Friday, 25 June 2010
Being something of a show off, I have given today's blog the title "Apus apus" as that is the Latin name for the bird illustrated - the picture being copied from the web site of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The bird in question is more commonly known as the swift. My daily fish wrap carries every day on its back page a small piece about natural history and they mentioned yesterday that this bird, a summer visitor hereabouts, is on the Amber List, meaning that it is a species of conservation concern. Given that there are an estimated 85,000 breeding pairs in the UK that concern might seem a little over the top, but numbers of these birds have 'declined dramatically in the past ten years' according to the RSPB.
These birds are the most amazing fliers. They even sleep on the wing and it is estimated that they fly an average of 500 miles a day. They are the fastest recorded bird in true flight, reaching speeds of almost 70 mph, and their agility in the air is truly fantastic.
I have mentioned watching the swifts screaming as the fly around the church tower in Chateaubriant, a sight I could watch for hours at a time, but the other day I was given a real treat. I was walking with Fern across 39 Acres late one afternoon after court when a flock of swifts was flying above us. They came lower and seemed not at all bothered about flying close to and around me. Some were no more than two feet from me - close enough for me to be able to make out individual feathers in their wings. I stood far too long watching that display of aerial acrobatics but what a privilege it was.