Roman Curlews

The Pope's curlews
Holy curlews

Worth recording a nice discovery in the Vatican a few rooms away from the Sistine Chapel during a visit to Rome last week. These two curlews were delicately painted onto one of the frescoes in a gilt-encrusted passageway, and although it is probably more likely that they are some kind of ibis, it was nice to see some familiar figures amidst oceans of religious iconography and artwork.

It is also worth noting that there were breeding kestrels in the Colosseum, and that as night fell over the city and the orange light lit up St. Peter’s Basilica, more swifts than I have ever seen in one place came swirling up like a dust devil from the sooty eaves. One particular group must have been made up of more than two hundred individuals, and the distant screaming put a cherry on the top of the whole trip.

Seeing a swift in Galloway is now something of a rarity, and although there are still a few going around, they seldom gather in such impressive squadrons. My girlfriend and I watched half a dozen hunting high up above the crags of Buckdas of Cairnbaber a few weeks ago, and although we had just seen a golden eagle, the spectacle was every bit as thrilling.

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