Every year it is always a source of poignancy to realise that the last of the Swifts will be departing our village in the early part of August. It always seems far too soon. They should have gone already this year but there were still a couple screaming in the evening skies above the village last night but they too will soon be on their way South.
I watched Swifts earlier this year, in May, flying purposefully in from the sea and over the Sussex coast and now I am watching them go back. As they prepare for their long journey I reflect on what has apparently been a disastrous breeding season for them due to the awful weather. They are already declining in numbers for other reasons but this latest setback cannot have helped. In my rural village of Kingham, houses are being bought up by wealthy and often absent owners and what seem perfectly adequate homes are immediately surrounded by scaffolding and 'the builders' are called in to improve the properties by adding extensions and sealing up redundant chimneys and holes in eaves. Consequently the Swifts have even less options as to where to go to nest. It is seemingly a nationwide problem as we seek to improve older dwellings or build watertight, double glazed, new build fortresses against the great outdoors.
I further reflect that we, the human race, are rapidly becoming a scourge. Far from acknowledging we share this planet with many other species who have just as much right as us to live here, it would seem our general selfishness and unwillingness to recognise responsibility for other life forms and their right to co-exist on this earth will soon make this planet a far less enjoyable place to live. Here in our small and affluent village we seem to be a microcosm of this malaise. If not attempting to add value to their already considerable property by constant building and alterations then some of my fellow residents are complaining about the House Martins which also visit our village though in less and less numbers each year.What a mess their droppings make, what an inconvenience the noise of the young in the nest are so early in the morning right over our bedroom window and I have even witnessed admissions about knocking down nests from under the eaves when the martins are away during the winter so as to deter them from breeding when they return.
Personally I consider it a privilege to welcome these charming birds that have flown all the way from southern Africa to grace and enrich our lives with their all too brief stay. They make a supreme effort so why cannot we do the same in our attitude and tolerance towards them.