Thursday, 16 May 2013

The PGS Swifts Are Back

by Simon Lockyer

(photograph by Tony Hicks)

 They’re back.
 Half way through the senior management meeting on Tuesday, I heard them for the first time this year - the excited screeching that will grace the school’s quad for the next three months. Interestingly, their arrival is nearly a month later than the average date for their first appearance.

(photograph by Tony Hicks)
The observant amongst the school population will have noticed the scythe-shaped birds that race feverishly around the quad, occasionally diving between the cherry trees and into the eves of A and B block. I am not sure why their arrival is so significant and exciting, but perhaps it is that their call is so deeply associated with summer mornings and evenings that their apparent excitement of being back is infectious; or perhaps it just my admiration of a bird that travels  across the Sahara at speeds of over 70mph.

Up close, swifts are pretty ordinary, brown birds with under-developed legs that enable them to hold on only briefly to walls and landing places. But in flight they are supreme, capable of feats of aerobatics, deadly at intercepting insects, even sleeping on the wing (which it achieves by sleeping with half of its brain at a time). It is estimated that swifts fly an average daily total of 800 km --- nearly 500 miles. That's about 2 million km in a lifetime.
Photograph by Tony Hicks
We are enormously fortunate to have our very own breeding colony, particularly in the context of a falling population that has been attributed in part to modern building methods. It is with this in mind that the new Sixth Form Centre has been designed to incorporate specially created swift bricks in the hope that the PGS colony can continue to thrive.

So, if you have a moment to stop, look up and welcome back the PGS swifts.
If you are interested and want to help the RSPB, they are currently conducting a national swift survey: http://www.

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