Abbotts Hall, Essex Swift Project
Birdwatching Society, the Essex Wildlife Trust and John Smart have formed a
partnership to create more nestplaces for Swifts in Essex.
Impey, the new CEO of the Trust, (who previously worked on Swift migration in
Southern Africa for the RSPB and who very kindly
arranged funding for the project) Lisa Smart,
the Trust's Operations Manager and Emma Ormond its Living
Landscape Coordinator, a site was chosen on an agricultural barn at the Trust's
Abbott's Hall reserve.
The Trust's maintenance
team (David, Bones, Brian and the tractor driver Mark)
swiftly fitted all the John Stimpson-type boxes
as well as the Swift call sound system on 15
We are hoping that this is just
the first of many such projects that will be
created in Essex by this team. The County can
be a brilliant place for Swifts, this sort of
project should keep it that way.
new Swift Nestplace Project at the Essex
Wildlife Trust’s Head Office at Abbotts Hall, near Abberton reservoir, a feeding
area for many thousands of Swifts
© John Smart
The long wait is over! On 5th May, we received reports
of Swifts over Walthamstow in North
East London, and Harleston
in South Norfolk in East Anglia where community group Harleston's
Future/Swift Action are flying their flag of welcome (see right).
Today, 6th May, we
received reports of Swifts over
South London, (see two nestbox photos below
right), and most exciting of all, our own Swifts
returned over West Hampstead, screaming over
the local gardens just before 11am!
fact Swifts arrived back on the same day,
5th May, as far apart in
Shepreth in Hertfordshire and in Askrigg in
had heard earlier of hundreds of Swifts seen
feeding low over the trees in Epping Forest,
over the past weekend.
This is a typical
strategy for migrating Swifts; they may head
for their nest areas, but as these are still too
cold and wet to support many flying insects, Swift's
only source of nourishment, they
spend their time gathering their aerial food where the richest sources
of flying insects can be found, hatching
from fresh water ponds, flooded gravel pits
and reservoirs, or flying just above the canopies
of forest and woodland.
It's not too
late to set up your nestboxes and Swift calls
systems for 2017. Give Swifts a home and keep
them flying above us for ever and ever after!
Check out our web site for all the information
you will need, on nestboxes, where to site them,
how to make or buy them.
Contact us by e-mail here
© Ian Carstairs & Steven Robinson
Ospedale Vecchio, above, and on the right some of
the temporary nestboxes, and far right, an historic scaffold
pole hole, left in the facade to enable rapid cost-effective re-scaffolding
with timber scaffolds, but now adapted to house
only Swifts, and not the feral pigeons that were
taking over the site to the detriment of the Swifts
and other small birds.
Italy has suffered outbreaks
of three newly introduced mosquito-borne diseases
in recent years, and is promoting support of urban
insect-eating birds, like Swifts and Swallows, as
one way of keeping control of these insect populations.
helps its Swifts
historic Ospedale Vecchio (Old Hospital) in
Parma, Italy, is home to many Swifts. To preserve
the colony during renovation work the Municipality
at the behest of local ornithologist Franco
Roscelli consulted Francesco Mezzatesta, the Swift expert
He advised them to set up
temporary Swift nestboxes on the metal
scaffolding during the works, and to reinstate
the old wooden scaffold pole holes that had
been used by the Swifts for nesting. City Planning
Alinovi supported the initiative, which was
put into practice by Architect Tiziano Magri,
surveyor Marco Ferrari and site foreman
pole holes are a common feature of many old Mediterranean
buildings, but are often filled in to stop feral
pigeons nesting. It is however very easy to
convert them for use by Swifts, excluding the
© Francesco Mezzatesta
Birdwatching Society and the Swift Representative for Essex (Chairman Gerry
Johnson and John Smart respectively) have recently embarked on a series of
Swift box projects at colleges and farms.
Shown below is a photograph of GJ
atop a cherry picker just about to install the eighth box on the north face of
a grain silo at a farm in Blackmore, not far from Chelmsford. The farm owner,
John Bucknell, was very keen to pursue the project and kindly funded the
operation. A call system has been installed with the tweeter within the box
second in from the right. John Bucknell is seen standing by the cherry picker.
Luckily, some very high winds during the earlier part of the day died down in
time to complete the project in the afternoon.
Although the EBwS is essentially
a recording society for the county’s birds, it has as you can see here a keen and active conservation
aspect to its remit.
"Save the Swallows" Campaign
have just heard from Italy that the "Save
the Swallows" resolution for the protection
of Swift, Swallow and House Martin nests has
now been adopted by 100 towns countrywide. Part
of the impetus comes from the fact that all
these birds eat copious amounts of mosquitos
and gnats, that otherwise would make life very
unpleasant indeed during the hot humid summers
of the peninsular.
This is a campaign that
we have been promoting during our work in Italy
for many years now, and with excellent local
support and activism it is taking off really
well. It started back in 1999, and a complete
list of the towns that sighed up to this resolution
can be had from the Lega Italiana Protezione
Uccelli at http://www.lipu.it/
you can write to LIPU's Head of Urban Ecology email@example.com
fly like rockets over an ancient church - Photo
© Jorge Sanz
Trinity Church, Lane End, Buckinghamshire now hosts
eight Swift nest boxes in its belfry; see them in
close up on the right. A sound system to call the
Swifts in is being fitted soon. The project was
started by activist Tim Grout-Smith who wrote an
article in the local magazine asking for volunteers
to build boxes - eight responded! With the aid of
a generous grant from the Buckinghamshire Bird Club
the project was brought to fruition. There had been
Swifts in the local methodist Chapel until it was
sold and converted - this project aims to get them
back into the village. Photos
© Mel Davies
Swifts for Lane End, Bucks?
of the UK's Swifts were leaving our shores during July and August, (with some
huge numbers passing the observatory at Spurn!)
but some went much later. Dick Newell of "Action
for Swifts" reports that one of his nestboxes
held a single adult left alone with one chick until they
both fledged on the evening of 22 September,
a touching moment!
You can still see a few Swifts heading
South / South East down the UK. These will be
birds from Scandinavia, the Baltic and Russia,
that start, and finish, their breeding rather
later than ours do.
Singer songwriter Maggie Groom wrote and performed "Swifts: Harleston's Farewell" to wish them well on their journeys.
lovely song is backed-up by video images of more than 400 cut out
paper Swifts designed in the colours of African Flags by Harleston Primary
School pupils (seen on the right) which were turned into many decorative flags and displayed
throughout the town and in the Church.
You can hear the song on
You-Tube here: https://youtu.be/Vziv6yDDZA4
2016 - great!
August, Swift Conservation got together again with Action
for Swifts and the Swifts Local Network to run a
stand; we also gave a talk at the prestigious Rutland
And we won Second Prize
for the best Conservation-themed stand!
Packham graced our stand and had a good look at
our work for Swifts, including an exciting new project
in Harleston, new integral and wall-mounted nest
boxes and the famous Cheng-Sheng Swift call system.
see right to left: Judith Wakelam and Dick
Newell of Action for Swifts, Chris Packham, Chris
Mason of Oxford Swifts and Edward Mayer of Swift
Conservation. On the left, our prize certificate!
from Action for Swifts, Swifts Local Network, Swift
Conservation, Hampshire Swifts and beyond all helped staff
the stand and inspire our many visitors.
© Louise Bentley and Edward Mayer
was our third year at Bird Fair, our second running
a stand with Action for Swifts and Swifts Local
Network. On sale were new nestboxes, the heat and
rain-resistant Model 30 from John Stimpson
(available in a self assembly flatpack) and being
demonstrated was the new Swift Brick from Manthorpe
Building products (see item below). .
year, like the last, the Swift Conservation talk "Yes! You can help
Swifts!" in the Reserve
Centre was standing room only, (at 9-30am on the
first day! OK, it was raining...) and hundreds of leaflets
went on their way. With all this effort, and the
great response we had, we hope that when the Swifts
come back to us next year more of them will find
new homes, rather than the blocked up eaves and
gables that re-roofing, insulation and rebuilding
have caused them to be greeted with in so many past
© Judith Wakelam & Dick Newell
Manthorpe Swift brick comes in several different
colours to match various brick clays. Easy to fit,
it provides a suitable nest space for Swifts at
a very low price - the cheapest such product on
sale in the UK. All
pictures © Manthorpe Building Products
UK-made Swift Brick on sale!
new UK manufactured "Swift Brick" has
been designed and is on sale for about £15. This
makes it the most cost-effective such item on sale, as far as we know, and a potential
The Manthorpe Swift Brick was promoted by
a major house builder and the RSPB, inspired by work done by Dick Newell of
Action for Swifts, providing a safe,
habitable area for Swifts to nest within the walls of modern houses.
This new and innovatory design -
- Takes the place of a single brick
Coloured faces blend in
with surrounding brickwork
Neat, simple to install, can be fitted quickly during bricklaying
Integral nest concave provides ideal point for nest building
29 x 65 mm opening leads into the
cm2 floor gives maximum habitable living space within the wall
A built-in cavity tray protects against water ingress
area has integral drainage to keep
The Manthorpe Swift Brick
could change the future for UK Swifts - So start
installing them at a rate of two to every second
home you build, and 10 to 20 in groups of four or
five for a School, Hospital, Factory, Warehouse
or Shopping Mall. This should help redress the immense
loss of nest places suffered during the past 50
years, and get Swifts back in our skies again!
to the woods - some of the delegates head out for
professionally-guided local birdwatching in the Puszcza Bukowa. Photographs
© Zofia Brzozowska
4th International Swift Conference was held in
Szczecin this April. Adjudged a great success by
all who went, the four day event provided an ideal forum for intense
and detailed discussion of the many issues arising
from the efforts across Europe, Russia, the Middle
East and NE Asia to retain
and if possible restore dwindling populations of
As well a sharing many ideas and
learning new strategies for conservation, delegates
enjoyed excellent facilities, food and hospitality
at the Hotel Nord in Szczecin, and also participated
in a high-interest local birdwatching trip on the
final day, before leaving for home.
credit is due to the local organisers of this
conference, Zofia Brzozowska and her dedicated team,
for making the arrangements that brought this ground-breaking
event to a very successful conclusion.
further information and abstracts please contact
Conference held in Szczecin, Poland, April 2016
miss the next International
in Tel Aviv, Israel in Spring 2018
information click here
Harleston Norfolk welcomes its Swifts
historic market town of Harleston, Norfolk, UK which
recently launched its Swift Action Harleston to
improve the fortunes of the town's Swifts.
just held its Swift welcoming ceremony, helped on
its way by a talk from us at Swift Conservation.
from local schools made flags and paper cut-outs
and decorated the streets and the church (right
and above) to let everyone know that the Swifts
were on their way, and to illustrate the African
countries where they over-winter by showing their
flags. Organisers of the
project say that caring for the Swifts is to care for the wider
community, and will involve all ages and abilities and will contribute to the social
and economic well-being of the town.
project has three objectives: to record and look after existing nest sites, create as many new sites as possible and help everyone build biodiversity within the town.
of Swifts & the African countries where Swifts over-winter
welcome them back to Harleston, which still has
lots of places
for Swifts to nest in
© Ian Carstairs
talks with Swifts overhead! It's a mobile - you can make one too!
