I'd never have thought I would ever actually hold a swift but in the last five years I've held these two, which I took to the Wildlife Hospital.
So here's what to do if you find one - either young with a white face like these, even younger as in the photo below, or an adult.
The basic is:
Swifts can't take off from the ground because their wings are too long and their legs too short to give them the necessary thrust. So if you find one that looks as if it's strong enough to fly, hold it out at head height on open palms, give it time to think and if it can, it will. DO NOT throw it into the air.
If it can't or is too small, follow the advice in this leaflet (it's written for vets but works for us) and take it to our local Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital at Newton Tony - SP4 0HW. They take in anything up to 20 swifts a year, some as tiny as this one, and nurture them till they're big and strong enough to join the migration back to Africa.
Call 07850 778752 first for advice, but they're open 24 hours for patients. If you can't take it yourself or find a friend who can, don't hesitate to call me, Elizabeth, on 07831 253616 - I know the way!
In April, come he will.
In May, he sings all day.
In June, he changes his tune.
In July, he prepares to fly.
In August, go he must.
That's the cuckoo, of course.
Abby Eaton took this stunning photo of one at Langford Lakes Nature Reserve in May, but one is still singing his original tune on Martin Down.
So it's still not too late to get your cuckoo fix.
At the talk about wildlife crime in February, one listener asked if anything was being done about dog thefts. At that stage, PC Richard Salter could only say that there had been few if any reports of actual thefts. But the Rural Crime team have now responded to widespread concern by setting up a DogWatch scheme, described here. You can join this by first signing up to the Police Community Messaging Service here.
You'll then hear about other developments in the fight against rural crime in general and wildlife crime in particular - there's a useful-sounding development also in efforts to stop fish poaching, which should please anglers.
Community Support Officers in Wiltshire, such as Neil Tunbull who was the other speaker at the February meeting, are the first in the country to be given the same power as Police Officers to request a rod licence from people who are fishing.
Chief Constable Kier Pritchard says, 'Rather than just accompanying the water bailiffs on their patrols, this change in power will now allow our PCSOs to actively work alongside them to tackle illegal fishing activity.'
Again, the full story is here.
Watching birds on our bird feeders - like these pretty siskin on Andrew and Debbie Carter's - is one of the little delights that distract us from other less delightful goings on in the world
Young birds are at their sweetest when fully fledged, as in Abby's lovely photos - though feeding them at any age is a problem for parents or foster-parents, as in the case of the swift chick at the Wiltshire Wildlife Centre - Marilyn calls them 'little dinosaurs'!
Birds' nests are often nothing short of miracles of complexity combining aesthetics with practicalities such as insulation and water-proofing - Dick Budden's blackbirds, however, sadly ignored the mantra, 'location, location, location' when building in a woodstore during a freeze.
Izzy Fry's blog has photos of some exquisite nests.
Young birds can indeed be really sweet - but alas, because they're turfed out of the nest before they can fly, they're horribly vulnerable to predators. Sometimes these are larger birds such as magpies but too often they're victims of our furry feline friends. Cats.
But at last, research has been published which has identified things owners of predatory cats (not all are) can do to minimise this distressing habit. Full details on MoreNews.
PS There is of course the Green Woodpecker, too. Round here it mostly seems to be the Pied/Greater spotted that people see, but there's a recording from near Bath so you might be lucky.
Lepidopterists can be found in the most unlikely places ... Dick Budden's feed from the FT included a lovely piece by Jonathan Guthrie, who edits the Lex column which reports on stockmarkets.
His father took to butterflies as a distraction from family troubles and to me most sadly, he was written off by his school as 'not university material'. But his enthusiasm got him there under his own steam and he became a Professor of Zoology. So it ended happily.
You may be able to access the piece here, but otherwise Jonathan suggests eg growing nettles in a container and snipping the flowers off before they can seed, to attract peacocks, small tortoiseshells, painted ladies and red admirals to lay their eggs. But also borage, lavender, verbena and buddleia are of course butterfly favourites.
And, talking of painted ladies, on Sunday 23 May BBC Channel 4 had a lovely item on their migration, which you can get on iPlayer The Great Butterfly Adventure: Africa to Britain with the Painted Lady.
I'm off now to find some nettle seedlings, bound to be some out there ...
Jays and magpies I know, treepies and nutcrackers are new to me but crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws and choughs are all black. How to tell them apart? Andrew Graham tells us there's one of them we can't mistake and why there are so many around in Tisbury at the moment.. Go to MoreNews for the full story.
Well, there's a lot to report!
