Tuesday 2 September 2014

A Remarkable Escape

We often wonder at how a young Swift, never having flown before, manages to emerge from a dark nesting place, launch itself into the outside world, then navigate itself to Africa.

Judith with one of her rescued Swifts
Judith Wakelam is an experienced Swift rehabber who so far this year (2014) had taken in 24 Swifts and subsequently successfully released all of them into the wild. Her normal method of release is to take them to Newmarket Heath, a large open space with short grass, so should a released Swift come to ground, there is a high chance of retrieving it. This cautious approach has led to nearly a hundred successful releases in previous years. On her own, Judith's efforts are equivalent to the production of a substantial Swift colony.

Then came Swift number 25, weighing in at 22 grams which Judith managed to fatten up to 33gm: quite light for a Swift, but it was a small bird. Judith realised that it was near ready for release as it was as fat as larger Swifts that are ready to go. 

The bird was in a box in the study. The walls of the box were about 31cm high with a base 51cm x 42cm. The back door was open and as Judith was putting some items away in a hall cupboard she was overtaken by a bird which came out of the study, through the short hallway, into the kitchen out of the open back door, then up and away!  From where the box was situated to the back door, is approximately 17 metres as the swift flies. 

Judith's reaction was : "I was so shocked that for a few moments I couldn’t believe what I had seen.  I rushed to look in the box to confirm what I thought I had seen and yes I had been overtaken by an escaping swift!"

This anecdote illustrates that young Swifts are nowhere near as feeble and vulnerable as we, who anthropomorphise, might think.

Swift 25 on 21st August
Swift 25 on 25th August, 5 days before it escaped

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