Pallid Swift – Stanpit Marsh, Dorset

We got back in the car after work on Friday and with David driving I began to go through my pager messages. Nothing out of the ordinary but when I got to the messages that would have been received in the early afternoon I was amazed to see that a probable Pallid Swift had been found hawking over Fisherman’s Bank, Stanpit between 1:20 and 1:30pm. The next few messages confirmed the bird as a definite Pallid Swift and it remained within the Stanpit area through to 4pm when it would be getting dark. It was then lost to view in poor weather.

I was surprised that it hadn’t been sent out as a Mega Alert in which case I would have received it to my mobile phone on my desk. This would have been frustrating as I would not have been able to go. I got in contact with Dad, Peter, James & Nick. James & Nick had seen it, Dad didn’t need it and would be going to Oxford anyway and Peter said that he would come down on Saturday morning if the bird was still there. Once the girls were in bed I arranged all of my wet weather clothing on the lounge floor ready for a fairly early start.

I set my alarm for normal work time, 6:05am and after toast and tea I had left by 6:40am. I arrived at Stanpit with it still being fairly dark but after the Chimney Swift in October 99 which I saw at c7am I decided to head out from the car immediately, it was 7:05am.  The weather was windy and with occasionally squalls of rain. I was the first birder present but Shaun Robson arrived fairly soon afterwards. I was a little surprised at the low number of birders who had made the effort perhaps only 10 or so in the first 2 hours. In a way, however, it was not surprising that so many had stayed at home waiting for news as Swifts rarely stay through to a second day. We were pinning our hope on the fact that the Swift may have roosted on one of the beach hut buildings which were abundant in the area. After a few spells of driving rain the weather began to improve and Shaun moved to the car park at the Mudeford end of the Harbour and we exchanged mobile numbers to keep in touch. A little later on and with no news Shaun returned to say that he was giving up, it was just before 9am. He was probably right but I thought I would give it a little longer. It did seem likely that the Swift had moved on ahead of a squall on Friday evening in the hour between its last sighting at 4pm and full darkness at 5pm. Who knows where it roosted but at 10am I gave up and headed home. The Swift was not seen again.

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