The swifts are back, and my Twitter feed is alive with reports. It's heartening to see so many people for whom these screaming black sickles are a sign of joy, of summer, of 'the globe still working', as Ted Hughes put it. But for how much longer?
I have petitioned my local council to start using swift bricks and installing nestboxes for them on tall buildings. We just don't leave the gaps in our buildings any more that these amazing creatures need.
Swifts aren't the only aerial acrobats I've seen this week. Yesterday, on a research trip to Buckinghamshire, I saw a kestrel hover almost level with my eyes, its eyes fixed on the ground, its head completely still while its wings and tail made minute adjustments in order to maintain its position in the air. And only a few moments later I watched a red kite ride the wind only about 30ft over my head – close enough to see its tail pivot and the primary feathers of its angled wings tilt and adjust. With a wingspan of up to five foot, the reintroduction of these lovely scavengers is a rare success story to set against the continuing decline of our swifts.
To find out how you can help slow UK swifts' decline, click here.