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News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 9 Summer 2009

Swift by name ...

The swift is as rapid as its name implies! Stand in the middle of Woodbridge on a summers evening, and look upwards. Those black (really dark brownish) scimitar-shaped birds, screaming and wheeling, diving, climbing through the sky, are swifts. There is no other avian visitor to this land with which it can be confused. swifts in flight Rarely does the swift touch the earth, but spends most of its life on the wing collecting food, drink and nesting material whilst flying. It bathes, mates and spends the night on the wing. And, because of its phenomenal speed, few swifts are taken by birds of prey.

The swifts sustenance comes from airborne insects which it catches with its tiny bill whilst flying, but with a wide gape assisted by stiff bristles around its open mouth. When food supplies are poor or in short supply, swifts will travel great distances to feed. The nestling swifts survive for many days by becoming torpid when there is a scarcity of food. The parent birds return to the nest with a throat full of compacted insects.

The nesting sites are usually on walls of buildings or cliff faces church towers are suitable sites! Only one clutch of eggs is laid (two or three smooth white eggs) during a swifts summer visit, which is a brief one the end of May to late August. The swift is a fascinating bird, difficult to observe clearly and, with its propensity to spend its life in the air, few swifts are ringed. (After World War II an Oxford scientist, Dr David Lack, commenced a lifelong study of the swift and that work continues).

Psalm 121 tells us: "I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help." There are few hills in Suffolk, but if we want inspiration from creation, from nature, to see living examples of tenacity, speed, adaptability and resourcefulness and simplicity and to apply them to our own lives, we might gaze upwards into the sky on those summer evenings.

logo The Swift has now been given the RSPBs Amber Status, as its numbers are declining so rapidly by 47% in the last ten years. This is of huge concern, and if you would like to help, take a look at the RSPB website to see what YOU can do: www.rspb.org.uk