Sunday, 29 March 2015

Alpine Swift, Crawley West Sussex

An Alpine Swift had spent much of yesterday at Crawley and quite possibly had gone to roost overnight!
Being 60 miles from home, We decided we had to make the trip. Having persuaded Brian late last night that he also wanted to go, we made arrangements to meet at 5.30am remembering that the clocks would be going forward.
An hour later and we are parked up outside the Virgin Atlantic building, only for the security guard to politely ask us to move. After Brian found a spot just outside their car park he re-joined us and the small group of birders which now included one Lee Evans.
The best of the weather was forecast for early morning, so we arrived at first light thinking the Swift if it had roosted would be on the move pretty soon afterwards.
Two hours of either strolling round scanning different parts of the building or standing adjacent to the front entrance in almost constant light rain failed to find the bird.
With news of a Jack Snipe at Warnham Nature Reserve yesterday, and it only being 10 miles down the road we decided to pay it a visit.
Upon arrival we found the reserve was not due to open until 10am, it was only 9.15am. Luckily the warden arrived and opened up early to allow us entry. After a donation of £1.50 into the donation duck situated on the door we were looking out from the first hide.
We failed to locate the Jack Snipe, despite locating a single Snipe among the reeds, it was just too far to clinch an id with only bins available.
The second hide was a long tunnel affair with open hatches along it's length. Outside they had turned the whole area into a series of feeding stations.
The whole area was well stocked with all types of food and it attracted a good variety of common species. Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Treecreeper, Great and Blue Tits and Chaffinch.
The pager bleeped into action to inform us that the Swift had indeed roosted overnight and had now been seen flying around the Virgin building.
As we approached the signs were not great, and after joining the small group of birders we were told it had been lost to view.
LGRE said that there had been a very brief 10 minute period of sunshine and that had seen the Swift take to the air. By now the rain was falling again and the signs were not looking good. 

Alpine Swift

But a short while later it was spotted circling in the air. With the heavy cloud and rain the bird stayed really low in the air and would circle round in front of the nearby buildings and car parks.
It seemed to be looking for a spot to go back to roost, and after flying up to the eaves of the Virgin Atlantic building several times it found a spot along the side of the building. Allowing incredible views.

Another security guard came out and kindly allowed us to grab a few photos before asking us to move back to the main road. He even borrowed a pair of bins to grab a look for himself. 
The guy handled the situation very well and all the birders respected he had a job to do and moved away when requested.
My third Alpine Swift but without doubt the best views I've ever had. A stunning bird!

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