Absolutely no swifts

To: <>
Subject: Absolutely no swifts
From: "Geoffrey Dabb" <>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 13:37:06 +1100

Frankly, despite regularly scanning the skies, I’ve seen none this year.  It’s not just that I haven’t seen any;  I am sure that when I’ve looked there have been none within binocular range.


Apart from the rash of recent chatline reports, I received the below message over the weekend from a friend on the north coast:


<< One of the more spectacular avian sights since coming to Dorrigo.

Out in the paddock, weeding on a still fine warm autumn afternoon, when I was joined by a guessed 200 white-throated needletail (formerly known as spine-tailed swifts), hawking the abundant flying insects.  I have never seen so many before.  I suppose they were getting ready to return to North Asia.

I was content to watch & weed as they wheeled around, above & close to me, until a couple collided in mid air just by me.  I then decided that it might be better to retreat,  just in case their exuberance got too much for them, resulting in injury to me.... They are quite large birds, you know.>>


Yes, I do know.  In past years I have not been so swiftless.  Indeed I recall back in the days of Ian Fraser’s talking telephone birdline I reported standing on Isaacs Ridge while they flashed by at head height and I could look down on swarms of them criss-crossing in the valley below.  On that occasion the noise was striking:  a loud ‘whoota-whoota-whoota’ reminiscent of the sound of an old ceiling fan at full speed in the bedroom of a rundown guesthouse in the tropics, recalling the musty smell of an ancient mosquito-net.


Remembering the ‘Ridge’ as something of a hotspot swiftwise, I walked up there this morning, past a couple of early MFFs the members of which I would list if that did not entail the more boring kind of information you get on these chatlines.  The view from near the northern trig station was splendid, with no obstructing trees.  You could see the Tuggeranong Hyperdome and Woden Shopping Square and even Riverside Plaza, Queanbeyan, with Woolworths supermarket nearby.  Unfortunately the magnificent Westfield complex at Belconnen was obscured by Black Mountain, and the enormous extent of the earthworks for the Greatest Bulk Goods Outlet in the Southern Hemisphere (Fyshwick) was partially concealed by the small hill that is crossed by Hindmarsh Drive between the Monaro Highway and Canberra Avenue.  The Boral quarryworks off Mugga Lane clanked and clattered cheerfully, and gave off a busy plume of smoke and dust.


There was about three-fifths cloud cover, mainly strato-cu with some cirro-stratus, conditions to which I believe the adjective ‘stable’ is usually applied, and far removed from ‘approaching storm-fronts’ or ‘steep pressure gradient’ that we are told to associate with an influx of swifts.  There will probably be thousands this afternoon, but I don’t think I’ll walk up there again.    I suppose I could drive to Belconnen, but having to negotiate  the Somme fortifications around the former Glenloch (‘38th Parallel’) Interchange is something of a deterrent.  ‘Use alternative route’, they say.  Well, I suppose I could drive there via Tharwa, but I’m told the bridges is closed.   Perhaps next summer.      





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