Swirling Swifts mating in Matera

It’s the morning we leave Matera and we want to squeeze every last drop of joy out of the place. It may have taken me a fortnight to blog about the place but we were only there two nights.

Check-out from the hotel is 11am, but the hotel manager knows we love seeing and photographing the Lesser Kestrels that come so close to the terrace of our room and suggests we leave the room and take the key so we can have more time on the terrace. Excellent. What a view:

Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I think I’m going to try getting some more Lesser Kestrel shots but it’s the Swifts which draw my attention. I know I’ll never get a decent photograph of them but there are a few minutes left out here in the sunshine so I might as well practise trying to keep them in my viewfinder.

Swifts in Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s tricky to get a decent shot because they are so dark and the background is so light. At least this one isn’t a silhouette.

I remember all the stories about how Swifts never come to land, spend all their time in the air, and even mate on the wing; it’s only when they nest that they perch. Yet I see one repeatedly flying fast in front of me, swooping up underneath a windowsill, perching for a split-second and then dropping off and resuming flying. It can’t be tired. Swifts can’t get tired.

Swifts in Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I love their tiny feathery feet. I wonder why it’s doing that?

Swifts in Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Off it swoops. I train my camera on the underside of the sill and wait. It comes back again:

Swifts in Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Then another appears and they seem to tussle:

Swifts in Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They are mating.

Swifts in Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s a female which has been clinging on for a split-second and it’s a male who has come to join her:

They fall off the wall, tumble through the air in a ball of confusion, separate and fly.

Swifts in Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

And then back:

Swifts in Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They are such beautiful and unusual birds.

Swifts in Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Their dive into the air is so elegant that each photograph captures something of the aerodynamic shape and their turn in the air.

I play with the exposure so I can see their feathers and also their eyes. They have an extraordinary feather pattern around their large eyes. It makes their eyes look far bigger than they actually are.

They are another bird which pairs for life, meeting up again each spring after a winter in Africa. We don’t know whether they keep in touch in the nine months they are not breeding.

Despite the common confusion of Swifts with House Martins and Swallows, Swifts are more closely related to Hummingbirds.

Swifts in Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Nature. The closer you get, the more the watch it, the more spectacular it becomes.

Swifts in Matera - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s time to leave. I hope they will be a successful couple and more people will come to appreciate future generations, like I have theirs.

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