Since the Civil Service Sports Club closed 3 years ago in Plymouth the former sports fields have become a mecca for fauna. Rank and overgrown sportsfields succour life.
During the summer it is common to see 20-30 swifts stacked up high overhead as they wheel and dive in pursuit of insects, like so many fighter aircraft. Lower down, just above the overgrown pitches, the swallows duck and turn in a much more leisurely manner hunting their lilliputian prey.
A swarm of insects, like a shoal of fish pulls in their predators from far and wide as the signal is passed on from swift to swift that there is a feast to be had here in the City. The swifts are here one minute and gone the next as the high flying insects get moved on by the wind, but the swallows linger throughout the day where the insects are more groundborn.
At dusk there is no respite for the insects as the pipistrelle bats take over predator duties, but by now their prey are taking refuge in the lee of the hedge. This demands a much more manoeuvrable flight from the little bats who are equal to the task. At any time there may be 3 pipistrelles in our small garden adjoining the derelict sports ground.
It is splendid to see these birds and mammals so close in to urban development in Plymouth. Of course the same is happening on the ground as hedgehogs, mice and other creatures take advantage of the derelict space. Will the swallows return to their Plymouth Capistrano next year? Only if a major housing development can be avoided.
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