaming call.

With the swifts arriving in the UK around the end of April to spend another summer with us, it was lovely to see them over the Portsmouth rooftops again.

Over the past 25 years, swift numbers in the UK have seriously declined due to lack of nesting areas and wetter summers.

As old houses are modified, their nest holes and cracks are being filled in so this year, I decided to put a nest box up for them. Though I wasn’t successful with any swifts using the box this year, a close neighbour was.

Hopefully I will be lucky next year and I am going to ask neighbours if they would put up a swift box to boost the nest opportunities and in turn the numbers of this enigmatic bird.

So what makes the swift a little special? Arguably one of our fastest flying birds, they zoom overhead on sharp angled wings in screaming flocks while searching for a partner or bonding with its mate.

They appear black when they are high overhead but when closer, they are brown sporting a pale chin and a black beady eye. Swifts only come to land during the nesting season and are even known to actually sleep on the wing! Feeding on flying insects, they have a large mouth to catch them.

Unfortunately, they are known to collide with overhead wires and so should you see one on the ground, please contact the RSPCA for them to deal with it. A swift was found in my road this year which the RSPCA kindly took away to be cared for.