How a headstrong swift spent the winter (48)

Summer has only truly arrived when you look up and see swifts hurtling around the sky at top speed up above while you are out and about in your local town. The swift is essentially a summer visitor which finds our winters far too cold.
Global warming up has caused our winters to become warmer. Plants and animals from more southern climes now settle in the Low Lands and can survive the cold of our milder winters. One headstrong swift imagined he could stay too and did not join his fellow swifts to migrate to the south. If you want to know how he fared, you can find out in this modern, typically English story.

When global warming increased as a result of the egoistic behaviour of small-minded stupid humans, there was one stubborn swift who did not want to honour the great migratory tradition of his species. He simply didn’t feel like doing the long and dangerous flight to the south of Africa. Already during the great migration in August he had decided not to go. “The climate is changing. With these mild winters there is now enough food to eat.” he said to his friends who tried to persuade him to abandon his mad plan. “Insects don’t need to burrow away from the cold. I am staying right here and you will realize in time that I was right.”
On the shortest day of the year in December the graceful black bird could be seen flying happily about in the sky. He had proved his point. In mid-winter life was easy with more than enough food. But as the January days grew longer, there were cold snowstorms to survive. He realized then that he had been wrong and set off to fly south. Too late, though. High up in the sky his wings soon iced up and he simply plummeted down out of the sky, landing half frozen on some farmland.
A while later a cow walked past depositing its dung precisely on top of the frozen bird. The swallow thought this would be the end of him. But a wonder happened. Being warm the dung actually melted the ice on the bird’s frozen wings. The swallow warmed up, felt happier and began to twitter, relieved by his so very close escape. Just then a cat happened to pass by and heard him twittering.  Attracted by the sound, it set about investigating where the sound came from.….Having scratched away some dung, the cat discovered a nice tasty little snack and gobbled up the bird. And that was the end of one headstrong swift.

The moral of this story is:

  • someone who shits on you is not necessarily your enemy
  • someone who helps you out of the shit is not necessarily your friend
  • if you’re warm and happy, just keep quiet about it!

Do you know the difference between a mountainous, rocky landscape and a town made of stones and concrete? Swifts don’t! Originally they nested among rocks. It simply experiences a town as a rocky landscape, building its nest in the nooks and crannies of the bricks and stones.
In very many ways the swift is an extremely special bird. It  stands out in so many ways. Only a mere 15 cm. long it can reach top speeds of 200 km per hour. It sleeps, eats, drinks, gathers nesting materials and mates on the wing. It sleeps airborne at a height of 3 to 4 kilometres, gliding on thermals. It only ever lands to hatch its eggs in the brooding season. Its feet are rudimentary with four forward pointing toes and sharp claws to clamp onto the edges. A family of swifts eats about 20 thousand insects a day! These birds are in our country for only three months, from the end of April to the beginning of August, for the sole purpose of brooding a single nest. Swifts are always among the first birds to start their 7,000 kilometre long return journey to Africa and the south of the Sahara. Only in the breeding season do you hear its characteristic high-pitched twittering. Back in Africa though it doesn’t make any sound at all. As more and more older houses are disappearing, so does the swift’s natural nesting habitat.


© Els Baars,


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Els Baars