A Swift Story

If birds come into my life I pay attention

The robin that flew round the room when I revisited my old home in Inverness, the white owl that very very occasionally flew across my vision when I was driving home from Penzance, even the two little ceramic birds that I bought when I was back in Cornwall.  They both were survivors of a shelving accident and had broken tips to their wings. I brought them home to Granollers and Pep glued them back together again.
A week ago today I was in my room which I call my Niu – my nest. It looks onto the terrace and at the door there is a sort of gully where the steps start. I noticed something dark and fluttery right in the corner of the gully. It was a bird, unable to climb out. I put it onto the terrace tiles and it stretched its wings and identified itself instantly as a swift.

Then started two days of intense relationship between me and the bird.

I found a wonderful web site that suggested ways to help a young swift take to the air again. But it had some injuries to one wing and also seemed inexperienced in flight.

We tried to launch her on the terrace – resulting in several bad thumps to the ground. I gave her water and she drank.   She allowed me to lift  and hold her up to the air without a tweet. She  just looked around with interest. Whenever she felt the air brushing her feathers she would start to flap and thentake off. But it always ended with a fall to the ground.

After a few attempts she got tired and I left her in a shady spot.

Day two and she was nowhere to be found

I knew that swifts cannot get off the ground once landed. Their wings are so long and their legs so short that they can’t push off unless they are up high on a ledge and can launch from there.  She disappeared so of course I assumed she had died in a corner.  A few hours later I heard rustling from the patio one floor down and looking over the railing, I  saw her bobbing around on the floor. She had found herself a ledge on the edge of the terrace and launched once more but unfortunately there wasn’t the space to fly and she took another rough landing. But survived!

In the late afternoon I took her up to the fields above Granollers, beside the tower.  It is a place  I go often when I need some space and fresh air.

It was a sad and worrying walk from the house up to the top with the bird quietly waiting inside a shoe box. Once there I held her up in my  outstretched palms and did what the experts recommend, gently raising and lowering my hands so the air flow encourages the bird to open her wings.

After a few moments she took off…… and then fell to the ground.

We tried again…..this time she went a little further. She was so determined yet each fall seemed to me so violent. But there is no other way. The third flight was the longest and I willed her to stay up but she lacked strength and ended up in a bush. After that she was happy to stay in my hands and stretch her wings but showed no desire to try again. We plodded home  and I found her a bigger box with air-holes and added lots of flies and mosquitoes to her home.  She didn’t want to eat from me although she would drink drops of water from my fingers.

It is such a sad thing to see a swift on the ground – it’s just totally the wrong place. Perhaps there are other birds who could manage an earthbound life but a swift must fly.
The next day I had to go to Barcelona with my friends and I left her resting at home. She seemed quiet and sleepy.  There was someone to look out for her during the day.

When I got back in the evening, she had died.

That is the story of me and the Swift. I love these birds and watch them every day from the terrace. It was a huge honour to be able to connect so closely with one and very painful to watch her plight.

I’m glad she was able to go gently and will not forget how strongly she tried to survive.

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6 thoughts on “A Swift Story

  1. Indeed it was an honour for you and this swift to live those moments together. What Ted Andrews has to say (briefly) about the Swift: Main word is “pursue”. Act now in pursuit of your quest. Take advantage of opportunities. ely on yourself and draw upon the magical waters within.” I don’t know if that speaks to you or not. To connect with another species is special. What you did was absolutely beautiful. Amazing photos you took as well.

  2. Gosh this made me weepy. The will to survive and do what comes naturally is so strong. I watched my seventeen year old cat painfully plod down stairs this morning – he’s Ok going up but every step down jars his old bones. In the end I carried him down. He looks at me with such patience and fortitude in his face. So I feel for you and the swift, I hope you found a sweet place to lay her to rest.
    x

  3. What a sad but lovely story, Kate. You really did your best to get the little swift flying again and it must have been heartbreaking every time she crashed to the ground after a failed attempt. But she has touched your heart with her courage and will to live and you will have an even more special connection with the swifts in the air now.
    When I was a child, I was always trying to rescue birds and animals. Birds used to fly into our little ‘conservatory’ at the back door and couldn’t get out again because of the glass. We sometimes had to wait until they knocked themselves out before gently carrying them outside and keeping watch for cats on the prowl until they came round and were able to fly off. Caroline and I took several patients to the vet in Troon, Miss Murphy (lovely woman) for help, including a very scared and therefore aggressive seagull we found on the beach with a damaged wing. She was always so kind but I don’t suppose any of them made it in the end.
    Nature is perhaps cruel but it is also pragmatic.
    Thanks for sharing this (and is your Niu the lovely little room I slept in?)
    Christine x

  4. Hi Kate,

    birds are our connection with the gods/goddesses. When they die, it is a huge grief. We must always try to save them.

    Good on you, that you tried so hard. I wept at your story.

    Pearl. x

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