Swifts in my Sanctuary

A blog for Swift Awareness Week by Jack Le Breton


Since leaving university a couple of years ago, I rarely leave my home. It’s not because I am a recluse of some description, I work as a freelance composer so I spend a fair chunk of my time cooped up in my studio composing and producing music. Most recently I worked on Two Point Hospital - a hugely successful, and BAFTA Award nominated, video game. I love what I do. I’m living the dream as they say.


My studio is my office, and like anyone in any office-based working environment may empathise with, seeing in the same space day after day can be a little suffocating. You grow oblivious to your surroundings as your eyes slowly glue themselves to a computer screen all day after day.


I am fortunate that near my home is a large curricular park, with green grass, open fields and trees that cloak my dogs and I when we go for our daily walk. Not only does being at one with nature provide a good hour’s exercise (I’ll be first in line if ‘Dog-Walking’ ever becomes an Olympic Sport), but it is also a liberating and often underappreciated experience. You’re blessed with a barrage of new sights and sounds of nature that are never quite the same, even when you take the same path as you did the day before. I always enjoy looking around and noticing what Mother Nature gifts me each day regardless of sun, rain or snow.


On some occasions, I will look up and see the silhouettes of Swifts, which is always a fascinating sight to behold, despite the fact they have always been so high that I have never been able to make out anything beyond their soot-grey plumage (which could very easily be black, or even brown). That said, they are easy to recognise, for they are a small bird that with a noticeable short pronged tail.


In many ways, they are like us. Swifts are sociable birds that travel in large numbers, partly for safety but surely partly because screaming around buildings and towers must be so much more fun when accompanied by your friends?! The romanticist within me loves the fact that they are birds that mate for life. No matter what the world throws at them, they always have a significant other to provide some comfort to them - even if just for a short time every year. I find it rather sweet.


The world around them may be large, but the swifts preferred nesting sites - dilapidated buildings and creaky old barns - are being pulled down and replaced with almost swift-proof new builds. Swifts now find themselves far more prone to the dangers around them, be it human or natural. Human needs, wants and desires have destroyed their habitats and diminished their food sources.


Aside from being a wonderful example of Mother Nature’s summer display - a screaming swift party can provide hours of entertainment - swifts contribute to our ecosystem just as any other bird or beast. If you’d enjoy less flying bugs bothering you at your summer BBQ, Swifts have quite the taste for them, so why not put up a swift box?! These little birds need us, and if we can make some small difference, we should.

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