London's Swifts Swift Conservation News

Liverpool's new Everyman Theatre wins the RIBA Stirling Prize and has ten Swift Bricks in its walls!

7th August The Royal Institute of British Architects has 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 (prefabricated 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. 

The Everyman Theatre beat Renzo Piano's Shard, and the Zaha Hadid's Olympics Aquatic Centre amongst other iconic buildings to win the prize, and we like to think that its many eco-friendly features, Swift Bricks  helped in this respect.



Photo ©  MSM / Swift Conservation

Full Sutton Prison may soon get some winged inmates!

The 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 by Government. 

The 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.

The 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



Photo © HM Ministry of Justice

Waitrose 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.

To 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.

Local 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.

A 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!



 "We're 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 Partnership
Photo © Waitrose plc 

 

 


Photo
© Thais Martins


Swifts get their own digs at
Camborne's Cornwall College

Thais 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.


As 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" course!

Here's hoping for that and some new Swifts too!

 

 

New homes for Swifts on the Loire

Here's a 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.

A 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 delicious food.

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 put up!

 



 Photo © Carolyn Knowlman

The Cambridge International Swift Conference 2104 - a brilliant success!



Above:  Lyndon Kearsley (centre, facing right) of Belgium explains a point to Giorgio Paesani of Italy during a break in the sessions in the Parkside Community College

Above Right: 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

The Cambridge International Swift Conference proceedings Click on the Swift
to see the Summary Proceedings - fascinating! 



April 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 and Planners.

Included for 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 project.

Highlights from 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.

Immaculately 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.              
Photos
© M S Mayer


Swifts get homes at Tottenham Court Road Underground Station

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.

Photos ©  (above) London Underground & (left) Taylor Woodrow BAM Nuttall


Linenhall Arts Centre in County Mayo, Eire, gets its nest boxes up!


Lynda 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 up 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. 

Photos above: the new Linenhall nest boxes going up (right) and in situ (left) © Lynda Huxley



 

At Galway 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. See  www.gmit.ie/mayo-campus/swift-live-streaming. The project at the college was jointly funded by a Local Agenda 21 grant, GMIT and staff (who sponsored all the cameras)."

 Lynda has also put up nest boxes at two schools in the county!

That is not all! She has published and distributed 3000 copies of a lovely little book about Swifts "I am a Swift" with 1500 copies being ordered by Environmental Awareness Officers in 7 counties around Ireland.  Quite a set of achievements, and we are sure there is a lot more to come!

Photo above: A local school class visits GMIT to view some of their nest boxes © Lynda Huxley 

 

 

img1.jpg
The re-pointing 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.

Ludlow Swift Group thanks Caring for God’s Acre for its support and hopes they can 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 Sams, Shropshire

The Church of St James the Apostle, Wigmore in Herefordshire

The Church of St James the Apostle, (left) 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 or worse.


Following 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 rafters


   
img11.jpgPhotos © Peta Sams

 

 

Amboise - new homes for Swifts
 
Carolyn Knowlman writes to us from Amboise in the famously beautiful and fertile Touraine area of France, sending us these photos of Swift nest boxes going up on her own and neighbours' buildings.

A first for the area, which still has very good populations of Swifts nesting in eaves and gables. But with the essential need for building renovation and insulation, such nest places are in acute danger of being lost, hence the interest in installing boxes for these wonderful birds to continue to nest in.

If you require invisibility, then Swift nest boxes can be installed internally. They will then be completely invisible from the outside, and internally can be tucked into minimal spaces in the eaves, out of the way and safe from disturbance.                  
Please contact us for the details if this is of interest to you.


 Photos © Carolyn Knowlman

 

 

London's Whittington Hospital

The 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.

The prominent position and playing of Swift calls should ensure that Swifts will  take up the nests before too long.


 
Photos © Simon Walker at Ecolab Ltd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 St Michael's School, Ballyfermot, Eire

Helen 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 Swifts.

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.

 
Photos © Dublin Swift Conservation Group

 

 

 

 

Bishop's Castle project completed!