© Carolyn Knowlman
Swifts Club gets going!
in the dungeons of Amboise Castle, on the River
Loire in France, Swift Conservation does its bit
to get a new Swift support club going. Amboise and
other historic towns along the Loire and Cher rivers
are still rich in Swifts, Swallows and Martins too.
But the pace of restoration and urban renewal is
strong, and these building-dependent birds are losing
out in the search for nestplaces.
where concerned local residents Carolyn, Tim and
Gismonde come in. They set up a local
Swift evening, with Marcel Jacquat, the Swiss Swift
expert, and his UK colleague Edward Mayer to enthuse
Amboise's many residents interested in birds and
the environment, and try and get them to help their
Next: Amboise Swift &
Bat walks at the beginning of July! We'll be
helping people find, admire and count Swifts and
Bats on an extended evening stroll, taking in a
few cooling drinks en route!
move to Petty France
few years back we worked with the Metropolitan Police
on the installation of Swift nest boxes, 20 in all,
at New Scotland Yard and a selection of their sites
With the forthcoming sale
and demolition of New Scotland Yard the
nest boxes there had to be re-sited. So we arranged
with Dr Phil Thomas, Ecology Manager at the Ministry
of Justice (MoJ), for them to be found a new home
nearby on top of the roof of their offices at Petty
France, right next to St James Park, an ideal location.
ceremony for the nest boxes was held on the roof
of the MoJ on 5th November. Right to left: Dr Phil
Thomas from MoJ, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner
Martin Hewitt, Sarah Foster, Recycling Officer for
the Metropolitan Police, and Edward Mayer of Swift
Don't worry! The nest boxes
are being fixed well above the anti-gull netting
you can see in the photo. It's not that MoJ don't
like gulls, it's that the gulls pick
up and drop those pebbles onto the glass roof below!
© Metropolitan Police London
Slovak Swift Conference Success
contact in Slovakia Dr. Lubomira Vavrová, writes
about the recent LIFE Project conference held in Zilina
"I am happy to tell you that our
project's conference was very successful. We had 80 participants, mostly
from regional environmental bureaus, and also nature conservation
professionals, NGOs and a few construction companies.
Our new documentary, which
shows practical and simple ways to preserve
Swift nesting populations in buildings undergoing
insulation and refurbishment works, was presented and was received very positively.
We have already had some requests to present it in schools".
more information and / or to participate with
the schools exhibitions, showing the documentary
(an English translation is available) or with
any other aspect please send an e-mail. To do
so click HERE
© Mgr. Lubomíra Vavrová, PhD
is a photograph from the event; you can see Lukas Viktora of
the Czech Society for Ornithology, (one of the
star lecturers at the 2014 Cambridge Swift conference),
presenting his session. You can see also the pull-up
that are going to be used for the LIFE Project's mobile exhibition.
gets a Swift Tower too...
Warsaw and Exeter, Belfast too has put up a Swift
tower, one of the increasingly popular pattern
designed by Menthol Architects of Dublin and Warsaw,
and incorporating nest boxes built from information
provided by Swift Conservation and Action for Swifts,
and using a solar powered call system to attract
Swifts in to breed.
The tower is at the Window
on Wildlife (WOW) site on Belfast Lough, a
new reserve enshrining a brilliant area for saltmarsh
and marine species. You can find out more at these
Belfast WOW project was made possible with funding from the
European Regional Development Fund administered by the Northern Ireland
Tourist Board, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Belfast Harbour Commission and
the Alpha Programme administered by Groundwork NI.
the reserve directly on 028 9046 1458 for visitor information.
© RSPB Northern Ireland
and Beauty for Vauxhall's Swifts in Tyers
will be able to nest in the nine nestbricks hidden
within the amazing intaglio sculpture of five flying
Swifts featured on the wall of this modern apartment
block. Buy a flat there and have Swifts grace the
skies and enliven your days all Summer long. What
a change from looking at the I-Phone and watching
Strictly Come Dancing. Life-enhancing - just do
Wingate-Saul developed and built this unique property
in Tyers Street, Vauxhall, London.
consultation with Swift Conservation, the
result has been this magnificent installation of
nine Swift bricks hidden within a delightful intaglio
sculpture showing five Swifts in flight.
stunner, I hope you will agree! And what an advertisement
for hosting Swifts in Central London properties.
what's needed. Let's hope it starts a trend! For
more info please contact Jeremy
direct via this link.
© Jeremy Wingate-Saul
Swift tower goes up
in Sussex, Chris Powles has been equipping his solar
farm with bird and bat boxes. Latest to go up is
this Swift tower, an all-timber structure on a tall
pole, with plenty of places for not just Swifts,
but bats too. It has an integral MP3 system to play
Swift calls to lure them in and breed.
more information, please contact Chris
Powles via this link.
© Chris Powles
provides an excellent opportunity to publicise the plight of urban
birds. A hundred Swift nest
boxes have been installed in high rise
buildings neaby and also in Exeter's new Bus Station. Photo
© Emily Stallworthy - Devon Wildlife Trust
get a new home in Exeter
from Devon Wildlife Trust, Exeter City Council and the RSPB, plus developer
funding, has given the town a 90 nest
It has just been installed on a roundabout near the city centre along
with new wildflower sowing to benefit all pollinators too.
tower is a version of the Warsaw Swift Tower designed by Rafal Pieszko
of Menthol Architects, with solar panels to power Swifts' calls
played during the summer to attract new nesters. The
tower is perfectly located between residential areas known to hold
nests and the city centre where there are fewer opportunities to nest
but where screaming parties have been recorded.
The Tower was developed under the
Exeter Wild City
initiative, a partnership that seeks to help residents
enjoy and support urban wildlife. Advice and support were been
provided throughout the process
by Swift Conservation and Action for Swifts.
This project team
are grateful for the support throughout of Stephen Fitt, the South West RSPB's
who has ensured that hundreds of bird nest bricks have been included
within new developments in the city as recommended
in the city’s
Residential Design Guide.
Last! China's Swifts Reveal their Migration Routes
year a joint Chinese-European team of Swift experts
and enthusasts fitted geo-loggers to 31 Swifts nesting
in ancient buildings in Beijing. This year they
went back to try and recover the geo-loggers.
This May the China Birdwatching Society and its volunteers
set up the nets at 2.30 am and, together
with visiting swift ringer Lyndon Kearsley from Belgium and Dick Newell of the
UK's Action for Swifts nest box project group, they
captured, processed and released more than 80 Swifts in 2 hours,
including downloading data from 13 birds with geolocators and fitting a
further 25 geolocators to ‘new’ birds. Liu Yang, one of China’s top ornithological academics,
travelled from Guangdong to participate in the ground-breaking project.
After processing the data they discovered that these
Swifts had travelled an
amazing 13,000km on their migration to spend the winter in
southern Africa. and another 13,000km to return to Beijing. They seemed to
have spent a good time over the Congo, as "our"
western Swifts do, and then moved on to Namibia
and South Africa for a further spell while ours
go over to Mozambique.
the full story on Birding Beijing - and visit
The map above
from Beijing Birding's web site shows a typical track of a Beijing Swift, based on
preliminary analysis of the data from the 13 birds re-trapped so far in 2015. A
fuller analysis will be made in due course with a scientific paper
planned for later this year.
People's Hall's gets Swift Bricks in its new extension
© Tanya Hoare / SCS
Swifts (SCS) has been successful in getting Swift nest bricks into the walls
the People’s Hall - the community building for the town of Sedbergh in Cumbria.
A new gym extension to the Hall was being built during the winter so they seized
the opportunity to get bricks installed.
After establishing that there was no technical
reason why the Swift
bricks could not be installed, they obtained agreement from the Peoples Hall
management. An important point was that Swifts are not
The building is of
blockwork with a rendered exterior, and it was important not
to compromise the insulation of the building. It was decided to use four
Schwegler bricks (Type 1A) in the gable end. Also included was the
facility to play Swift attraction calls, using the Cheng Sheng amplifier system.
a number of Starlings in the area, they reduced the height of the
entrance holes to 27-28mm by smearing Isopon (a car body filler) on the upper
surface to reduce their height and obstruct the Starlings, but not the Swifts.
Swifts often fly over the
adjacent playing fields and a few nest in nearby buildings, so it is hoped it
will not take too long to attract them.
SCS would like to thank Edward Mayer of
Swift-Conservation for advice, and architects Garsdale Design
for their enthusiastic support. The project was
funded by a grant to SCS from the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
of the sixteen new nestbox entrances
on the West side
four completed cabinets,
fuly installed and showing rear access
The four completed cabinets, ready for installation
© Dick Newell / Action for Swifts
Mary the Virgin St Neots. Photo © E
nest boxes for St Mary's in St Neots - already
a proven success!
The original 2 cabinets contained 6 boxes each. This was done at a time
when we thought that Swifts required a larger space. Since then we have
discovered that Swifts readily accept smaller boxes, so we increased the
number of boxes to 8 per cabinet.
Newell of Action
who devised the project, and designed
and installed these nestboxes writes:
"In 2007, we installed 12 Swift boxes in the north side of the belfry of St Mary the Virgin, St Neots. Most
years, attraction calls have been played and in 2014, 9 of the 12 boxes
were occupied. With the help of generous funding from 'St Neots in Bloom' we have now added 32 more boxes, 16 in the east and 16 in the west.
It was quite a feat of engineering to erect boxes 15 feet
above the floor of the belfry but we thought that entrances here would be
more obvious to the Swifts compared to entrances behind the louvres.
stone coloured paint (Sandtex 'Mid Stone') to provide a better contrast for the
entrances. Whether this contributed to the success of the first 12 boxes
we cannot say, but it worked.
