Swifts & Wolves

I reckon swifts set aside part of their day for fun and games.

I am currently at our base camp in the Alps. In the eaves of the building we have several families of swifts nesting – lying in bed you can hear the young ones chirrupping, and there is much flapping of wings as the parents arrive with food.

During the day the adults are flying randomly around gathering insects, yet in the late afternoon it feels like playtime as we are treated to a display of formation flying, with the swifts flying in twos, and sometimes threes or fours, often only a few inches apart. It’s like a high speed version of tag and from their shrill screams it certainly sounds as if they are enjoying themselves. As base camp is perched on the edge of a cliff, the swifts are flying at eye-line level which gives a 3D feel to the experience of watching them.

Wolves are re-establishing themselves in the Valais.

Over the last few years there have been frequent reports in the newspapers of attacks on sheep and occasionally on cattle. Farmers have been compensated, and the occasional wolf has been shot. But until now it was assumed to be one or two lone wolves coming over from Italy.

Now it’s all got a bit more serious as it has been confirmed that two valleys across from us a wolf pack has established itself. Now the authorities have to take a different approach – it’s about managing the pack so that it lives in harmony with humans and farming. This is a problem in the summer months only – there are clearly enough deer for the wolves to catch to keep them alive in the winter, when farm animals are on the lower pastures.

I spent a bit of time plotting the reported wolf attacks (on farm animals) on the map and was surprised to see that the wolves are traveling large distances and are clearly in the forests all around us as we sit in our base camp in the Valais.

It’s really exciting that this large predator is now part of nature here. It’s quite common to see roe deer and chamois in the forests during my frequent hikes – now I need to be on the lookout for wolves.

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