Thursday, September 30, 2021

Poetry Friday: Birdtober Day One: Swift


I'm not at all sure that I'll be able to do every day of this Birdtober challenge, but I'm going to try. (Check back during the week to see how I get on, or I'll post links to all of them on Fridays.) Certainly I had to do the first day, for which the prompt is a generic "Swift." There are about a hundred species of swifts throughout the world, but here in Haiti we have the Antillean Palm-Swift, so that's what I wrote about.

Yes, wrote. Birdtober is supposed to be about visual art, but I'm borrowing photos to illustrate, and writing instead.

I learned a lot about the swifts in general and the Antillean Palm-Swift in particular, only a tiny bit of which shows up in the poem. For example, the family name is Apodidae, meaning footless. My first draft used the word "footless," but I replaced it with "footloose," because they aren't really footless. They got that name because they hardly ever use their feet, since they are almost always flying. Antillean Palm-Swifts have purple feet, reportedly. I wouldn't know, because they never hold still, and I only see them flying way way way above me. But I believe it, because Philip Henry Gosse, the British naturalist who first named them in Jamaica in the 1840s, tells us without a trace of regret that he saw a bird clinging to a nest, "which I shot." Presumably he then held it in his hand to examine every part. You can read more of his detailed and fascinating description here. (I'll put links to more of my sources at the end of the post.)

I really wanted to put Gosse himself in the poem, because he was quite the character, but I didn't - this time. Maybe later! 


You'll see in the poem that they build nests, in common with other swift species, using their spit; this species nests in coconut palms.  You'll also see some more of their habits.

Photo Credit: Joshua Vandermeulen,

Antillean Palm-Swift

the sands

and rarely

and sleeps
while flying


and white,


of spit


©Ruth Bowen Hersey


Sources: Antillean Palm-Swift, eBird, Swift WikipediaAntillean Palm-Swift Wikipedia, Antillean Palm-Swift DataZone BirdLIfe InternationalPhilip Henry Gosse, Swifts - info and games 

Catherine at Reading to the Core has today's roundup.


Sally Murphy said...

Oh Ruth - this is perfect. Your use of one word lines and the rhyme really captures the flit flit flit of the swift! Thanks for the smile!

jama said...

Love your poem, Ruth. Learned a lot in so few words. Brilliant! And I didn't know about BIrdtober -fab idea!

Carol Varsalona said...

Ruth, thank you for always updating your readers with information on your local birding adventures. Since I do not know much about birds, outside of just love watching them, I am fascinated with your research, acquired knowledge, and lovely poems. Best of luck with Birdtober. I look forward to more poems.

Susan T. said...

Birdtober! This is the first I've heard of it. The poem is wonderful.

Catherine Flynn said...

I love that you are writing poems instead of creating visual art for Birdtober! I thought about doing the same thing for a similar daily prompt challenge I saw on Instagram. You've done a great job weaving in all kinds of interesting information about swifts. The last stanza is so much fun!

Denise Krebs said...

Ruth, I love your playful sweet poem about the Antillean palm swift. You taught us so much, and the sweet, short lines, with their rhythm and rhyme are just delightful. All the best to you during Birdtober! I'll look forward to reading more.

Michelle Kogan said...

Delightful, intriguing, and informative poem Ruth—love it, especially the swift airborne rhythm! So much to say… looking forward to more of your flying poems! 😊

Mary Lee said...

Love it! I will definitely check in throughout the week. By the end of the month, you'll have a fabulous collection!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Wow--how did I not realize you have these rhyme-and-rhythm chops? I feel both educated and gobsmacked to have this picture of swifts in my mind. Looking forward to this month...

Bridget Magee said...

Well done, Ruth!
Love this:
of spit" - I'll never look at or think of a swift the same way again. Looking forward to your month of writing taking flight. :)

Karen Edmisten said...

I love everything about this: the fact that Birdtober exists, that you're approaching it in your unique, poetic way, and this first entry, which flits beautifully through the page.

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Birdtobers." — Anne Shirley, if she knew about Birdtober.

KatApel - said...

Oh my goodness, Ruth. I adore your swift! And I love that you're doing this joyful challenge.

Carmela Martino said...

I learned so much from your poem, Ruth, and I love the rhythm and feel. It seems to fit the subject perfectly!

Cathy said...

Curiosity got the better of me so I had to stop by to learn more about Birdtober. It seems a great challenge. Where I live, we experience chimney swifts. I enjoyed reading your poem and comparing your words to the swifts I know so well. Our swifts dart about the prairie and then nestle into chimneys and hollow trees.