We would like to thank Alison
Pearson of St Neots in Bloom for their generous funding and
encouragement, and the Vicar, the Reverand Dr Paul Andrews, and the PCC for their
permission to do this project as well as Catherina Griffiths, David
Griffiths and George Bonham for their help with access to the church."
find out lots more please go to Action
gets cracking for Swifts
and developers working in Edinburgh
have been responding to the local
authority's imaginative and groundbreaking
innitiative to support and restore
Swift populations in the city via
encouraging the installation of Swift nest places
in selected new
build projects when they seek
Planning Permission, Edinburgh is
working towards ensuring that its Swifts still have
places to breed in when they get
back from their long migration to
local Contact, John Wilson, has
very kindly sent us this photo
we show here, just one from several
very interesting new developments
that he has been documenting and
Beaverbank Place and Logie Green Road, Edinburgh
EH7, a development including residential flats, some for student accommodation, completed in
and already of interest to the local
Titmice - if they spot this activity
Swifts may soon follow
BirdLife Malta's Education Manager, with Thomas Hendry, BirdLife Malta's assistant nature reserve warden,
setting the scene before
a workshop at an environment fair last November. Photo and information supplied
by Tim Micallef, APUS Project Coordinator
© Bird Life Malta
Youth Project to Help Swifts
EUPA (European Union Programmes Agency) recently
granted funds for a Swift project proposed by BirdLife Malta’s youth section, Falko. Named APUS
(Appreciating, Protecting and Understanding Swifts), it aims to
encourage these birds to breed in greater numbers, especially in current
breeding localities and nearby areas, working with
birders, local councils & authorities and the general public (youth in
particular) to encourage and celebrate them.
This includes introducing Swift
nest boxes to schools and public buildings, also
celebrating the return of these birds to the Maltese islands through public events, education in schools and information
about them online, through publications and the media. Most activities are
to start from January 2015, while most of the research,
preparation and monitoring is ongoing and will be continued throughout the project.
Falko will encourage birders, volunteers and the public to
monitor the use of nest boxes, and will also encourage local councils to
organise Swift celebration events, along the lines of those run in Northern
Ireland, Israel and Italy.
Conservation wishes this project and
its volunteers the greatest possible
Swifts keep their nests
Brown of the Derbyshire Wildlife
Trust has sent us a good news story from Derby:
"Opposite is a photo I
took last summer of a Victorian factory (now a warehouse) on Dean Street
in downtown Derby. The photo shows about half the full length of the
building. The building
is surrounded by terraced housing. From locals I discovered
that some years ago they got together a petition asking the owner, who
was about to re-roof the building, to take care of the Swifts that
nested in it.
agreed and had
the work done in such as way as to
ensure the Swifts could still gain access.
They do this by flying up behind the new white barge boarding which was
fixed away from the wall deliberately.
I saw at least 30 Swifts
flying over the building last summer and, standing in the back garden
from which I took the photo, I counted at least seven Swifts going in at
different points on the East side….and I could
only see half of the building.
Sadly the old guy who got
the petition together has since died but I met his widow and her
neighbours, all of whom really love their Swifts, as he did."
really nice ‘good news’ story…and all carried out with no recourse to any
nature protection organisation at all! Brilliant!
The factory on Dean Street in central
Derby where sympathetic re-roofing
has let the many Swifts nesting
there continue to use the site for
breeding. They enter the roof under
the white bargeboards, and probably
breed in nests built on top of the
brick walls just beneath the edges
of the tiling. Photo
Swifts check out the new Cambridge
Newell of "Action for Swifts"
has told us of the
signs of success seen last summer
at the highly
innovatory Cambridge Swift Tower.
tells us: "During July, one could stop by
the tower any time and there would always be between three and ten Swifts in
attendance. We did not succeed in proving that any Swifts roosted
overnight, though we did see Swifts entering or leaving 15 different
entrances, so fingers crossed for 2015."
Above: two close-up photographs
showing Swifts entering and leaving
the nest boxes. Swifts will often
check out several prospective nest
places, and even make a practice
nest, before settling on their choice
to nest in with their partner the
next year. Photos
Above: The Cambridge Swift Tower, an artwork created under the management of Guy Belcher of Cambridge City Council
using Section 106 Funding, evoking the setting African sun, and also
providing many homes for that part-time African bird, the Swift!
Inset above right:
Newell of Action for Swifts finishes painting the timber nest boxes
with the help of his grand-daughter, Katie. Action for Swifts provided
the Swift Calls sound system and much of the information needed to make
this project suitable for Swifts. Photos
new Everyman Theatre wins the RIBA
Stirling Prize and has ten Swift
Bricks in its walls
the Royal Institute of British
Architects announced the winner
of the 2014 RIBA Stirling prize,
named in honour of James Stirling, famous
British architect of the Tate's
Clore Gallery as well as of museums
in Cologne, Stuttgart and Düsseldorf.
Early on in the design process
Michael McLaughlin of the
contractors Gilbert- Ash had the
idea of installing some Swift Bricks
Swift nest places made to fit into
the walls) to
enable these supremely urban birds
to nest in central Liverpool. With
guidance from Peter Cush of the
Northern Ireland Swift group, and
Swift Conservation's local adviser
Ian Walker, ten Swift Bricks were
fitted into the project.
Everyman Theatre beat Renzo Piano's Shard,
and the Zaha Hadid's Olympics Aquatic
to win the prize, and we like
to think that amongst its many eco-friendly
features, Swift Bricks helped
it to win. By the way,
they are on the roof, at the back
near those "chimneys"!
/ Swift Conservation
Prison may soon get some winged
Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Ecology Team has been working with Swift Conservation for several years to
try and reduce
the decline of the Swift across its estate, just part of the wider
agenda for the Team, as they work towards the Biodiversity 2020 targets set
MoJ first included Swift bricks when maintaining HMP Nottingham, which proved a lot easier than first thought by the
project sponsors. With this success, the Ecology
Team, led by Dr Phil Thomas, Principal Ecologist, turned to one of
the Prison Service’s top security prisons at HMP Full Sutton in
Yorkshire, and the imposing boiler house and solid fuel store there. The prison gardeners,
lead by the local works
department, fitted Swift nest boxes to the solid fuel
store, (which can be seen in the photo on the right), adding loud-speakers playing recordings
of Swift calls.
MoJ Ecology Team is now working with
the National Archives, managing the Swift nest boxes
at Kew (see below for our News item on that site).
For further information regarding this project and other work carried out by the MoJ ecology team please contact: Dr
Phil Thomas at the MoJ
© HM Ministry of Justice
gets a Swift tower
7th August saw
the opening of Waitrose Malmesbury and the second store where the
business trialled the objective of achieving no-net-loss of biodiversity
as a result of their development.
ensure proper management and care of the site, a partnership was established with the Malmesbury River Valleys Trust, who will look
after, maintain and develop the wildlife area alongside two other nature
reserves that they own within 1/4 mile from the site.
knowledge highlighted the need for bird and bat boxes and a
suggestion was made to install a Swift tower. BTO data showed that
a modest number of Swifts nest in the area and that a tower may help
boost the local population.
site was agreed and Stoneyford Engineering installed the tower the day
before the store opened, just as this year's Swifts were leaving.
Next spring the solar powered
calling system on the tower will be switched on to attract next year's
returning Swifts. Keep your finger's crossed!
all very excited about the Swift tower. Learning all about the unique
needs of Swifts has been very interesting and we hope the Swift tower
will create interest and raise awareness amongst the community as well."
Toby Marlow, Sustainable Development Manager for the John Lewis
© Thais Martins
get their own digs at
Martins, Swift activist in Cornwall
and the West Country, sends us this
photo of a dramatic new artificial
Swift colony that she has helped
set up at Cornwall College in Camborne.
their web site says: "At Cornwall College Camborne all of our courses are vocational. That
means they are practical, with a focus on getting you ready for the
career you want or university, through practical skills training and
real-work environments and projects."
We at Swift Conservation
are hoping that their new Swift
nest boxes will becoame part of
a new "Practical Biodiversity
for the Built Environment"
Here's hoping for
that and some new Swifts too!
homes for Swifts on the Loire
photo of the 5 boxes put up by the
Toussaints, who are friends of one
of our keen supporters, Carolyn
Knowlman of Amboise, in the
Loire Valley in France.
very lush and beautiful area, it
is home to swarms of Swifts, Martins
and Swallows too every summer. It
is a great place to visit, not just
for the birds but for the spectacular
countryside, the historic Chateaux
and small towns, the wine and the
But as everywhere
these days, modernisation and renovation
of old buildings is forcing out
many Swifts families from their
old nests, with few places left
to go to.
Note the neat and
not displeasing installation of
these nestboxes, with each box placed
between the rafter ends, adding
to rather than diminishing the appearance
of the building.
Swifts are already going into at least 2 of the
boxes already, which argues
a local nest box shortage, which
suggests even more should be
© Carolyn Knowlman
Cambridge International Swift Conference
2104 - a brilliant success!
Lyndon Kearsley (centre, facing
right) of Belgium explains a point
to Giorgio Paesani of Italy during
a break in the sessions in the Parkside
Edward Mayer (second from right)
of Swift Conservation with Silvana
di Mauro and Kevin Prince and friends
from Trieste, Italy, before the
formal dinner in Caius College
on the Swift
to see the Summary Proceedings - fascinating!
saw the third International Swift
Conference being held in Cambridge.
The previous two, in 2010 and 2012
were held very successfully in Berlin.
The Cambridge Conference was the
biggest and most successful yet,
with over 150 delegates from 24
countries giving 45 talks as well
as a special seminar for Architects
the first time were representatives
from the Americas talking about
the many fascinating New World Swift
species, as well as a representative
from the City of Baku, in Azerbaijan,
talking about the successful historic
Maiden Tower Swift conservation
three days of excellent fascinating
presentations were Luit Buurma's
session on his radar-based studies
of nocturnal Swift activity over
the Netherlands, Jonathan Pomroy's
show of his paintings and drawings
of Swifts, Anders Hedenstrõm of
Lund University's work on analysing
Swift wing capabilities in wind
tunnels, and Hayley Sherwin of the
RSPB, talking about the innovatory
Belfast Swift Survey. From the Americas,
Larry Schwitters session on his
work with Vaux's Swift was outstanding.
organised by a team led by Dick
Newell from the Action for Swifts
blog-site, with assistance from
Swift Conservation, this event set
a very high standard for the next
such event, to be held in 2016.
© M S Mayer
Swifts get homes at Tottenham Court Road Underground
The photos show (above)
the new boxes in position on the
disused chimney stack, and on the
right, a view of
the site from street level, far from finished but coming along fast. Shown below
are Csaba Revesz and Assad Khalfe,
who made the Swift
Boxes, and some Insect Hotels too.
With encouragement from the London Wildlife Trust, Taylor Woodrow BAM Nuttall, the
contractors working on the new underground station at Tottenham Court Road,
have made up some nest boxes for Swifts from recycled plywood, and have set
them up on a disused chimney stack high above the street, on one of the
buildings remaining on the site.