We were absolutely thrilled that we ended up with 17 homes for humans now also equipped with a total of 32 new homes for swifts - extending from Teffont Evias (we could hardly refuse to include Laura Downer, our Project Manager) to the outback of Semley (we couldn't resist such a lovely property, with farm buildings nearby for possible expansion of the we-hope colony). We were greatly helped in the planning by Andrew Graham's mapping skills.
Thank you all!
We emphasised to everyone that this is a long-term project - it took a similar one ten years to get from a single breeding pair to 35, so we have to grit our teeth, especially in this most swift-unfriendly spring when all our migrators are having a hard time.
We also installed six calling systems, on properties deemed too far from a known nest site to attract residents from there.
We cannot thank Hampshire Swifts enough for their whole-hearted, unstinting support - and Ed Mayer of Swift-Conservation for his January talk, which inspired this response.
For more about this, go to Tisbury Focus magazine May issue for a wonderful feature with a lovely front cover photo showing the installation team in action.
What we now have to do is undertake a survey of the village to identify currently active nest sites and the overall size of our local population. We'll do this in early July, when there's Swift Awareness Week from 3-11.
Meanwhile ... swifts are in the air or sometimes, not: here's what to do if you find one on the ground
In the last five years, it's been a privilege to hold four swifts in my hand - two live young which I took to the Wildlife Hospital, one moribund so sadly didn't make it and one dead that I found on Cuffs Lane. So it's quite possible you may find one yourself.
I don't know if the moribund one would have survived if I'd known to try re-hydrating it, as described here on the Swift Conservation website and in this excellent leaflet about rescuing swifts. It's drafted for vets but pretty good for ordinary people.
The basic is:
Swifts can't take off from the ground because their wings are too long and their legs too short to give them the necessary thrust. So if you find one on the ground, to see if it's strong enough to fly, hold it out at head height on open palms, give it time to think and if it can, it will. DO NOT throw it into the air.
If it can't, follow the advice in the leaflet and take it to our local Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital at Newton Tony - SP4 0HW. They take in anything up to 20 swifts a year, some as tiny as this one, and nurture them till they're big and strong enough to join the migration back to Africa.
Call 07850 778752 first for advice, but they're open 24 hours for patients.
Throughout the year, but especially now in the breeding season, one of the common sights and sounds in and around Tisbury is the jackdaw - they like to breed in small towns and villages.
This is our smallest member of the crow family, distinguished from the others by the silver-grey plumage around the back of its head and this, and the adult’s pale eyes, makes it easy to identify. It has a slightly stocky look and seems to strut somewhat when it walks.
It will take over the nests of other birds or use holes in trees and buildings. They sometimes become a nuisance by trying to form a nesting platform in a chimney by dropping lots of twigs down it. Indeed, piles of twigs scattered on the pavement in the High Street or on the station platform probably result from jackdaws’ nest building above.
Like all the crows, jackdaws are inquisitive and intelligent birds, good at problem solving and captive birds can easily be taught to do tricks. They are quite sociable and pairs, which mate for life, are often seen sitting next to each other preening. These pairs may keep close contact with each other while flying and feeding in large winter flocks. They often nest in colonies such as on Old Wardour Castle and feed in nearby fields in raucous, mixed flocks with rooks. They can be seen flying acrobatically in groups repeatedly making their hard “tchack” call from which their name may be derived.
Jackdaws have a varied diet including insects and invertebrates, worms, seeds, fruit, nestlings, carrion, and scraps. They will also visit gardens to collect food.
Common throughout the British Isles but for the highlands and Western Isles the jackdaw population has been rising since the 1970’s. This success may be based on its ability to exploit a variety of habitats, its varied diet, and its tolerance of man. They certainly seem happy in and around Tisbury.
*R H Barham, The Jackdaw of Rheims
Many are the joys of cat ownership - the comforting furry purry warmth, the welcoming miaow. The changing of the litter tray. The lugging home the crates of food.
But there can be the downside of predation. The presentation of voles, woodmice, shrews- or even larger mammals such as rabbits and squirrels - and birds of different sizes and volume of plumage. Most cat owners feel pretty bad about this, but up to now there seemed to be little that could be done to prevent it. The verdict was, 'it's their natural instinct.'
But at last, help may be at hand. The Guardian has publicised research which has identified things owners of predatory cats (not all are) can do to minimise this habit. The most effective were found to be:
Play with the cat for 5-10 minutes a day using something like the DaBird fishing rod toy from Pets at Home
Put a brightly-coloured, flashy 'ruff' collar on the cat with a noisy bell (but a bell alone isn't any good)
Over a couple of months, in at least one case this has achieved a substantial and welcome reduction in predation.
And cat owners may also like to know that the plastic food pouches can now be recycled - in aid of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance - via this website.
The pages now display photos of live moths taken by Andrew Graham. This one, the Puss Moth, looks very soft and cuddly.