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Capture of Swifts by Hook and Line

The icy east winds of the latter part of May were fell severely by the Hirundinidae in this neighbourhood. I have been told of swifts and sand martins having been found dead in bed-rooms, having no doubt flown in at the open windows for shelter. On the 25th a swift was brought to me which had been picked up in the street: it appeared in a semi-torpid state, and I thought the best thing would be to place it in a basket in front of the fire: here it remained until the next morning, when I was pleased to hear it fluttering vigorously inside. The wind in the night had come round to the genial west, and when I took the basket out of doors and opened it the swift (without stopping to thank me for my hospitality) flew off with a great rush towards the neighbouring church-tower. A week after this I was fly-fishing with a friend, when a swift suddenly took my tail-fly as my line was trailing behind in the wind. It was with some little difficulty that I extricated the hook from the unfortunate bird's mouth, and having done so I put my novel capture into my basket to show my friend who was fishing at some little distance. On my way to him the swift was clever enough to lake advantage of the hole in the lid of my basket, and flew out and escaped. But while I was in the very act of relating to my friend what had happened, behold! a tug at the end of his line, and, on looking round, a swift caught and fluttering! Carefully set free from its painful position, it was permitted to fly, and the work of flogging the water recommenced. Almost lit the first throw another deluded swift look the red palmer as it streamed back at the end of my friend's collar, and the disentangling process had to be again enacted. After this the swifts ceased to molest us; but on our return home we were able to boast of having taken fish and fowl in equal numbers—viz. three trout and three swifts. I have fly-fished, I may safely say it, many thousand times, but never captured a swift until the other day. The birds could not have been unusually hungry to have been so reckless of what food they seized, for the weather for several days before had been damp and mild, and insects must have been broad in abund­ance.
(Printed 1867 in The Zoologist.)

© APUSlife 2002, No. 0809

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