Ed Warner, Environmental Manager, and Bukky Olose,
Environmental Advisor, were instrumental in getting the project up and running.
Swift Conservation sourced the sound equipment being used to attract juvenile Swifts
to breed in the new boxes. With Swifts active over King’s Cross, Highbury and
Islington and Hackney Central stations, it is hoped that they will find
Tottenham Court Road a pleasing new location.
© (above) London
Underground & (left) Taylor Woodrow BAM Nuttall
Arts Centre in County Mayo, Eire,
gets its nest boxes up!
Huxley of the Galway-Mayo Institute
for Technology (GMIT) in the West
of Ireland writes to us:
"Here is a picture of
the Linenhall building (the red arrow marks the new nest boxes). I approached them with the idea of putting them
and they were delighted to support Swift conservation in Castlebar.
There are cameras in the two outer boxes which are linked to a TV in the coffee
shop. Hopefully in the next couple of years the Linenhall will get birds in their
boxes, visible to all who drop in for a cup of tea or a coffee. The project was funded jointly by the Linenhall, Mayo County
Council and a Local Agenda 21 grant.
above: the new Linenhall nest boxes
going up (right) and in situ (left)
Mayo Institute of Technology we have our first chicks and we are very excited about this. The second ones are
due to hatch any day now.
The project at the college was jointly
funded by a Local Agenda 21 grant, GMIT and staff (who sponsored all the
has also put up nest boxes at two schools in
is not all! She has published
and distributed 3000 copies
of a lovely little book about
Swifts "I am a Swift" with 1500 copies
ordered by Environmental Awareness Officers in 7 counties around
Ireland. Quite a set of achievements, and we are sure there is a lot more
above: A local school class
visits GMIT to view some of
their nest boxes ©
work needed on the South wall was completed and scaffolding removed in time for the arrival of the Swifts. The open spaces around the rafters and in the
top courses of stonework are being left untouched, likewise the deep
overlapping eaves that ensure that the building is watertight and also protect
the Swifts from harm. The ivy shown in the
photo above, that might give access to predators like Squirrels and Stoats, is being removed.
Swift Group thanks Caring for God’s Acre for its support and hopes they
continue to work together to help Hereford Diocese look after the wildlife
that relies on churches for survival. Adapted
from information and photos supplied by Peta
The Church of St James the Apostle, Wigmore
Church of St James the Apostle,
built in the 11th Century.
It is important
as it has an early Norman Nave and herringbone masonry on the outside of the north wall.
But of great interest to local naturalist
Michael Fieldsend is the Swift colony that breeds in the eaves of the South wall
of the church each summer, a typical site in medieval buildings. Michael contacted Ludlow Swift Group in 2012 when
plans to restore this wonderful building were being made, asking for their help
in saving the Swifts from eviction
negotiations it was agreed that to
accommodate the Swifts' breeding season the contractors would leave the site between
mid-May and mid-August.
Below: the South aspect holds many Swift nest sites
sited between the
© Peta Sams
famous hospital near Archway in
London, founded by Dick Whittington
(left, with his cat and a dog) has
just had two "Habi-Sabi"
Swift Nest Boxes installed (right)
on its rooftop plant rooms by site
contractors Ecolab Ltd.
prominent position and playing of
Swift calls should ensure that Swifts
will take up the nests before too
Walker at Ecolab Ltd.
St Michael's School, Ballyfermot,
Burke writes: "Our Boxes are up at last! This is St Michael's School
In Ballyfermot. This project is being sponsored by the Ballyfermot
Environment Group, Dublin City Council's Ballyfermot Area Office and the
Dublin Swift Conservation Group
of which I am the founder member."
This is an excellent example
of local initiatives backed up by
local government and NGOs, with
eager local participation, ending
up with great new nest places for
Why not set up a
scheme like this in your area? If
you can do it you will have played
a vital part in saving our Swift
populations from decline and extinction.
Get going now! We can supply
helpful advice and useful contacts.
© Dublin Swift Conservation
Castle project completed!
handsome Georgian town hall in Bishop's
Castle in Shropshire, a Listed Building
with great historic character, has
been fitted with two bespoke nestboxes
mounted inside the louvred
ventilation hood, seen below right.
The Swifts' accommodation
is accessed via the two small slots
in the new leadwork, visible below
and to thr right of the flagpost.
brainchild of Peta Sams (who runs
group) working with the architect
Philp Belchere and Peter Carty of
the National Trust, the work was
done with input from Swift Conservation's
Edward Mayer. An electronic system
to play Swift calls to attract the
birds is also being installed.
© Peta Sams
areas on Salisbury Plain
some much-needed Swift nests
Tilshead Water Tower on Salisbury
Plain. No longer in use for water
storage, but now converted (above
right) for use by Swifts! This project
was conceived, designed, built and
installed by Major Nigel Lewis and
his Imber Owl & Raptor Group.
Their prime rôle is installing,
monitoring and maintaining
some 800 Barn Owl, Tawny Owl and
Kestrel nestboxes across the Plain
and far beyond, but with a little
time on their hands they decided
to help Swifts too.
The four boxes as they appear from
inside the Tower, mounted in one
of the empty window frames shown
above. The black oblongs on the
back of each box are labels, and
the gap at the base of the window
is to let in Swallows to continue
to nest inside the Tower.
are often asked if there is any
conflict between Swifts and Swallows,
House Martins, and Bats. The
answer is "No". Sometimes
Swifts do try and nest in House
Martin nests, with foreseeable unfortunate
Bats and Swifts
make good companions, one flies
by day, the other by night, one
roosts on the floor, the other hangs
from the roof!
© Major Nigel Lewis
Gora, South Eastern Poland
Marcinowski is the designer behind
the setting up of two new Swift
Towers in the South Eastern town
of Zielona Gora in Poland.
sort of installation is usually done
to compensate for loss of nest places
when apartment blocks are re-insulated
to bring them up to the latest EU
standards. This has caused severe
problems for Swifts all over Europe,
but with this sort of response there
is now hope that Swifts may find
alternative nest places ready and
waiting for them on their return
from migration over Africa. Photos
© Jacub Marcinowski
go up in Berkhamsted
The NE gable, with two
Swifts investigating, on the 13th
June 2013. The Swift-call loudspeaker hangs from the halyard below the window-sill,
and can be hauled up and down so
that it does not get soaked by rain.
Swifts investigate new nest places
only when the weather is very good,
so that's OK! Photos
© Patrick Lepper
The best day was June 16th when he
was able to watch from a position facing the gable, and to his delight saw
several birds actually entering the nesting boxes, "Presumably not to nest now
but to prepare a site for next summer".
A few years ago, a local magazine article about “London’s Swifts” gave Patrick Lepper the idea of providing nest
boxes for Swifts. Last year he got in touch
with Hamish Burnett, a young expert on Swifts and a capable handyman, and
made plans to place some nest boxes under the eaves of his
So one Sunday Hamish, Pete the
painter and Patrick ascended the high scaffold with six nest boxes of weather-proofed
plywood, made by Hamish. With Pete’s help Hamish installed them in the preferred
positions at the peak of the gable. He also installed a “Swift-caller”,
playing a recording of nesting Swifts’ calls.
The first sign of
interest was on June 5th, when a party of 3 or 4 flew around
the house, and several times Patrick saw a bird break off and flutter up close to the
We are keeping our fingers crossed for Patrick and his
Tower at Yorkshire reserve
Nature Reserve is a progressive local reserve which has taken over a
former sewage farm belonging to the Yorkshire Water Authority. With their
help it has become an independent nature reserve and charity
run entirely by volunteers. It boasts wildflower meadows, a field
farmed for wildlife, several lakes and ponds, reed beds, marshland,
woodland and a visitor centre. The reserve is within a large bend on the
River Aire which provides protection and a
source of water for the wetlands. The river is a brilliant habitat in
its own right with kingfishers and otters included in the list of
Swifts regularly occur over the reserve but there were no suitable
buildings where they could nest. When contractors were there this
spring, building a fish pass around a weir in the Aire, they agreed to
help put in the Swift boxes at the top of two
eight metre poles.
Behind the project is Dave Nesham, in charge of habitat
management. He built a
four tier structure of sixteen innovative nesting compartments. The nests are
in a very open position but are still largely hidden
from the trails open to the public. The discrete positioning will help
to avoid any unwanted attention from vandals. They have also
been insulated across the back for fear they may get too hot in summer.
The boxes were up by the end of March 2013. Dave ordered
specialist audio equipment so that calls could be played
automatically. Swifts have been flying
around the tower, but it can take a couple of
years before Swifts accept a new structure. There is abundant
insect life at the reserve; the Swift Tower is of
a very high standard. Everybody at the reserve is hopeful
that Swifts are
added soon to the long list of species breeding there.
See: www.rodleynaturereserve.org for
by: Andy Woodall -
Friend of Rodley Nature Reserve
Swift Nestboxes go up in a shopping street in Nyborg, Denmark
Inger Lund, our new Swift
contact person in Denmark, has just
sent us these interesting views
of Swift nestboxes that have been
set up in a shopping street in Nyborg,
on the island of Fyn in Denmark.
Inger has her own Swifts
nesting at her home in Starling
nest boxes; you can see one of them
on our Home Page.
How nice to see that the
idea of helping Swifts survive and
thrive is reaching out from Ireland, the UK
and Germany, right across Europe, up
to Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania and
Poland, down to Spain and across
to Italy, Romania and Israel,
and now into Central Asia (see
our news from Baku, Azerbaijan,
below!) Photos © Inger
Brilliant success at Johnstown Castle Co Wexford, in Southern Ireland
Matt Wheeler, Curator /Manager of the Irish Agricultural Museum located within the grounds of the Castle, was inspired to
erect four Swift boxes at the museum after hearing a talk from Brian
Cahalane, a member of the Northern Ireland Swift Group.
Matt played the Swift attraction CD last year
and this, and got his first pair this year. Here is the result, a
beautiful young Swift almost ready to fledge .
great news and hopefully when all four boxes are filled
the guests dining at the museum will be able to enjoy the exhilarating
fly-pasts of the
Swifts, and learn more about this wonderful bird. Photos
© Brian Cahalane
farms inland from Gothenberg, in
Sweden, has sent us these lovely
writes " The Swift call I got from you attracted two new nesting Swift
to my farm. Some evenings we have about 20 Swifts circulating
between the farm's houses. Never have there been so many
here, not even twenty years ago, when we had five nesting
the farm. The Swift pairs nest under tiles on the residential
but they have also looked inside nests which I have
put up in
the tower of my water mill. This is where I have played the
call . Hoping that they nest there next year! Many thanks for your help!"