This 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.

The brainchild of Peta Sams (who runs the
Ludlow Swift 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.

 
Photos © Peta Sams

Military areas on Salisbury Plain
get some much-needed Swift nests

The 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.

 Left: 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.
We 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 consequences!
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! 
Photos © Major Nigel Lewis

 

 

Zielona Gora, South Eastern Poland

 Jacub Marcinowski is the designer behind the setting up of two new Swift Towers in the South Eastern town of Zielona Gora in Poland.

This 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

 

 

Swift nestboxes 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 north-east-facing gable.

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 nesting boxes.

We are keeping our fingers crossed for Patrick and his Swifts!
  

 

 

New Swift Tower at Yorkshire reserve

  



Rodley 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 inhabitants.

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 more information
 
Contributed 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 Lund

 

 

  
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 .

 

This is 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

 

 

Ove Claessen who farms inland from Gothenberg, in Sweden, has sent us these lovely photos

He writes
" The Swift call I got from you attracted two new nesting Swift pairs to my farm. Some evenings we have about 20 Swifts circulating between the farm's houses. Never have there been so many Swifts here, not even twenty years ago, when we had five nesting pairs on the farm. The Swift pairs nest under tiles on the residential building, 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 Swifts call . Hoping that they nest there next year! Many thanks for your help!"                                                                                      Photos ©  Ove Claessen

 

 
An 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!

Stunning photos from Barcelona

 
Laurent 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.

Here 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 (left, below).

By looking closely you can see just how they fly, with each wing beat shown clearly.

You can see many more at his Blog site by clicking
here

 


Photos ©  Laurent Godel




 

 

5284 Stimpson Nest Boxes Sold!

John Stimpson, 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 5384 of them, to all parts of the UK and now to France too.

Sales 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 summers!

Opposite is a photo of a young Swift looking out from one of John's boxes, fitted to a building in Dunblane, Scotland.


Photo © Anne Youngman BCT

More Successes with Nest Boxes! 

Bob Freeman sent us this brilliant photo of a Swift leaving one of his Schwegler nestboxes in South Shields. 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.

 Photo © Robert Freeman

Another 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.

Here again, Sparrows moved in first, but then Swifts moved into both boxes. Never forget, Swifts can fly almost as fast as Andy Murray's tennis balls!

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


A 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 us know!



The famous historic Viaduct in Slaithwaite, West Yorkshire dominates the valley.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

 
The 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

 






A 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.

Photo © Brenda Campbell

Antrim's 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.

Things are starting to happen! 11 Swift Bricks have been installed in Antrim's Oriel Gallery, (formerly known as The Long Barn), others at the new Train and Bus Station, and no less than 37 at Greenmount College!

It's 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!

2013 - A very bad year for Swifts

Early 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 down sharply.

With the recent much warmer 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 September. 




Very sadly, 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.

.
Bob Freeman (see News item above) had nest boxes up for 10 years, and now
Swifts have moved in!  It is always worth the wait.....

Photo © Robert Freeman



From 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....

"Prefabricated 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. ........... "  

But 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  Arch Group Architects, Moscow 

New Homes for Moscow's Swifts?



Photo © Arch Group Architects, Moscow

New 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!

The 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 Page for more details.
For information on using the Cheg Shen amplifier please contact
Dick Newell
Photos © Steven Robinson 

Another Swift Tower goes up in Northern Ireland
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 of Swift  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.
Photo © Brian Cahalane: Northern Ireland Swift Group

Dublin puts up some Swift Nest Boxes
 
Photos © Alan Hester / Dublin City Council 

We 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.



Her
e 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 Quay.

Cullompton's Library gets Swift homes

Stephen 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."


Photo © John Baggley  NPS South West Ltd

Above 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 summer skies.

 

 

Frankfurt's Swifts take up new boxes

  

These 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 see.

This is the work of Ingolf Grabow and the
Frankfurt Swift Group 2010, and they are starting to get results.

