Reading Patrick Barkham’s piece (Can our swifts fill summer’s skies again? It’s up to us to help, 19 June) reminded me of an experience that made me marvel at the swift’s aeronautical prowess and makes me anticipate their screeching return each May.
A few years ago I saw a small black bird fluttering on a roadside. I stopped and on closer inspection realised that the bird was a swift, which once grounded finds it hard to take to the air again. I cradled the bird in my hands and threw it upwards where it unfurled some six or eight feet above me, caught the air and shot away, out of sight in seconds.
We’re lucky to still hear the cuckoo occasionally around here, but for me spring hasn’t truly arrived until I see the swifts return. Curiously I’ve only seen them nest in the village in recent years, and this year they have found a place under the gable end of a cottage across the road where the mortar has crumbled a bit around some stonework. Hopefully the owner won’t repoint the wall too soon, but just in case they do I’m going to put up a swift box this winter so they have somewhere else to nest.
As for an insect supply, we don’t use artificial pesticides on our vegetable crops and we’ve replanted the hedge around our field with a wide variety of native tree and shrub species, so we hope to provide suitable habitats for a diversity of wildlife.
Dr Hugh Datson
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
• I returned from a week in southern France to read Patrick Barkham’s article. I am glad to report ample flying insects in Provence, no shortage of ideal nest sites and, as a result, plenty of swifts (swallows and house martins) on view. We routinely saw at least 50 or 60 swifts wheeling merrily over the small town that we were staying in. Maybe the swifts have simply decided that they are much better off staying in the EU?
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