The Nature Bible


Inspiration · Resources

Be Swift to Act






Swifts pair for life, usually meeting up at the same nest site in the UK each spring, however in just 20 years, more than half of our swifts have vanished and the loss of nest sites in the roofs of buildings is thought to be at least partly responsible.

This Swift Awareness Week (27th June - 5th July 2020) why not visit 'Swift Mapper', a web-based mapping system and mobile app to record any nesting swifts that you know of? This will help the RSPB and partners including Action for Swifts, Swift Conservation and the Swift Local Networks, locate breeding hotspots in order to protect their homes.


And if you don't spot any close to home, you may be inspired to purchase your own Swift box from the RSPB





An Ode


When the blue has broken

Through the pearly heat

And the grass is woken

By our early feet,

Oh, then to be the Lark! With all his fun

To pelt my mate with gayest kisses,

And mount to laugh away those blisses

In shaking merriment unto the sun!


When the dark is listening

And the leaves hang still,

While the glow-worms, glistening,

Make the keen stars thrill,

Would I might mourn to one lorn Nightingale

And be the solace of her solitude,

Speaking my doles all clear and unsubdued

And audible to her, the Nightingale.


But when eve shines lowly,

And the light is thinned,

And the moon slides slowly

Down the far-off wind,

Oh, then to be of all the birds the Swift!

To flit through ether, with elves winging,

Drawn up western fires, in frenzy singing,

Along the breeze to lean and poise and drift!


Fine thou art and agile,

O thou perfect bird,

As an arrow fragile

By an Eros whirred;

And like a cross-bow in a Cupid's grasp

Thy wings are ever stretched, for striking ready;

And like young Love thou'rt frantic and unsteady,

And sure as his thine aim, and keen as Love's thy gasp.


Strung in tautest tension

By the lust of speed,

And the mad contention

Of insatiate greed,

Thou suck'st away the intoxicating air,

Trailing a wake of song in trilling bubbles,

Till distance drowns thee. Then thy light wing doubles,

And thou art back,---nay vanished now, Oh where?


Down in sharp declension,

Grazing the low pool;

Up in steep ascension

Where the clouds blow cool;

And there thou sleepest all the luminous night,

Aloft this hurry and this hunger,

Floating with years that knew thee younger,

Without this nest to feed, this death to fight.


Airily sweeping and swinging,

Quivering unstable,

Like a dark butterfly clinging

To the roof-gable,

Art thou not tired of this unceasing round?

Long'st not for rest in mead or bower?

Must lose, as spirits lose, the power

To soar again if once thou come to ground?


Waywardly sliding and slinging,

Speed never slacking,

Easily, recklessly flinging,

Twinkling and tacking;

---Oh, how we envy thee thy lovely swerves!

How covet we thy slim wings' beauty,

Nor guess what stress of need and duty

So bent thy frame to those slim faultless curves.


Dazzlingly swooping and plunging

Into the nest to peep,

Dangerously leaping and lunging ---

Hark! how the younglings cheep!

O Swift! If thou art master of the air

Who taught thee! Not the joy of flying

But of thy brood: their throttles' crying

Stung thee to skill whereof men yet despair!


Desperately driving and dashing,

Hissing and shrieking,

Breathlessly hurtling and lashing,

Seeking and seeking,

What knowest thou of grace or dance or song?

Thy cry that ringeth like a lyric,

Is it indeed of joy, a panegyric?

No ecstasy is this. By love's pain it rings strong.


O that I might make me

Pinions like to thine,

Feathers that would take me

Whither I incline!

Yet more thy spirit's tirelessness I crave;

Yet more thy joyous fierce endurance.

If my soul flew with thy assurance,

What fields, what skies to scour! What seas to brave!