© Ove Claessen
adult Swift returns to the nest
to feed its chicks, just under
the tiles at this old farm in Central
Sweden; you might be surprised to
know that Swifts breed a lot further
North than this!
photos from Barcelona
Godel, an architect and interior
designer working in Barcelona, has
been taking amazing photographs
of Swifts zooming through the skies
abve the famous city with its spectacular
buildings created by Gaudi.
Swifts fly across the sky above
"La Pedrera", a famous
apartment block with turret chimneys
like massed lines of armoured warriors,
and the Christopher Columbus Monument
closely you can see just how they
fly, with each wing beat shown clearly.
can see many more at his Blog site
by clicking here
© Laurent Godel
Stimpson Nest Boxes Sold!
maker of the simple and economical
Zeist-type Swift nest box shown
on our "Shopping" page,
has been in touch to tell us he
has now made and sold over 6000 of them,
to all parts of the UK and now to
and take-up at this level can start
to make a very real difference to
the UK's Swift population, confined
as it is by de-forestation and history
to seek nest places in our buildings.
Put together with other box sales
and nest place initiatives, maybe
things are getting a bit better
for our Swifts? All we need now
is a long succession of glorious
Opposite is a photo
of a young Swift looking out from
one of John's boxes, fitted to a
building in Dunblane, Scotland.
© Anne Youngman BCT
Successes with Nest Boxes!
Bob Freeman sent us this
brilliant photo of a Swift leaving
one of his Schwegler nestboxes in
Bob says: "I have had Swift nest boxes fitted below the eaves on my
house for 10 years now, and over the last few days I
have had Swifts enter all three boxes. On the night of 6 July I noticed a bird fly in late dusk and not reappear, so it looked like this bird had gone in to roost.
By the way, these birds were lured
into the box area with a Swift Calls
CD". It may be that the
Swifts found the boxes after being
evicted by building or insulation
work at a nearby property.
It shows it's well worth putting
up boxes, and being very patient,
as well as playing the Swift calls.
© Robert Freeman
Splendid Swift Success!
From Dunblane, not far
from Edinburgh in Scotland,
John Haddow sends us this dramatic photo
of a Swift leaving a Zeist type
nest box fitted to his house with
the help of the Scottish Bat
Officer, Anne Youngman.
Sparrows moved in first, but then
Swifts moved into both boxes. Never forget, Swifts can
fly almost as fast as Andy Murray's
It has taken
a few years to achieve success,
and again it shows very clearly
the values of patience and persistence
when working with Swifts. Photo
© John Haddow
Big Surprise at Slaithwaite
From Yorkshire comes this
evidence that Swift nest boxes are
taking off in a big way. We're very
grateful to Robert Harrison for
both discovering this amazing installation
of Schwegler nestboxes on a viaduct
in Slaithwaite, Kirklees, and telling
us all about it.
Do you know
who put them up? Please let
famous historic Viaduct in Slaithwaite,
West Yorkshire dominates the valley.
courtesy of Wikipedia
Slaithwaite Viaduct is at Crimble on the road to Golcar
(Huddersfield). There are
14 Schwegler nest boxes mounted
between 25 and 30 feet up on the
walls. Two are shown in the close-up
above right. Robert Harrison has
seen that at least 12 of the boxes
were in use in Summer 2014. Such
a take-up without using Swift calls
is exceptional. It may indicate
Swifts are moving in
having been evicted elsewhere. Photos
© Robert Harrison
Swift heads for its new home, an
Ibstock Swift Brick in the end wall
of the new Library in Antrim, one
of 15 installed at public request.
© Brenda Campbell
new library gets its Swifts
Rodney Monteith in Antrim,
Northern Ireland, the man behind
the 15 "Ibstock
EcoHomes for Swifts" (Swift
Bricks) in the Antrim Library, has
been keeping a close eye on them,
together with Brenda Campbell, Mark
Smyth and Peter Cush of the Northern
Ireland Swift Group. He reports
that the nest bricks were enthusiastically
taken up by House Sparrows
(not a bad thing as they too are
in sad decline) but now two are
occupied by Swifts.
to happen! 11 Swift Bricks have
installed in Antrim's Oriel Gallery, (formerly
known as The Long Barn), others
the new Train and Bus Station, and
no less than 37 at Greenmount College!
a splendid way to get some life
and action into otherwise sterile
townscapes, isn't it? And that's
a major aim
of Urban Biodiversity!
- A very bad year for
breeding attempts by Swifts in parts
of the UK and Northern Europe failed, due to the cold
weather and resulting dearth of
flying insects for the Swifts to
feed on. There has been a huge mortality
of Swifts in some areas; it is estimated
that 90% of Swifts who made it to
Bavaria have subsequently starved
to death or died of hypothermia.
From Spain and France
come news items of Swifts falling
dead from the sky in their hundreds;
fromSwitzerland we have eye-witness
accounts of Swifts desperately seeking
food in rain and low cloud over
Lake Lucerne, and falling into the
waters there to be eaten by Gulls.
From Bavaria we have instances of Swifts
being found dead in their nests,
and of abandoned eggs and chicks.
Our local contact in the Czech Republic,
Lukáš Victora, tells us the breeding
season there is delayed by
at least a month, and numbers are
With the recent much
weather in the UK Swifts have likewise
laid again. It means a very
late end to the nesting season;
some breeders could still be with us now
right through August, even into
our colony at London Zoo has failed
to produce any chicks for the first
time since Swifts moved in. Just
one lonely adult Swift
spent its nights in a nest box
there, without a partner. Maybe
next year will be better.
Freeman (see News item above) had
nest boxes up for 10 years
and at last
Swifts have moved in!
It is always worth the wait.....
© Robert Freeman
Moscow we have an excisting new
idea, that came about as an entry
into a competition to find radical
new uses for the DuPont product
Corian, more usually used in washrooms.
This is what the architect designers
say about it....
concrete panel houses - that's the environment in which we grew up. They are everywhere - they are the real face of the city, its flesh. Over time, areas built of such houses are beginning to be overgrown with tall trees, and the houses themselves take the form of the familiar, safe home, like an old, beloved cave. Districts are now
picturesque, quiet and comfortable.
The air is calm, broken only by the gleeful shrieks of Swifts whose
wings cut the blue sky. Swifts - unique creatures. Spending all their life in flight: eating in flight, in-flight drinking, sleeping in flight, in-flight multiplying too. They
do not walk on the ground on principle, do
not feed on garbage, and are totally different from other urban birds. They
bring the maximum benefit, no harm. One adult
brings its chicks about 30,000 insects
a day. Thus, the greater the number
of Swifts in the city, the better for our
environment. Currently Swifts have to compete with feral
pigeons in finding suitable nest-places, which does not contribute to an increase in their population. These
nest pods are built from Corain,
expensive but durable. Each pod
as well as providing numerous nest
holes for Swifts, is a giant house
number, which can be seen from afar. So
it is very convenient for the residents
and visitors. The unusual shape of the
nest pods radically changes the residents'
homes from simple concrete boxes to a
high-grade naturalistic object. The old, familiar areas finally acquire a unique natural charm. ...........
these pods could change the
scene for Moscow's Swifts, as well
as for its residents. Let's hope
this dramatic, handsome idea
gets taken up, and soon! For
more information contact
Group Architects, Moscow
Homes for Moscow's Swifts?
© Arch Group Architects, Moscow
nests for Swifts at Goose Green Primary
in East Dulwich
Steven Robinson, South London Swift Conservation
Adviser, has been
helping his son's primary school,
Goose Green in East Dulwich, with
a nest box project. The boxes look excellent; the school made three, a parent made the other, and the pupils painted
them. They are insulated from excess solar heat with an extra roof and a ventilation
gap between the two roofs. The school
is using the Cheng
Sheng player to broadcast the calls
via a tweeter in one of the boxes. Here
they are in all their glory!
boxes' design follows the well-tested Dutch
Zeist model, named after the town
of the same name. Such boxes can
be bought here in the UK for about
£13.00 from John Stimpson. Please
see our Shopping
for more details.
on using the Cheg Shen amplifier
please contact Dick
© Steven Robinson
Swift Tower goes up in Northern
Congratulations to the pupils of
Pond Park Primary School, Lisburn Co Antrim, and their teacher Mr Burns,
who with the help of Mr
Declan Philips of Stoneyford Engineering (who built and installed this superb Swift mini-tower) and the Northern Ireland Swift Group,
have ensured that Swifts now
have a new home at Pond Park Primary.
The tower has its own built-in sound system to
attract Swifts, and when a pair take up residence in one of the nest boxes a
camera will be fitted when the birds are in Africa during the winter. This
will allow the pupils and staff to learn more about this wonderful bird when they return.
Stoneyford Engineering build a range
towers and as well as having supplied them to Tesco's and the Belfast
Bus Station, also now have orders for
mini towers for private houses.
© Brian Cahalane: Northern Ireland
puts up some Swift Nest Boxes
© Alan Hester / Dublin City Council
have been working with Helen Burke
of Dublin City Council on Swift nest place projects for the
capital city. With the help
of Eric Dempsey, one of Ireland's
leading ornithologists, who is giving
public talks to promote the scheme, and
Alan Hester who is in charge
of the building and has been instrumental in getting this project off
the ground, the first project
has now been completed.
Here are photos of
the boxes fitted to plant rooms on top of Dublin Council's Civic Offices on
Wood Quay. A sound system has been installed and is playing Swift calls
to attract potential occupiers. The
boxes may be viewed from Ormond
Library gets Swift homes
Fitt, who works as a volunteer for
the RSPB in the South West, tells
us the following: "With
the approval of the Devon County Ecologist I check their monthly
planning list and if there are any obvious potential candidates for
Biodiversity enhancement I liaise with the relevant Planning Officer. In
this instance Swift boxes were made a consition of Planning approval, and I worked with their
Architects, the Exeter Office of the NPS Group, on how and where.
We installed Schwegler
Light Weight Swift Box Type 1A's. There is a loud speaker wired to
the Library’s PA System to play calls. Due to ongoing building work,
there was only a very limited opportunity to play the latter last July, but I
was told Swifts came visiting almost immediately and created lots of local interest!
My work with Devon County continues and we are currently working on a number of school projects and the main library in Exeter. As
a consequence of this work I am spreading the word and
two or three schools in Dorset have adopted similar policies."
© John Baggley NPS South West
left: a close-up
view of the eight Schwegler
boxes sunk into the
facade of the new building
in Cullompton, and right,
a general view of the
building, showing how
they augment the street
view. Swifts will be
a very exciting aerial
component of this town's
Swifts take up new boxes
new boxes for Swifts, as shown on
the left, are of the simplest type.
