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  • Matthew Shenton

Listening to the Landscape 11

Updated: May 21

A welcome sound returned to the village on Wednesday 8th May, when I heard the familiar scream of a swift for the first time in 2024.

I grew up in and semi-rural town on the outskirts of Birmingham, and I'm pretty sure I hadn't heard a swift until we moved to Suffolk. And back in 2015 they were pretty hard to miss.


I can remember being mesmerised by the regular summer evening 'screaming parties' where gangs of birds would terrorise the skies by chasing each other around. Often they would fly straight at the East facing wall of our house before suddenly pulling out of their kamikaze mission to fly vertically up and away. In 2018, a neighbour found an exhausted bird on their lawn that was unable to take off and so at risk of being attacked by a dog. Between us (after consulting the internet) we managed to fling it skyward and see it shoot off in pursuit of the others.


In 2022 I began noting the date on my calendar as to the first day I noticed that they were back in Holbrook. In 2022 it was the 10th May they returned, in 2023 it was the 11th of May and (as already mentioned) it was the 8th May. I also record my sightings on the free swift-mapper app, and this year received a swift box as a birthday present. Alas, the box remains on the ground as I work up the courage to scale a ladder tall enough to fix it into position.


I haven't kept records beyond these past three years, but it is clear that there are fewer swift above my house than nine year's ago. My feeling is that there were 30+ birds in 2015 and, so far, in 2024 I have counted a maximum of ten in the sky at any one time.


The swift is globally threatened with UK numbers having fallen by some 40% over the last decade. Their decline has been linked to the fall in insect numbers and nesting sites in older buildings. In 2021 the species was added to the red list of the 2021 UK Conservation Status Report. What can be done to improve their chances?


The recording below was made on Sunday 19th May 2024 in my garden, and features swift making the occasional dramatic flyby, a variety of garden birds and pollinators visiting our rhododendron bush. I think the swift might be microphone shy as this was my seventh attempt to record them...



There is plenty of information about these amazing birds available on the internet, including details of their impressive migratory journey and a Suffolk specific campaign.


[This field recording was recorded to showcase the natural sounds heard in a rural setting. It features no human voices. No monies will be made from the recording. Please contact me  if you have any concerns]

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