July 29th was a day like any other but, when I woke on the morning of the 30th, something had changed.
I see the good part of the year as a bit like watching a hot air balloon being inflated. It starts with a flat, empty pocket full of nothing but potential. Then, with a gust from the gas bottle and a waft or two of the edge of it's canopy, there appear little bubbles and bumps like the first blooms of spring. Nothing much happens for a while then, with an impatient rush, there is colour and movement and a great rising orb that can carry the souls of many with it as it ascends into a clear sky. It is as beautiful to observe as it is to fly and those on board must look down upon a sea of smiling faces. It is an event.
Then, the fight between the hot air from the tanks and the cooling air outside indicates a point of no return and from that moment, although the flight may continue for some time, it is doomed and classed as a somewhat protracted descent.
That is what happened on July 30th 2014.
It has always happened around this time of year although my memory tries to convince me that it used to be much later. But I keep an eye on such things and come the end of July each year and the swifts depart. One little moment in a world of animal migration and wonderful animal happenings and one that always saddens me.
It may be that from your current location you can still see and as importantly hear swifts as they wheel around the sky in the continual pursuit of food. There will be a number of birds still over the UK for a month or two yet and indeed just last year, with its painfully late Spring, they were here for at least another couple of weeks. But not usually. Not now. They have gone.
Their departure means one thing. Summer is now in free fall and everything is sliding inexorably toward autumn. You can't stop it and goodness knows this has been a very good summer with balmy evenings where I've sat outside absorbing the warm, thick air whilst listening to that exciting high pitched scream as groups of swifts soar effortlessly above. But from now on there will be just that little chill in the air. Air that will begin to feel decidedly thinner during evenings that will feel decidedly shorter.
So a lament to the swift. The bird that never stops flying and even sleeps on the wing. A bird that has to wait two or three years after fledging for its first rest if rest is the right word for nesting. A bird that has been recorded at twenty one years of age would you believe, which means that particular creature would have flown some three million miles.
Hearing the first swifts around the full moon at the end of May is a red letter day in any year, their departure is most certainly a grey one.
By the way, I've made a decision. Its my last physio session tomorrow so win lose or draw I'm going fishing at the weekend. Well I have to, haven't you heard? Autumns coming.