With 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 standards. 

Photos © Ingolf Grabow FMI 2010

 

 

More nest opportunities created in
historic Brussels apartments


Martine 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.

These 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.

 This feature was used to provide eight new self-contained Swift nest places.

   
Photographs © Martine Wauters

Above left: the apartment block showing the extended windowsill. Above right: the adaptation to house Swift nest places.

 

 

New Swift Tower at Belfast
Bus Station

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 in Belfast.

Built by the Stoneyford Engineering Company to Brian's specifications, this prefabricated tower can be delivered ready-made to any site in Europe for a very modest overall cost.

Find out more by e-mail - use
this link to Christy Cush at Stoneyford

Photo © Bran Cahalane

 

 

Amazing news on Swift Migration

For 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.

When these are recovered from Swifts that have migrated to
and from Africa, they can reveal their route with some accuracy.

The results 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.

In 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.

Find out more -
See the BTO's full report at this web site
See the full Swedish results
here

img1.gif
The flight of A320, a Swift tagged at Fowlmere on 22 July 2010 and recovered on its return on 8 May 2011.

This Swift spent significant periods (the blobs) 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.

This information greatly augments and improves on previous ringing results, but quite a bit of it does match local observations made by skilled bird watchers.
Map diagram © British Trust for Ornithology

 

 

Swift Tower Competition Winner

This 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.

Click here for further information (in Polish)           Visit STOP here
left: details of the boxes


The 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

New Swift homes in Teignmouth


                                                                   Photo © 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 17A "triple" box fitted behind the cladding.

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. 
 

Great news from Exeter
RSPB volunteer gets amazing results...

Above: 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 Trust

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 properties.

Of course a degree of flexibility to make sure that unsuitable locations are not used, but a ratio of one nest box per residential unit is the aim.

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.

Even 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 the UK.

See a special feature on the "Good Practice Guidance"
here

Download the Town & Country Planning Association / Wildlife Trusts "Good Practice Guidance" documents (inc Annex C) here

For more information please contact Stephen
here

Caution!
Low flying Swifts!


This 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.

The 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.

Let's hope this good idea gets copied elsewhere!

Photo supplied by the Frankfurt Swift Group: see here for lots more information
 


We visit the Swifts of Andalucia - millions of them!


What 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 and.... Swifts!

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.

See our videos! Just click on the blue logos to go to You Tube

Swifts at the Alhambra Palace Hotel, Granada  Swifts at the Alhambra Palace Hotel, Granada

Swifts over Malaga  Swifts over Malaga

Swifts over Ubeda  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 in    
© Edward Mayer www.swift-conservation.org

 

 

St Rémy, Molenbeek, Brussels

A new Swift nestbox project in Belgium - designed by Dick Newell and project managed by Martine Wauters of the Municipality of Molenbeek
The 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 of Molenbeek


Above: t
he team that installed the boxes - helping Swifts is fun!
Below 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.
Below right: a Swift's eye-view of the prospect from the nest. Not bad!

 


Swifts get 500 new nest places in Baku, Azerbaijan


New Nests for the Swifts of Baku's famous 8th Century BC Maiden Tower

The Maiden Tower, a highly important 8th Century BC national monument in Baku's UNESCO World Heritage Old Walled City, Icherisheher, is being conserved after many years of weather damage.

Holes 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.

Leyla Aliyeva, 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 Swifts with alternative nest places. A nearby site was selected, and the Administration of Icherisheher, through its specialist restoration contractor 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.

Checks 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.

Left above: The 8th Century BC Maiden Tower, undergoing conservation; on the right, the new Swift nest boxes installed on the wall of an adjacent building

See the video of the Swifts checking out their new nest boxes here

Left: Close-up showing the postions of loudspeakers within some of the nestboxes, used to play Swift calls to attract the Swifts to nest in them

Far 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 boxes were 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.

Swift Conservation provided Swift 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.


Berlin 2012 - the 2nd International Swift Seminars conference


Photos © Edward Mayer www.swift-conservation.org   Presentation © Lukáš Viktora CSO

Swifts are getting much more attention:

The 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 amazing bird.

