Since they disappeared during the closing months of last year, I’ve been longing to look up at the sky above my house and see them darting, playing, chasing, gliding and screaming through the warm summer air.
I’m blessed where I live as I have swallows, house martins and swifts all living in the surrounding area. On a summer evening I can stand at my back door, glass of wine in hand, music in the background, and watch an aerial spectacle unfold above my head. Swallows are the popular sign of summer and I have become very attached to the house martins that nest on my home each year; even the twittering during warm nights, when I have my windows open, doesn’t stop me from cherishing their presence. However, it is the swifts that I really love.
Swifts are true masters of the sky, these living scythes in the summer blue don’t land except to feed their young. Constantly on the wing, even sleeping in the air, their dusk screaming parties are a true sign of summer – the season would be empty without them.
The bird surveys I’ve been doing over the course of the last few months have given me a stronger ear for birds and even as I’ve been watching TV I’ve been picking up the birds in the background. It seems to me that a summer scene in any good TV show isn’t complete without the sound of a gang of swifts chasing and screaming above the actors.
However, I suspect my favourite summer domestic views may not last much longer. When I first moved into my house over thirteen years ago, I had two house martin nests under the eves and there was another immediately next door. I now have one, and they turned up late this year; I was worried that they wouldn’t turn up at all. I’m concerned for a future without the swallows, martins and swifts and that if we don’t do something now, they will be lost forever. As I read this morning (I can’t remember where now), if children have never seen something, how will they ever cherish it and how will they ever be driven to fight for it? If these birds disappear in the next few years we don’t have much time to show the current generation of children just how special these creatures are and just how much they should be part of our lives.
It might already be too late.