From: "Vincent Riordan"
To: xx@xx
Subject: TAC 57 "Rocket Science" in Kintail 6 Apr 96
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 00:00:27 +0100


Could I suggest a rather mundane explanation, based on my own experience.

Could it possibly have been a fast flying bird?

Several years ago, on a warm day, while resting at a col, at approx 600m on Mullach an Atain, in Co Kerry, Ireland, I and my companions witnessed a flock of three to four birds, flying in formation, pass over the col, within two to three metres of us, with no more than a metre to spare above the ridge we were on. They were flying too fast for us to identify what type of bird they were, (in any case there was no-one among us with much knowledge of ornothology). However they did not appear very large (no bigger than pigeons) and their apparent speed was such that we were left with the feeling that significant injuries would have been sustained had they collided with any of us. As I did see the birds, albeit only for a second, my memory is primarily visual, but I do believe that they made a sound not disimilar to what you describe in Kintail. I have little doubt that had we been facing the other way at the time we would have only heard them and seen nothing once we turned around. The impression of the object being horizonthal, or slighlty rising would seem to tally with a bird climbing at speed to clear a ridge. As I say, I am no ornothologist, but I suspest that given the right conditions a speed of 60 mph or more may well be possible for several birds.

As for why a bird would want to fly so low over a highish ridge at such speed, when gliding up on the thermals which I imagine existed that day would seem so much easier, I have no idea, but would be very interested in any suggestions.

Perhaps birds clearing ridges with little to spare, at high speed, is more common that I realise, but in 15 years of regular hillwalking I have never seen anything else like this.


Vincent Riordan