Just a timber box with internal
partitions, fitted under the gutters
of existing buildings. Cheap, and
yet highly effective, as you can
This is the work of
Ingolf Grabow and the Frankfurt
Swift Group 2010, and they are
starting to get results.
over 1400 Swift nestboxes now up
and ready for Swifts in Frankfurt,
they are achieving a successful
breeding occupancy rate of 55% at
one well-monitored site. This is
a remarkable achievement by any
© Ingolf Grabow FMI 2010
nest opportunities created in
Wauters, who works on biodiversity
projects for the Municipality of
Molenbeek in Brussels, has sent
us these photos of a new project
she masterminded to provide Swift
nest places within existing architectural
features in apartment blocks.
sorts of buildings date from the
turn of the 19th Century up to the
First World War, and have interesting
architectural details, in this case
an extended windowsill that goes
across the front of the upper story
and is of hollow construction.
feature was used to provide eight
new self-contained Swift nest places.
© Martine Wauters
the apartment block showing the
extended windowsill. Above right:
the adaptation to house Swift nest
Swift Tower at Belfast
Brian Cahalane, an enthusiastic
supporter of Swifts
in Northern Ireland,
and a man with his own
home colonies of Swifts
and House Martins, has
just sent us this great
photo of the new Swift
Tower at the bus station
by the Stoneyford Engineering
Company to Brian's specifications, this
can be delivered ready-made
to any site in Europe
for a very modest overall
more by e-mail - use
link to Christy Cush
© Bran Cahalane
news on Swift Migration
the past three years researchers
across Europe have been fitting
a handful of Swifts in accessible
breeding colonies with "data-loggers"
minute electronic devices that record
time and daylight.
these are recovered from Swifts
that have migrated to
Africa, they can reveal their route
with some accuracy.
for four projects in Sweden, Germany
and the UK are now known, and
they paint a picture much enhanced
over the minimal results gained
from ringing many thousands
of Swifts over many years.
part this is because Swifts fly
high and do not land. One has to
rely on getting rings back from
birds that die naturally and are
found, or are killed and eaten.
Also, rings cannot tell us
the time spent in any location,
only that it has been visited. The
information gained from them turns out to have been only partial,
huge parts of their migration route
having never been recorded before.
out more - See
the BTO's full report at this
See the full Swedish
flight of A320, a Swift tagged at
Fowlmere on 22 July 2010 and recovered
on its return on 8 May 2011.
Swift spent significant periods (the
on its route (purple) feeding over
lush West African rainforest zones,
and stayed for much of the
Winter over the Congo, (yellow blob)
apart from a significant Christmas
break (yellow arrows & blobs) over Tanzania,
& Mozambique, before returning
(blue route & blobs) to the UK, again spending
time feeding over West Africa.
information greatly augments and
improves on previous
ringing results, but quite a bit
of it does match local observations
made by skilled bird watchers.
diagram © British Trust for Ornithology
Tower Competition Winner
is the winning entry in a recent
competition held in Poland for a
Swift tower, organised by STOP,
the Warsaw bird protection organisation.
Designed by Menthol
Architects, it is intended to
provide stand-alone, well sheltered,
robust, safe and long lasting nest
places for a large number of Swifts,
as well as being an aesthetically
valid landmark in itself.
here for further information
details of the boxes
Menthol / STOP Swift Tower visualised
on the banks of the Vistula river
in Warsaw, just along from the Copernicus
Centre. Swifts have been having
just as bad a time in Poland as
elsewhere in Euroipe, as the old
building stock is updated and insulated,
and all their old nest places are
obliterated. Population losses in
parts of Eastern Europe are thought
to be as high as 70% in the past
few years alone. drawings
© Menthol Architects / STOP
Swift homes in Teignmouth
© Teign Housing
See the three small holes along the roofline of the
completed blocks of flats? These are a new part of Teign Housing’s
regeneration work in central Teignmouth. They are built in Swift nesting boxes.
A total of 51 new nest
places have been created,
using Schwegler's No
box fitted behind the
There is a small Swift colony nesting under the road bridge next to the blocks, and during the planning stage of the project Teign Housing
(TH), the RSPB and
Teignbridge District Council planners, advised by Edward Mayer and Stephen
Fitt of Swift Conservation, agreed to install the nest boxes
on each block so the colony could expand.
Paul Davies, Head of Asset Management said: “As a housing
association it is our responsibility to meet local housing need, and we
thought we could extend this to some of our feathered friends. Sadly,
the Swift population is in decline, but we hope
that the boxes will encourage more to nest and help increase the Swift
population in Teignmouth.”
As TH's head office is in Newton Abbot it is difficult to monitor
whether the boxes are being used. If anyone in Teignmouth spots a Swift
or any other bird moving into these boxes, please let TH know the time
and date of your Swift spot by using the online Contact Us form.
news from Exeter
gets amazing results...
Isca College Exeter; Three Schwegler
nestboxes have been fitted to the
high brick wall to encourage Swifts
to nest there. Photo
© Emily Stallworthy, Devon Wildlife
Stephen Fitt, a Swift enthusiast and a
volunteer for the RSPB in the
South West of England has been working very hard with Exeter City Council, whose official
policy is to integrate nest/roost boxes for birds/bats into all new residential
a degree of flexibility to make sure that unsuitable locations
are not used, but a ratio of one nest box per residential unit is
Within this policy, Swifts are treated as
a priority species, and the work being done by the Exeter Swift Project, a
partnership of the Council, Devon Wildlife Trust (see illustration) and the
RSPB, should make sure that there will be ample nesting opportunities for Swifts
in the foreseeable future.
better, the Town and Country Planning
Association has adopted the Exeter Model as an example within its new "Good
Practice Guidance" which
is being promoted throughout
See a special
feature on the "Good Practice
the Town & Country Planning
Association / Wildlife Trusts "Good
Practice Guidance" documents
(inc Annex C)
more information please contact
new road sign was put up last Summer
near Koblenz in the Rhineland. Swifts
fly low to catch insects when the
weather is bad, and so can come
into conflict with vehicles, something
their 49 million years on Earth
may not have prepared them for.
sign can be folded up when the Swifts
have gone back to Africa. But while
they are here they are now protected
from accidents with traffic, just
so long as drivers are careful.
hope this good idea gets copied
supplied by the Frankfurt Swift
Group: see here
for lots more information
visit the Swifts of Andalucia -
millions of them!
with the rotten "summer"
we (and our Swifts too) were having,
we felt the need for a bit of intensive
Swift therapy, and headed off to
Andalucia in Southern Spain for
guaranteed sunshine, heat, paella
We were not disappointed
- there were millions of them! Nesting
in the eaves opposite our hotel
in Malaga, right by the Cathedral,
nesting in a special roof made just
for them above the bar of our hotel
in Granada, and filling the sky
in Ubéda, they were everything we
needed. If only it could be the
same here in the UK.
our videos! Just click
on the blue logos to go to You Tube
Swifts at the Alhambra Palace
Swifts over Malaga Swifts
flying over Ubeda
The Alcazar, the ancient
Moorish castle at the Alhambra:
a landscape that is just perfect
for Swifts; sun, heat, water, insects
and hundreds of old holes to breed
Rémy, Molenbeek, Brussels
new Swift nestbox
project in Belgium - designed by
Dick Newell and project managed
by Martine Wauters of the Municipality
Swift nest box cabinets are being
fitted at the base of the long louvred
apertures in the tower of the Church
of St Rémy. All
photos © Martine Wauters - Municipality
team that installed the
boxes - helping Swifts is fun!
left: the boxes in position. More
can be added as the project takes
off and Swifts move in, and in that
way the feral pigeon population
of the tower can be reduced, and
a pest removed.
a Swift's eye-view of the prospect
from the nest. Not bad!
Swifts get 500 new nest places in Baku, Azerbaijan
Nests for the Swifts of Baku's famous 8th
Century BC Maiden Tower
Maiden Tower, a highly
important 8th Century BC national
monument in Baku's
UNESCO World Heritage Old Walled
being conserved after many
years of weather damage.
in its crumbling walls provided
nestplaces for about 250 Swifts
for the past 30 or 40 years. But
the conservation, when completed, will
leave only about 40 holes usable
by the Swifts.
the Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and founder of International Dialogue for Environmental Action
(IDEA) initiated and coordinated a special project providing the displaced
with alternative nest places. A nearby site was selected, and the Administration of Icherisheher, through its specialist
Atelier Erich Pummer GesMBH, installed
500 Schwegler Swift nest boxes.
The number of new nests has been doubled with the aim of
increasing the future population
of Baku's Swifts.
made after the Swifts finished breeding
in Summer 2012 showed that some
30 nests had been made in the new
boxes, a very promising start. In
2013 further efforts will be made
to attract more Swifts to breed
in the new nestboxes.
The 8th Century BC Maiden Tower,
undergoing conservation; on the
right, the new Swift nest boxes
installed on the wall of an adjacent
the video of the Swifts checking
out their new nest boxes here
Close-up showing the postions of
loudspeakers within some of the
nestboxes, used to play Swift
calls to attract the Swifts to nest
left: The Maiden Tower, centrepiece
of the ancient historical heart
of Baku, a UNESCO World Heritage
Site, following conservation works
Below left: Another
view of the new Swift Nest box
arrays in the shape of three Swifts
Photos © Samir Nuriyev
/ State Historical
Architectural Reserve "Icherisheher"
In order to smooth
the Swifts’ relocation, the
Tower’s conservation works were planned so that the number of
holes in the façade would decrease gradually during 2012 to 2013. In February 2012, the nest
fixed on the wall in the shape of three
flying Swifts, to underline the purpose of the project and to enhance the appearance of the site.
The new nestboxes were
painted light beige to reflect the sunlight and prevent overheating.
Call CD's to encourage the Swifts to check out the new nests, and advice on how
to attract Swifts and maintain the
colony for the future.
The process of
attracting Baku's Swifts to the new nest places
may take 2 to 3 years, but the initial results are
very promising. Just 2 weeks after the Swifts’ arrival in Baku, thanks to the use
of the Swift
Call CD, several were noticed flying up to the nest boxes and some
were captured by video camera at the moment of flying into the nestboxes.
2012 - the 2nd International Swift Seminars conference
Photos © Edward
Mayer www.swift-conservation.org Presentation
© Lukáš Viktora CSO
are getting much more attention:
2nd International Swift Seminars were
held in Berlin from 10 to 12 April,
attracting 77 delegates from Europe, Turkey,
Russia, Indonesia, Israel and China, to discuss ways to
prevent further losses of this
across Europe appears to be consistent,
and closely linked to trends in renovation
and insulation of the building stock.
from the Czech Republic (left) match
the UK's very closely.
