Tuesday, November 13, 2018

PS, I Love You

Occasionally - actually very, very occasionally - it all comes together. Today included one of those such ultra-rare moments and I'm suitably grateful, believe me. With the current late influx of swifts into the UK - (apparently) mostly Pallid, (at least) a few Common, some (many?) either/or - and having only just returned from a great week in Scotland late last night (see forthcoming posts), I took my time this morning, and after a late start, I headed out onto the Brigg here at Filey - but not before refreshing my memory re: Apus ID. Last June's British Birds article is especially helpful, and along with a few other sources, I (re)embedded as much of it in the front of my mind as I could before leaving the house.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and after a pleasant session on the Brigg (Red-necked Grebe, Black-throated Diver, over a thousand Pink-feet south, Snow Bunting etc), I was about to head up the slope when the unmistakable form of a swift appeared over the sea, in from the north and moving fast. Alright, keep calm.... and very fortunately I was blessed with good views in bright sunshine (luckily with the sun directly behind me), and as the bird swooshed back and forth a couple of times, I tried to nail the essential features:

Thankfully, the head pattern stood out a mile from the off, and actually lowered my heart rate as a result: a diffuse, pale, fairly uniform overall coloration, with no contrast on the lores or forehead, and a classic, stonking 'alien eye' - perfect. From there, the pieces fitted together nicely: warm greyish-brown plumage tones, which on the upperparts accentuated the darker flight feathers (with the 'blurred' covert-tipping also clearly visible when the bird whipped sideways); a classic underwing pattern incorporating dark coverts fading gradually towards the flight feathers, showing as a dark area confined to just the forewing before steadily fading; dark leading edges to the wings, above and below; and, while subjective, wings that looked noticeably broad and blunt (actually very strikingly), and even the tail fork appeared shallow.

After exhaling slowly I reached around for the camera, by which time the bird had picked up height considerably and looked like it may zip off at any second - which it did, but not before detouring back to hoover up a couple of insects (to whom I'm forever grateful - you did not die in vain, my heroic little friends).

Even sweeter is the fact that, after a lot of effort vismigging last autumn right up to leaving for Cape May at the end of October (and missing a Pallid as I left - you should've seen the number of notifications when I turned my phone on at Philadelphia airport....), this was an example of ridiculously perfect timing, holiday and all - it's great to be reminded that, sometimes, it really does all come together.