River Wissey Lovell Fuller


September 2006

Graham reports on his wifes skill at restroing a Swift to full health.

On July 28th, my wife, Joan saved a life. It was only that of a bird but it was one of the most satisfying and fulfilling days that we have experienced since we have been in Norfolk.

I walked out of the back door to find this bird spread out on the path, only able to flap its wings. We identified it as a swift. It seemed unharmed but we did not know how to restore it to the air. So, we phoned the RSPB who told us that it had almost certainly become dehydrated (it was one of the hottest days of the year) and to try and get it to take some sugar water. This Joan did with the aid of a dropper and then we followed instruction number two. We went to an upstairs window where he was encouraged to fly. However, he just flapped off to the top of our bamboo below.

On returning downstairs, we checked his whereabouts, but being unable to find him, assumed that he had finally flown off. Minutes later, he appeared out from underneath the car. What were we to do? Another call to the RSPB advised us to repeat the sugar water dose and then put him in a box for 20 - 30 minutes to help him regain his strength. In all of this, our swift was most co-operative and caused no problems at all- we are sure that he knew that we were his only hope.

Half an hour later, we took him from his box and returned to the upstairs window where Joan laid him out on her hand again. After a few seconds contemplation, he fell from her hand, caught the breeze, and soared high into the sky, wheeling and screeching. It was an emotional moment.

We did not realise how privileged we had been to have this little bird for a short period. Few people ever see them close up as they spend all their lives on the wing, except of course when they build their nests and attend to their young. They live on flying insects and construct their nests from flotsam circulating in the air, like feathers, bits of straw, etc. They nest high up on cliffs as they have to launch themselves into the air to gain flight. They have tiny little legs which are helpless on the ground -hence our little chap becoming stranded. They can fly up to 160Km per hour and have been spotted at nearly 5,000 feet. They have also been clocked at flying 800 Km in one day, an amazing feat of endurance, but necessary when you think that some of them travel here from as far away as South Africa.

The swift is a very attractive bird, a very dark bluey-brown in colour with a large white bib. With his forked tail and his long, narrow pointed wings, he is an aerodynamic marvel. I shall never forget out fellow very trustingly accept the attention that we were giving him and causing no problems. I hope that he is now safely on his way back to Africa and that he returns next year. One thing is sure, we shall never know unless dehydration befalls him again.

Graham Forster

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