It looks like there are not many swifts around here again this year. Like many summer visitors they’re in trouble, and the BTO’s indicators are showing big declines. There are a few pairs nesting somewhere in our village, and I cherish warm summer evenings in the garden just before dark, watching them gradually descend and scream low over our cottage.
My son often remands me of the time when he was young, and the screaming parties of dozens along the road he walked to school in Mumbles. There are none there now, perhaps it’s a result of our affluent society replacing old wooden eaves with plastic ones, which seal off entrances to nesting holes. They’re mostly gone from the centre of the city as well, but are still common in some of the small towns nearby, but I wonder for how much longer.
Before swifts moved into our homes they nested on cliffs, and a few pairs still do so on west Gower. Cliff-nesting sites are very uncommon now, and to be certain they are actually nesting, they need to be seen entering holes. After years of watching the few that fly over the cliffs at Pennard, I’ve never seen one anywhere near the cliff face, and I guess the cliffs are just not high enough, and that these individuals nest in the houses nearby. At this time of year a good place to see them in their natural environment is Mewslade Bay, where a few hours watching from the cliff top can sometimes reveal a traditional nesting site on the seaward side of Lewis Castle.