Tigges, conference organiser, addresses
a question to Martin Cel'uch, a speaker
from the Slovakian delegation whose
topic was "Will the Common Swift
survive in Slovakia?"
puts up nestplaces for Swifts
go the new boxes! Brand new plywood
boxes, specially for Pallid Swifts,
are lifted to their final postion by
the Fire Brigade team in Zaragoza.
© Municipality of Zaragoza
The fire station in Zaragoza,
Aragon in Spain has finally saved its famous
Pallid Swift colony
Following a public appeal, helped by us
at Swift Conservation, the Municipality
of Zaragoza agreed to save the prominent
colony of Pallid Swifts (Apus pallidus)
established at the local Fire Station.
by maintenance work, the colony became
the subject of great public interest,
and a campaign to save it was organised
by Spanish Swift enthusiasts, with support
from right across Europe.
campaign was successful, and the Municipality
agreed to have the special boxes made
up and installed on their fires station.
Here you can see them being put up,
the result, and the team from the Municipality
that got the job done so successfully.
are all hoping for a very successful
breeding season for this colony in 2012
and for a long time ahead.
The multi-disciplinary team from the
Municipality of Zaragoza that designed,
built and installed the multiple nest
boxes for the Pallid Swifts at the Fire
Peter & St Paul keep Swifts safe in Lingfield
Giddy, local Swift expert
in Surrey, was instrumental in saving a major Swift colony in
the roof of St Peter & St Paul's Church
& Swift enthusiasts Ian & Pat Smith
were concerned the Swifts nesting under
the massive stone roof were potentially
under threat from renovations.
with the help of Richard Young of the
Church Council and Robert George, the
architect, plans were made with Roland's
help for the
colony to be saved.
left: a view of the church & the
Roofers Clarke Roofing Southern Ltd
performed the works, ensuring that the
old nest places were retained.
old stone tiles were removed, the nest
positions between them and the roofing
membrane were noted, and retained
under the replaced stone tiles.
result: plenty of nest places ready
for the Swifts when they returned in May
left: roofers remove the old roof, revealing
debris from the old nests.
Top right: the new roof
goes on, using recovered stone tiles
right: just about finished!
(roof) © Ian Smith; (church) © Edward
Swifts get a Reprieve
Froome, our man on Guernsey, has helped
save a major Swift Colony
of the housing estate had already started
when residents spoke up for their Swifts.
With Vic's help, it was swiftly agreed
that the demolition would stop, and
the Guernsey Housing Association allowed a further
delay of six weeks to enable the Swifts
to fledge and fly off to Africa. Even
better, the Housing Association agreed
to buy 50 Swift nestboxes, and
then the building contractor J W Rihoy
up for free! Even more good news,
Vic has been asked to give a seminar
to all the property professionals involved,
on buildings and biodiversity, and he
has also been asked to advise on stage
two of the project. You couldn't ask
for any more!
Swifts' nests found under the tiles
of the old housing estate demolished
to be replaced by the new one (right).
You can see the four new nestboxes
just under the eaves.
right, Vic, his work and the estate
featured in the Guernsey Times, a great
victory for common sense local conservation
and for the Swifts too.
© Vic Froome
© Beth Hales
Niblock Building Contractors roofer
cuts a hole for Swifts to continue nesting
in eaves at the Village Park Estate
in Ealing. This hole is a special one
to resist entry by Starlings but let
the Swifts get back to the same nest
sites they used before the old wooden
soffits were replaced with the modern
Upvc ones. You can contact Niblock here.
only nest in pre-1944 buildings. But
modernisation of these
has lead to a massive drop in their numbers. Swifts create a sense of well-being and
eat up lots of harmful insects. They
are well worth saving!
Ealing and Niblock get it right first time... with
a little help from Beth!
Beth Hales, of the Village Park Estate in South Ealing, tells
us how she saved the Swifts on her
estate: We had been given notice that our roofs would be repaired under the Decent Homes
As I stood chatting with site manager Mark Lenzi, of
contractor Niblock, I looked up and noticed the
Swifts. I asked: “what will happen to the Swifts as they nest in the
eaves”. Mark was sympathetic, but had no power to change
the plastic soffits that would close the eaves. I decided not to let the issue go that
easily, as I had spent the
last 18 summers enjoying watching them.
I got in touch with local
RSPB member Peter Bird and the author of the Birds of Ealing, John Green.
Together with resident Gary Fisher we wrote to the leader of the Council. At
the same time the Swifts were becoming a topic in local Council and wildlife
meetings. Within days the Council was talking to the building contractor.
With the Council on board, Mark Lenzi agreed my suggestion to bring
in Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation, who advise architects and
builders on how to keep or encourage Swifts to nest.
So I found myself squeezed into a
portacabin along with 17 roofers to hear a presentation on Swifts. I wasn’t sure
if they would take it seriously but as Edward began they quickly became engaged
and the talk moved on to the technical details.
The result? Niblock installed 70 Swift holes and two summers on it goes to show how an
action as simple as cutting a small hole can have such a dramatic impact on
local wildlife. The Swifts are still with us!
Nice Swift Story
SWIFTS by Abbie Hart aged 6 years and 1
Once there was 2 poorly swifts and then my Mum saved them and made them
better. She let them go, but one of them couldn't fly. And then she made it
better and she let it go. They ate lots of insects and waxworms. They were
happy. They played with their friends in the sky and they flew past every day,
so we knew they were better. But they went to Africa for the winter where it was
warm. All the time they were thinking about us. They wished they could have more
waxworms. They were too happy now. They will come back in April or May. We will
be happy when we see them again. And, if they come back in May on my Mum's
birthday, they might be happy. And, they are good at flying now - they used to
not be. And it's good to fly, because everyone wants to fly. They fly even when
they are asleep and eat little bugs in the air. I love the Swifts so much, they
will come back soon because it's nearly Spring. It's good when it's Spring. The
Swifts are always happy, they love it. They just love drinking and they are
black. They love us and my Dad is making a nest box for them. My Mum says that
they are her favourite bird, but they're just my second favourite. My favourites
are Long-Tailed Tits and Sparrows and the beautiful Swifts. Drawings
© Abbie Hart
Swifts still nest in ancient trees..... the Bialowieza
Primeval Forest, Poland
2011 we visited the magnificent Bialowieza
Primeval Forest in North East Poland.
What a superb place!
a surprise too as this ancient forest,
where trees are allowed to die and fall
and rot naturally, has a resident population
of nesting Swifts. In 1985 to 1994 this
was estimated as 600 to 700 pairs. These
Swifts nest mainly in holes in
Hornbeams and sometimes Conifers on
open flood plain areas.
breed in groups of a couple of pairs,
quite unlike the large colonies
they set up in big buildings, but
similar to a typical suburban Swift colony.
think that this is how Swifts bred before
we deforested Europe and eliminated
all old and dead trees from our modern
managed forests. Of course, Swifts
nest in crevices in cliffs too, but
we have never seen large colonies in
soon - such beauty cannot last.
Swifts' nest in an old Great Spotted
Woodpecker nest in this ancient
pine. This is at the
RSPB's Abernethy Reserve in Scotland
where a few
Swifts breed in tree holes, believed
to be unique in the UK.
Photos © E
Mayer / Swift Conservation (left)
John S Wilson (right)
National Archives hopes to host Swifts at Kew with
its new nest boxes
National Archives at Kew have installed
some Swift nest boxes!
are the brainchild of Christine
Berry, a keen wildlife enthusiast
who works there. Christine contacted
us and we did a site survey. We
recommended locations and techniques
to attract the Swifts to them.
right by the Thames the site is
ideal; it already hosts a good selection
of wild birds and other creatures,
and has pools and gardens of its
own to shelter them.
Photos © E
Mayer / Swift Conservation &
Christine Berry / National Archives
puts up Swift Boxes on its Tower Hide at the London
should love these nest boxes built
beneath the eaves of the Tower Hide
at the London Wetlands Centre just
across the Thames from Hammersmith.
pools of the Wetlands Centre provide
masses of flying insects for
Swifts to feed on, and many Swifts
already visit the Centre just to
the left you can see two of the nest
boxes fitted to the Tower Hide; on the
right you can see, open, the CD player
system that plays Swift calls to attract
new birds to look for vacant spaces.
& Wetlands Trust
get a Tower at the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover
we see Terry and his team mate Ray
the shingles onto the second tower
on the production line.The first
tower, set up with help from HM
Forces, is on the far right. In
between is Cheyenne, one of their
superb Bald Eagles, after her long
range flight display.
Photos © E
Mayer / Swift Conservation
at the Hawk Conservancy Trust at
Andover in Hampshire have taken
up the challenge of making and erecting
one of the Swift Tower concept designs
prepared by Dick Newell of the Ely
Swifts Group and featured elsewhere
on this web site.
by one of our lectures, they devoted
their time and effort to making
this superb structure which holds
30 nest places under a roof covered
in Western Red Cedar shingles.
Conservancy to see the Tower
and lots more - their flight displays
of raptors are just amazing!
Park's Buildings are fitted with Swift nestboxes
Park's Friends have made a big commitment
to Swift conservation by fitting
one of the buildings in Dulwich
Park with Swift nest boxes and an
associated hifi system to play Swift
calls to lure the birds in. Seven boxes were
installed; six Schwegler No.18's (plus the hi-fi system) and one Filchris
nestbox. Southwark's Parks department
arranged for the installation.
Photos © Steven
Puts up a Swift Tower in Crumlin, Northern
Brian Cahalane, a member of the Northern Ireland Swift Group wrote
to Sir Terence Leahy, CEO of Tesco Plc, and explained to him why Swift numbers
were falling through out the British Isles and asked if Tesco could help.
Sir Terence replied sympathetically
discussions began resulting in this magnificent tower.
The Northern Ireland Swift Group wishes to express their appreciation to
Tesco Plc. who funded the project. Thanks
to their awareness of the biodiversity in the area, Swifts in Northern
Ireland now have twenty new nest boxes which will help their numbers increase
A plaque will be placed below the tower explaining its purpose and
giving information on this magnificent bird, Already it has been visited by
school children from the local schools.
is hoped that Tesco's example will encourage other supermarkets to
follow their lead.
Photos © Brian
Bethlehem Church gets Swift Nest Boxes!
Schulz, a Swift Activist in Hannover,
Germany, has been running Swift
projects for some years now.
is her latest, fitting 24 nestboxes
to the Bethlehem Church, with the
help of a large team of helpers,
some shown here.
do the same! With a little help
from your friends and some recycled
plywood you can build boxes for
Swifts and install them in your
not a minute to be lost.......
