Country diary: swifts add a new note to the summery soundscape

Waltham Brooks, West Sussex: Birds race over the marsh, feeding on the rising flies. But there are predators about

The bright evening sunshine is deceptive – the north-easterly wind is biting. Despite the cold, however, wetland birdsong provides a constant, summery soundtrack: common whitethroats, reed buntings, hurried sedge warblers, rhythmic reed warblers. A distant nightingale is singing in short bursts and two Cetti’s warblers shout at each other across the brooks.

As I walk along the riverbank, large black flies are floating on the breeze. These are St Mark’s flies, so called because the adults usually start to emerge on or around 25 April, the saint’s day. The males slowly patrol at head height, displaying their long, dangling rear legs, as they look for females (which don’t have the long legs) and nectar to feed on.

Related: Saving Britain’s swifts – in pictures

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Source: The Guardian
Country diary: swifts add a new note to the summery soundscape