Rarity finders: Little Swift in Lincolnshire


On 29 June 2023, my brother Tim and I decided to have a walk at Alkborough Flats, where the River Trent and River Ouse join to meet the River Humber in North Lincolnshire. The weather was dull and overcast with a north-westerly wind. We decided to walk up the main path which leads past the Prospect Hide, noting singing Cetti's, Reed and Sedge Warblers as we went.

We carried on walking towards the River Trent, before birding the path parallel to the river for an hour or so. Once finished here, we headed back, off the Trent Path. It was then that I noticed a swift overhead. The jizz looked different – and then I spotted a white rump. Was I seeing things? I started panicking and quickly got my binoculars on the bird. It did indeed have a white rump!

Lincolnshire's third Little Swift was a brief visitor to Alkborough Flats for all of five minutes on the morning of 29 June (Simon Jump).

The bird was flying away from us, towards the Trent. I realised I didn't have any photos of it and began to panic even more. Thankfully, though, the swift U-turned and flew back over our heads. However, I still didn't have any photos. We both hoped that it hadn't flown too far and headed around the corner to check the wet grassland area. Here there was a shallow pond, with a few Common Swift hawking overhead.

I then noticed the swift with the white rump and was able to get some photos, albeit not very good ones. The bird flew off, but shortly reappeared, making a second pass over the pond. This time I concentrated hard and, thankfully, got some record shots, as did my brother.

It wasn't long until we realised it was a Little Swift. We noticed the white rump that extended onto the flanks, contrasting with darker upperparts and underparts, as well as the square-ended tail. We put the news out straightaway and it was soon broadcast nationally on BirdGuides.

We saw the Little Swift a couple more times in flight, keeping us on our toes, but as the sun came out the swifts began to depart. We spent the next few hours trying to locate it but, sadly, there was no sign. In total, we'd only seen it for five or so minutes. We were really happy to chance upon this mega rarity.

Written by: Simon and Tim Jump

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