by Kathy James

Pallid Swift?!!

What an evening I had on Saturday!? Before a settling down to watch Casualty with a Jamaican-themed dinner and a hot pepper sauce I met my friends Ken (top birder blokey) and Dave (a local businessman offering outdoor activities around Anglesey and Snowdonia http://www.outdooractivesports.co.uk/) at Malltraeth RSPB reserve to attempt to witness the Starling roost.

As soon as Dave and I arrived we were greeted by the phenomenal sight of thousands of Starlings in a formation simultaneaously cornering as they approached a wooded end of a field – breathtaking!

We hot-footed it out of the car and along the footpath towards the cycle path where tens of seperate formations containing thousands of birds came towards us from all across the island. This spectacle lasted around half an hour with enormous groups that took minutes to past and the odd straggler arriving on it’s own. The second most striking thing, after the sheer enormity of the congregations, was the sound as they passed overhead. For information on where to find other mumurations of Starlings check out this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/natureuk/2011/11/awesome-autumn-starling-specta.shtml.

This year whilst working for the RSPB a visitor to the reserve mistakenly brought in this nest of Starlings that builders had found when knocking down a building. As I waited for the RSPCA to collect the little family I tried to keep them alive. I coaxed and whistled to the little ones until they would gape for me and I could feed them. I now have the uttmost respect for amazing Mummy birds! I like to think that these little guys are amazing someone somewhere as they join a murmuration - fingers crossed!

It was a stunning sunset on Saturday (I’m afraid I didn’t have my camera with me – and these things are always better in the flesh anyway, right?) so we decided to walk further into the reserve and lo and behold what should fly across the path in front of us? A glossy Ibis! Ken and I had seen the Mediterranean beauty previously, but this fly-over was an extra special treat.

There were still a few Starling-stragglers flapping their way across the marshes to join the roost and as I turned backwards to catch a few more I saw a familiar sight, at an unfamilair time…the unmistakeable silouette of a Swift. Ken and I were trying to recall the last time we’d seen a Swift and we decided it hadn’t been since August! At this time of year we’d like to think we just caught up with the vagrant Pallid Swift as all our familiar Common variety aught to be catching flies on another continent by now. Unfortunately, with the sun setting we were unable to see any tell-tale details on our mysterious friend. Ken and I will go on hoping it was a Pallid fellow though – any comments on this welcome! We’d love your input.

To put this possible find into perspective, Ken has been birding all his life and has spent most of it chasing around the British Isles on twitches after rareities. His life-list totals around 460 bird species in Britain (he’s never left our fair isle) and he tells me he stopped counting properly at 400. Ken has never seen a Pallid Swift, or perhaps he just has.

Kathy x

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