Saturday 15 May 2021

Swifts – Victims of Lockdown?

 My unexpectedly early first sighting of swifts has been followed by, er... nothing very much. Since then I've seen the odd one here, two there, occasionally three, but none of them showing any signs of settling down. It's now mid-May and there's no sign of the swifts that live on our road returning. I'm hoping it's just that the unseasonably cool weather is deterring them, but wondering if there might be another, more worrying factor.
  In the first lockdown one of the things people round here found to do was loft conversion. At times it seemed that every other house had the scaffolding and tarps up and the conversion gangs at work. Then it died down again – only to return as Lockdown 3.0 draws to an end (maybe). Some of these conversions must have destroyed or covered over swifts' nesting sites under the eaves of houses – and, if not, the changed appearance of the houses, and the continuing commotion of building work, might be enough in themselves to deter the swifts. Birds are remarkably sensitive to the slightest change in their immediate surroundings, as anyone who's put up a new bird feeder or moved an old one will know – it can take birds weeks to get used to the new arrangements. Could all this loft conversion activity mean the end of swifts on our road? I devoutly hope not. My eyes still scan the skies every morning and evening, hoping for signs of a return...

Meanwhile, the lockdown continues to reap its human harvest. This morning I discovered that our excellent local picture framer has been driven into despairing insolvency, after 36 years, by the destructive impact of lockdown after lockdown. There is nothing left of this once thriving business but a quietly anguished message in the window. Another victim of lockdown, another loss to the community. 
  And now, as we contemplate the heady prospect of being 'allowed' (allowed!) to eat and drink indoors in pubs and restaurants from Monday, the forces of The Science (with zero-covid nutters now in the ascendant) are mustering to ensure that this dangerous notion of restoring a few of our confiscated freedoms doesn't go any further. The so-called Indian variant is their current pretext – and this despite the lack of any evidence that it is likely to do significant harm in a largely vaccinated population where (according to the ONS) some 70 percent of the population now have antibodies. If the 'government' continues to be led by these people, there is no prospect of the lifting of restrictions promised for June happening on schedule, if at all. So long as The Science is running the show, we're on the road to nowhere. Or rather to ruin. What will happen when we get the next seasonal flu epidemic? Or, perish the thought, when the Chinese, having learnt the lessons of Covid, unleash their next virus on us?

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