Sunday, 16 February 2014

The three signs of madness

The first sign of madness is well known to be hairs growing on the palms of one's hands.

The second sign of madness is, of course, looking for said hairs.

The third sign of madness is less well known, but no less serious. It comes in the form of an hallucination, and strikes suddenly and without warning. It leaves the sufferer disoriented, confused, and if they are unlucky enough to tell others, slightly mocked.

Today I thought I saw a Swift. In February. Which is ridiculous.

The vision lasted about half a second. It took the form of an explosive, whippy-winged, swift-sized ball; briefly silhouetted against a bright blue sky (surely an hallucination in itself) as it crashed into my field of view from behind a rooftop, turned on a wing-tip and disappeared at warp speed whence it came.

**A brief aside** I love the word whence. I should use it more often.

I know it can't be a Swift. Everything I know about birds and migration tells me that I won't see a swift for at least another three months. The trouble is, I'm having real trouble thinking of anything else it might have been. Nothing else flies like that; it just felt... swifty. The only birds I can think of that come close are also 2 months away and, consequently, just as unlikely.

I have not yet dared consider that we've just had three large storm systems sweeping in across the Atlantic. For sure I'll be doing a lot of staring out the back window for the next week or so, but I'm pretty sure urban Essex is not the first stop of choice for American passerines so let's discount that possibility for now.

So I throw this riddle out there to the world, in the hope that someone can show me a path back to sanity. Any suggestions? What am I missing? This is one dodgy ID that even I couldn't have mistaken for a pigeon at a funny angle, so what could it be?

Put me out of my misery please. Suggestions in the comments.

This is not the swift. But it is a swift. What looks like this?

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