Decline across Europe appears to be consistent, and closely linked to trends in renovation and insulation of the building stock.

Figures from the Czech Republic (left) match the UK's very closely.

Ulrich 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?"


Zaragoza puts up nestplaces for its Pallid Swifts

   

Up 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.    

Photos © 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.

Threatened 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.

The 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.

We are all hoping for a very successful breeding season for this colony in 2012 and for a long time ahead. 

Below: 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 Station.      

      

                        


St Peter & St Paul keep Swifts safe at their Church in Lingfield


The late Roland Giddy, local Swift expert in Surrey, was instrumental in saving a major Swift colony in the roof of St Peter & St Paul's Lingfield.

Local neighbours & Swift enthusiasts Ian & Pat Smith were concerned the Swifts nesting under the massive stone roof were potentially under threat from renovations.

So 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.


Heritage Roofers Clarke Roofing Southern Ltd (www.clarke-roofing.co.uk) performed the works, ensuring that the old nest places were retained.

The old stone tiles were removed, the nest positions between them and the roofing membrane were noted, and retained under the replaced stone tiles.

The result: plenty of nest places ready for the Swifts when they return in may 2012.

Top left: roofers remove the old roof, revealing debris from the old nests.
Lower left: a view of the church & the Swift roof
Top right: the new roof goes on, using recovered stone tiles
Lower right: just about finished!


Photos (roof) © Ian Smith; (church) © Edward Mayer


Guernsey's Swifts get a Reprieve and New Homes

Vic Froome, our man on Guernsey, has helped save a major Swift Colony:

Demolition 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 put them 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!


Left: 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. 

Upper 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.

Photographs © Vic Froome

Ealing and Niblock get it right first time... with a little help from Beth!

Photograph © Beth Hales

A 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.

Swifts usually 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!

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 programme.

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 metal 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!

 

A Very Nice Swift Story

SWIFTS by Abbie Hart aged 6 years and 1 month 

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

Where Swifts still nest in ancient trees..... the Bialowieza Primeval Forest, Poland

In 2011 we visited the magnificent Bialowieza Primeval Forest in North East Poland. What a superb place!

And what 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.

They 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.

We 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 such places.

Visit Bialowieza soon - such beauty cannot last.



Above: 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)

The National Archives hopes to host Swifts at Kew with its new nest boxes

The National Archives at Kew have installed some Swift nest boxes!

They 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.

Situated 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

WWT puts up Swift Boxes on its Tower Hide at the London Wetlands Centre

Swifts should love these nest boxes built beneath the eaves of the Tower Hide at the London Wetlands Centre just across the Thames from Hammersmith.

The pools of the Wetlands Centre provide masses of flying insects for Swifts to feed on, and many Swifts already visit the Centre just to feed.

On 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.

Photos © Wildlfowl & Wetlands Trust

Swifts get a Tower at the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover



Here we see Terry and his team mate Ray putting 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

Staff 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.

Inspired 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.

Visit the
Hawk Conservancy to see the Tower and lots more - their flight displays of raptors are just amazing!



Dulwich Park's Buildings are fitted with Swift nestboxes

Dulwich 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.

Watch this space!


Photos © Steven Robinson

Tesco Puts up a Swift Tower in Crumlin, Northern Ireland

 

 



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 and 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 in Crumlin.

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. 

It is hoped that Tesco's example will encourage other supermarkets to  follow their lead.


Photos © Brian Cahalane

Hannover's Bethlehem Church gets Swift Nest Boxes!

Rose-Marie Schulz, a Swift Activist in Hannover, Germany, has been running Swift projects for some years now.

Here is her latest, fitting 24 nestboxes to the Bethlehem Church, with the help of a large team of helpers, some shown here.

You can 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 local landmarks.

There's not a minute to be lost.......
                                                             
Photos © Rose-Marie Schulz

Stevenage's Lister Hospital & the London Olympics get Swift Nest Boxes

Herts & 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.