Photos © Rose-Marie Schulz
Lister Hospital & the London Olympics get Swift Nest
& Middlesex Wildlife Trust, working
with the Lister Hospital Board and Osborne
Construction, have completed installation
of eight Swift nest bricks in the new
maternity unit at this hospital in Stevenage.
is this sort of thoughtful planning
that is going to save Swifts here in
the UK, as inaccessible new buildings replace
their old homes in open timber eaves
We can ensure them
a future only by building in special features
where Swifts can breed.
But it's easy
and it's cheap too!
Photos © Tim
worked with the London Olympics
2012 project starting in 2004, with
the aim of providing nest
site location advice and training as
part of their commitment to biodiversity.
eventually got 70 + Swift nestboxes
installed at various places on the site.
Here you can see an
installation of six nestboxes under
one of the bridges leading to
the Olympics Stadium.
Photos © E
Mayer Swift Conservation
Swift nest place projects, old and new, from Belgium
Pole Holes = Swift Nests!
in Brussels have adapted to use a feature of
Belgian architecture. Round
(or square) holes were placed under the eaves of older
buildings, to provide ready-made locations
for the timber scaffold poles used whenever
the building needed
were often covered with a decorative
feature. On the left you can see one,
a carved stone plug in the shape of
a lion's head. With the plug slightly
open, access is provided for a Swift
to nest inside. On the right you
can see a line of these holes; some
were converted to Swift nest places,
two are still plugged, two
have lost their plugs.
longer in use for scaffolding, they are in peril of
being lost when repairs are made. So
Belgian biodiversity activists and professionals
are encouraging their conversion to
nest places for Swifts, House Sparrows and
Black Redstarts. With some success!
- Photos © Jean-Claude Hardy
© Aline Spriet
nestholes a-plenty in Melegnano!
St. John the The Baptist's Church in Melegnano, a small town very close to
Milan, where all the old scaffold holes in the walls of the bell tower were
modified to provide nest places for Swifts.
These holes are an integral
part of historic structures, and were
used to support timber scaffold beams.
You can see how they have been made
smaller with little pieces of brick,
cemented in. This gives a permanent,
safe, low-cost refuge for breeding Swifts,
while excluding feral pigeons.
concerned with this project is hopeful
that this idea will catch on across
the whole of Italy, and also in other
Mediterranean countries where these
scaffold holes are still commonplace.
Photos © Arch. Gaetano Arricobene
Advice & Design: Mauro Ferri of
Veterinary Service / Local Health Agency of Modena, and Luca Ravizza, Municipality of Melegnano
Client: The Parish of Melegnano
s.r.l. (Gallarate, VA),
Project Manager: Arch. G. Arricobene
colony's nest holes can be seen under
the eaves and also under the window
to the right of and just below the tower.
get a Good Deal in Cortona, Italy
Swift enthusiast who is
setting up her own colony at home
in the UK, has sent us these pictures
of a D I Y Swift colony she spotted
on her travels in Italy.
"When I was in Cortona, Tuscany, a couple of years ago, I saw purpose-built Swift nest holes in houses. As a result there was a huge colony of Swifts.
They used to wheel over the high point of the hill town, screaming. Fantastic."
Colonies are easy to create when renovating
a building. The holes can be drilled
with minimal vibration and mess from
outside using a diamond core drill .
Nestplaces or boxes can then be
created in or on the interior walls.
have the nest boxes totally
hidden within the wall, as shown on
the right. The holes may be used during
winter by other species as roosts.
Tits, Wrens and Sparrows may seek shelter
and manage to survive in this way.
projects can help to replace Swift nests
lost in other building re-developments,
& vital if Swifts are to survive!
New nests for Swifts in Modena,
an exceptionally beautiful city,
has a wealth of ancient historic buildings
of supreme cultural value. Amongst these
is the Cathedral and its Tower.
Municipality, advised by specialists
of the Veterinary Service of the local
Public Health Agency, made plans to
retain the Swifts nesting in the scaffold
pole holes of the magnificent Cathedral
Tower. A major aim was to exclude feral
pigeons, whilst encouraging Swifts and
Bats to roost and nest.
the left you can see the Cathedral and,
far right in the photo, covered in hoardings,
its Tower. On the right you can see
the technique used to convert the scaffold
pole holes from places that could shelter
feral pigeons to ones that can provide
nests for Swifts. All that is required
is again the insertion of a piece of brick,
but cut to the right size.
cheap, effective! So why doesn't everyone
More Swift Houses in Grottammare,
Jarvis, who lives in Grottamare, Italy, spotted
Swifts around a house by the railway
tracks. Here is what she saw! Some
brilliant person adapted this building
for Swifts. We know of lots of Swift
Towers in North East Italy, but this
is the first such site we have seen
in the Appennines. Are there more? Find
out and tell us!
and Aphids make up almost half the items
by Swifts for their young
in Antrim, Northern Ireland
- Chironomid Midge
Bottom - Aphid giving birth
What do Swifts eat? Mostly
Midges and Aphids
part of continuing research into Swifts'
diets, amateur naturalist Marian James examined 10 pellets excreted
by the juvenile Swifts in Mark Smyth's colony
in Antrim, Northern Ireland.
The results were as follows: There were in total 897 items or identifiable
Chironomids 25.7% - non biting midges (possibly Lough Neagh fly)
Psyllids 11.6% - sap
Lonchoptera 11.5% - small spear-winged flies
11.1% - water beetles
Phoridae 0.8% - hump-backed flies (resembling fruit
Sciaridae 0.7% - fungus gnats
Dolichopodidae 0.4% - long-legged
Muscids / Calliphorids 0.4% - house & stable flies / blow
Scathophagidae 0.3% - dung flies
Hemiptera 2.1% - bugs
0.1% - craneflies
with traces of
Hymenoptera - small solitary wasps
Coccinellidae - 11
The majority of catches was of very small, weak
fliers which become wafted by air currents and cannot escape. There was
also evidence of spiders, presumably caught at their dispersal or "ballooning"
can see that in Antrim, Swifts are catching a
wide range of flying insects for their
chicks, but that the biggest percentage
is of midges hatching from the local
lake. Marian James is
conducting further research using pellets
from juveniles in Swift colonies in Italy and Germany.
If you are interested in participating,
and have a supply of Swift pellets from chicks
a specific identified colony, you may contact
her by clicking here.
and New! Swift nestboxes for traditional house eaves
Giddy converted his eaves to house
4 pairs of nesting Swifts - he used a scaffold to access the eaves, and
boxed them in with integral
platforms (see right).
right - the result - a neat and sound home
for the Swifts, fitting in nicely with the
This sort of conversion to
provide nest places for Swifts replaces
during re-roofing. It's low-tech,
low-cost, easy, long lasting and effective.
If eveyone did this when they renovated
their house then Swifts wouldn't have lost
half their UK population in the past 20
© Roland Giddy
Swift Colonies set up in M'dina, Malta
a cessation of the infamous Spring
Shooting Season in Malta in 2009 (it has been reinstated
this year) Swifts bred in M'dina.
Mario Gauci discovered their nest, (below).
Swift flies over M'dina, Malta - not normally
best place in the world to be a wild bird!
© Mario V Gauci
to assist Swifts, Mario started a nest place
project - a series of Swift nestboxes fitted
into old ventilators on a building facade.
As you can see, the Swifts are already interested!
Council builds for Swifts
Council has installed 10 nest boxes at
their Regent's Park Estate to help reverse a decline in Swift populations.
"One of the reasons for the decline is modern construction practices which
render once-accessible nesting sites under roof eaves inaccessible. The installation of Swift nesting boxes in high-rise buildings is seen as one
way to counter-act this problem, providing suitable nesting sites for this
fascinating bird. In Camden, local surveys have established the Regent’s Park area as a
population stronghold. Using the opportunity we combined our high-rise
insulation programme on the estate with the installation of these specially
Camden tell us that more installations are planned
throughout the Borough. This is splendid news and we
hope this project will be a trend-setter throughout
the UK and in the EU too.
© London Borough of Camden
get more new homes in Northern Ireland
enthusiasts Norman Watterson and Adrian McElhone have been working
on a new Swift nestbox scheme at a modern industrial
building on the shores of fly-rich Lough Neagh, in Northern
Ireland. Swifts gather from miles around to feast on
the Lough Neagh flies. The new one-piece nest box has 12 separate compartments
for the Swifts; their food supply can be seen waiting
the left you can see the 12 place nest box
before it was fitted to the roof edge of
the Ballyronan Marina facilities building (right).
myriad black specks visible are the famous
Lough Neagh flies, which hatch from the
waters to provide food for thousands of
is believed that Swifts fly in from as far
away as Scotland to feed on this amazing
Homes for Swifts in East Dulwich, London
Victorian terraced house has been ingeniously renovated
to provide excellent accommodation for Swifts. The
arrow points to one of eleven Swift nest access holes,
built in to the under-eaves brickwork. This
is the creation of George Mavrias, who as you can imagine,
is keen on keeping Swifts flying over his home! It goes
to show that where there's a will there's a way, and
Swift nestplaces can be created and sustained in nearly
all types of buildings.
for Swift Attraction Calls CD
Cahalane of Northern Ireland set up his own Swift colony
used a Swift Calls CD to
attract the birds to a previously unused nesting area.
This is how he did it - you can do it too! Photo © Edward
"It is usually relatively easy to attract Swifts
to new nesting boxes by using a calls CD. Play the CD on a CD player
linked to a separate amplifier, use cheap speaker cable and as many speakers
as possible, each one right beside a nest box. I often have twelve speakers
going at once. I bought the cheapest and
smallest speakers you can buy. Play from late April onwards, continuously from dawn to
darkness as loud as you dare, and you will
attract Swifts. But it may take two seasons for them to nest.
I have been able to attract Swifts from a half mile away
and more. I conducted a simple experiment using my wife and son
and mobile phones. One was positioned at the house,
other a quarter of a mile away, and myself a half mile away.
It's almost a straight line from my house to the centre of the village.
A phone call from myself and the CD was switched on at my house at full volume,
I could hear it in the village. Swifts began to move towards my
house and I could observe them through my binoculars, when they passed my wife she rang me, and when they arrived at the house my son rang me.
I have 24 potential nesting sites and often have as many as ten speakers playing at once,
positioned at ten boxes. I now have a colony established!"
Conservation supplies a Swift Calls CD using recordings from Ulrich Tigges' Berlin Swift Colony. To
order click on the Swift button below.
Order a Swift Calls CD - click on the Swift!
Click on the Swift
to learn how to use the Swift Calls CD
For further information contact
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Thank you for your interest - Please help Swifts