I was doing family things yesterday afternoon when news broke that an Alpine Swift was hurtling around the skies above Crawley. If I hadn't been otherwise engaged I would have been on the M25 before you could say 'life tick'. But while I was enjoying an evening meal out with my nearest and dearest, a sneaky peak at RBA revealed that the Swift appeared to have roosted on the Virgin Atlantic Building. A discrete under the table text to Sharpy and a plan was hatched for an early morning meet. 06.30 at Maple Cross (which was effectively 05.30 - clocks - forward - etc), Virgin Atlantic Building, Flemming Way, Crawley in the sat-nav and we were on the way. When we arrived, 2 things struck us as surprising. The building was only 3 stories high and there were no other birders there. LGRE soon joined us on the scene and immediately commented that the building didn't look suitable for our bird to roost on. Anyway, to cut a long story slightly shorter, there are 2 Virgin Atlantic Buildings on Flemming Way and of course we were at the wrong one. On learning that a good crowd were watching the 'right' building without success, we opted to try the church that the bird had spent some time around yesterday. Here we teamed up with several others including yesterdays lucky finder. Well done sir. But after a lengthy spell in the wind and rain, only negative news on the messaging services and a particularly menacing looking black cloud heading our way, we decided a strategic meeting in a nearby McDonalds was the best course of action. We were soon warmed and refueled but the news was still negative. Surely our bird must have made a 'Swift' getaway unnoticed. So we made the decision to cut our losses and head for home. 36 minutes into the journey back, the news came through that our bird had finally risen and was performing for the crowd. About turn!!! Anxious drive back, leap out of van grabbing bins and camera in mid flight and BOSH!, there it was flying low, close and magnificent in front of us. But we'd got back in the nick of time as within seconds the bird swung round the side of the building and went back to roost. We were able to view it clinging under the eves briefly, before being ushered away by a member of staff as apparently we were "frightening the office workers."
We all retreated to a less intimidating distance and waited in hope that our bird would get airborne again. But apparently it had been spurred into action by a sunny interlude and the sky was showing no sign of another one any time soon. So we set off for home happy in the knowledge that we'd made the right decision to make a 'Swift Turnaround'. My only regret being not getting a flight shot. While on site Rob Stokes showed me a stonking shot he'd got before we got back so for some decent images take a look at http://robs-birding.blogspot.co.uk