A hard act to Swallow
The drama of the Skylark and the Kestrel over, I continued my wanderings. I’d been hoping to see some Skipper butterflies (they love the meadowland at Gosbecks Archaeological Park in Essex) but it’s still a little early for them, so I walked out of the park and into the fields surrounding it, on my way to the Roman River Valley nature reserve run by Essex Wildlife Trust. Insects galore hung in the air over the narrow path, wedged as it is between long grass on one side and a large hedge on the other. Making the most of the corridor of the flying larder were the Swifts. As Scamp and I walked along Swifts came at us from behind and in front, skimming along at hip height, banking around me at the last minute to avoid collision as they snatched insects from the air.
I like to stand still and choose one Swift to follow. I make myself dizzy turning around, moving my head up and down and round and round, trying to keep up with one. They are beautiful; so aerodynamic with their bullet heads, split tails and wings that cut through the air.
As I watched them flitting by, giving me a flash of their pale bellies as they rolled this way and that at high-speed, a Crow went past above me. It seemed to move in ponderous slow motion in comparison to the Swifts, each long downward beat taking an age.
A little further along the path I noticed that the Swallows were also getting in on the act, flitting around. What's more, they were popping into the top of a tree in the hedge, then zooming out again. I couldn’t believe my luck when I looked closer and discovered there were juvenile Swallows, freshly-fledged hiding in the foliage as they called for food and their parents swept in the oblige. Swallows are on the RSPB's amber list, so I feel very privileged indeed to get these snaps of the young before they take to the wing.
It was a long time before I could drag myself away and carry on with my walk… (continues later)