Last Sunday I was out with the camera and bins birding along Newcastle, Co. Wicklow. It was a pleasant day weather-wise whilst three juvenile Cuckoos made it a birding day to remember.
Looking north, I saw long plumes of red, white and blue smoke rising from the area of Bray Head. Of course, this was the day of the annual Bray Air Show, enjoyed this year by up to 90,000 spectators. From a distance I watched as nine Italian jets screamed through the air in perfect formation before breaking off in all directions only to come together again moments later. I have to admit that it was quite a spectacular performance and an impressive feat of eye to wing co-ordination. Apparently the Red Arrows opened the day and these Italian jets closed the performance.
The following day saw me guiding US birders, David and Missey, around the birding haunts of north Dublin. We had some target birds to see and we were doing very well. With Kingfisher in mind (which we saw by the way), I swung into the Swords Estuary. However, what I hadn’t anticipated when I pulled into Swords was that we were about to witness the greatest air show on earth.
The Greatest Air Show on Earth
It was a muggy day…humid with low cloud and showers. As I parked the car, a Swift flew inches over my head. I looked around to see hundreds of Swifts zooming around at head height over the estuary. Looking high into the sky, hundreds more circled above us. Standing by the estuary shore, birds passed at breakneck speed, twisting and turning at speeds of over 150kph.
At one point, it seemed that the entire feeding flock of Swifts descended low over us and flew in between each other, moving rapidly off to the sides before coming back in through the mass of birds again. There were hundreds of Swifts feeding together at incredible speeds.
It was one of the most impressive aerial displays I have ever witnessed. Young birds mingled effortlessly with adults. We all tried to get some shots but only managed the odd blurry image (see above).
The speed of these birds and their casual ability to fly amongst hundreds of their kind without a single collision was awe-inspiring. It was a feat of eye to wing co-ordination like no other. Not only that, but these birds were also catching insects as they flew. Now that is a serious bit of flying!
There weren’t 90,000 spectators there to cheer and gasp at their every twist and turn as they performed their daredevil skills. No, there was just three of us but we still gasped and cheered at the spectacle those Swifts put on for us.
Red Arrows eat your heart out…give me Swifts any day!