Guy Peters looks back on the the life of Dr…
The swift’s eyes have located the prey (if you follow their glance on the image below) – a humble fly that’s no match for the speed and agility of these skyborne acrobats. These birds do everything on the wing; feeding, drinking, sleeping and even mating, to me they appear more like fish in water than birds, their scale like feather markings adding to the effect.
The old town of Ragusa Ibla sits up high on a rocky crest, an ideal place for these busy birds, the warm air rising from the surrounding fields bringing a ready supply of airborne insects. These swifts are busy raising their young, the nests of which festoon the eaves of old terracotta roofs, providing ideal nesting sites. Their frenetic activity and shrieking calls bring the peaceful streets alive at quieter times of the day when residents are hiding from the heat. Swifts were also known as the Devil’s Bird in mediaeval times, the shrieking calls and the seemingly never ending flight could appear other-worldly and probably incomprehensible to mediaeval folk.
Click the image below for a larger view:
Photography – forget using your camera’s eyepiece and/or its auto-focusing engine to capture images here, all just too slow. Focus peaking wins the day – work out a position where the birds are in focus when they fly through and just set your camera to maximum burst rate. Use your camera like a gun, tracking the flight.