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It’s that time of year again – our summer migrants are heading off to warmer climes and the skies feel distinctly empty. Most of our swifts left in the first fortnight of August, with the few remaining still feeding late chicks in the nest. In the days before their departure it seems that their screaming parties sound even more excited than usual. This is one of the quintessential sounds of summer and I always miss their happy-sounding calls once the birds have gone. Ted Hughes summed up the joy of their arrival in his poem ‘Swifts’ – here’s an excerpt.

From Swifts by Ted Hughes

Fifteenth of May. Cherry blossom. The swifts
Materialize at the tip of a long scream
Of needle . “Look! They’re back! Look! And they’re gone
On a steep

Controlled scream of skid
Round the house-end and away under the cherries.
Suddenly flickering in sky summit, three or four together,
Gnat-whisp frail, and hover-searching, and listening

For air-chills – are they too early? With a bowing
Power-thrust to left, then to right, then a flicker they
Tilt into a slide, a tremble for balance,
Then a lashing down disappearance

Behind elms.
They’ve made it again,
Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s
Still waking refreshed, our summer’s
Still all to come