Grassland melts into rock, sand:
a cocktail of pollen and seaweed
churning with the waves.
Splitting the heady air, bullets
of sooty brown feathers
changing direction with speed and accuracy
like no other.
I have an inkling
of who these daredevils are,
with their scythe-shaped wings and forked tails,
yet it takes a second sighting,
snatching up as many details as I can
in the split second
it takes for them to pass by,
to be sure.
Swift in nature, not just name;
never lingering, rarely settling –
lives lived on the wing.
Eating, sleeping: all of it
performed while facing the wind.
Yet there is one thing
incompatible with flight,
and it is this
which called them from Africa
back to our blustery shores:
nest building season.
Days filled with locating safe sites,
or returning to spaces
already trusted and true:
eaves of old churches,
hole-riddled roofs, sea cliffs, and crags.
Then, time for building and spring cleaning;
no preparation too much
for new arrivals.
Developing quickly, the young
will become eager, itching
to make their first journey.
Like their parents before them,
off they’ll go days after fledging,
enjoying the company of peers.
Ready to spend months
south of the Sahara, chasing rains
that surge insect populations –
plenty of food
on which to grow strong.
[Swifts are at risk of losing valuable nesting sites due to refurbishments and modern building techniques. To help them, special nesting boxes can be placed up high – somewhere accessible from the wing, so not anywhere low to the ground. These nest boxes can be found on the RSPB website linked below]
This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, social fundraisers etc) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.
If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!
(You can also become a member of the RSPB and support them month to month. Members receive Nature’s Home magazine and seasonal guides for what to look out for when out and about. Details are on their website.)