It 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 and gables.

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 Hill HMWT

We worked with the London Olympics 2012 project startimg in 2004, with the aim of providing nest site location advice and training as part of their commitment to biodiversity.

We eventually got 70 + Swift nestboxes intsalled 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

New Swift nest place projects, old and new, from Belgium & Italy





Scaffold Pole Holes = Swift Nests!

Swifts 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 renovation.

They 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.

No 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!



Left - Photos © Jean-Claude Hardy 
Above - Photo © Aline Spriet

 


New nestholes a-plenty in Melegnano!

Left: 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.

Everyone 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 

Project Advice & Design: Mauro Ferri of the
Veterinary Service / Local Health Agency of Modena, and Luca Ravizza, Municipality of Melegnano
Client: The Parish of Melegnano
Contractor: GASPAROLI s.r.l. (Gallarate, VA),
Project Manager: Arch. G. Arricobene
 


Photo © Eve Templeton

The colony's nest holes can be seen under the eaves and also under the window to the right of and just below the tower.

Swifts get a Good Deal in Cortona, Italy

A 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.

Most 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.

These projects can help to replace Swift nests lost in other building re-developments, & vital if Swifts are to survive!



Photo © Eve Templeton

 

 

 

 


Photo ©
Edward Mayer


Photo © EMayer

New nests for Swifts in Modena, Italy

Modena, an exceptionally beautiful city, has a wealth of ancient historic buildings of supreme cultural value. Amongst these is the Cathedral and its Tower.

The 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.

On 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.

Simple, cheap, effective! So why doesn't everyone do it?

More Swift Houses in Grottammare, Italy


Margaret 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!


Photos © M Jarvis 

 

 

What do Swifts eat? Mostly Midges and Aphids

 

 

 

 

 


Midges and Aphids make up almost half the items taken
by Swifts for their young in Antrim, Northern Ireland

Top - Chironomid Midge
© Entomart;
Bottom - Aphid giving birth
© MedievalRich 

As 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 categories:

Chironomids 25.7% - non biting midges (possibly Lough Neagh fly)
Aphids 18.0%
Psyllids 11.6% - sap sucking insects
Lonchoptera 11.5% - small spear-winged flies
Coleoptera 11.1% - water beetles
Phoridae 0.8% - hump-backed flies (resembling fruit flies)
Sciaridae 0.7% - fungus gnats
Dolichopodidae 0.4% - long-legged flies
Muscids / Calliphorids 0.4% - house & stable flies / blow flies
Scathophagidae 0.3% - dung flies
Hemiptera 2.1% - bugs
Tipulid 0.1% - craneflies
with traces of
Hymenoptera - small solitary wasps
Coccinellidae - 11 spot ladybird
 

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" stage.


We 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 at a specific identified colony, you may contact her by clicking here.  

 


Neat and New!  Swift nestboxes for traditional house eaves

The late Roland 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 nesting platforms (see right).
Above right - the result - a neat and sound home for the Swifts, fitting in nicely with the eaves detail. 


This sort of conversion to provide nest places for Swifts replaces others lost 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 years.

Photos © Roland Giddy

 New Swift Colonies set up in M'dina, Malta

Following 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). 

A Swift flies over M'dina, Malta - not normally the best place in the world to be a wild bird!

 
Photos © Mario V Gauci

Determined 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!

 

Camden Council builds for Swifts

 

Camden 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 designed brick-boxes."

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.         

Photo © London Borough of Camden

 

Swifts get more new homes in Northern Ireland

Swift 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 for them!

On 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).

The myriad black specks visible are the famous Lough Neagh flies, which hatch from the waters to provide food for thousands of Swifts.

It is believed that Swifts fly in from as far away as Scotland to feed on this amazing resource.
Photos © Mark Smyth


Ideal Homes for Swifts in East Dulwich, London

 

This 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.

Photos © George Mavrias

 

Brighton gets Swift Nest Places & Green Walls too!

   
New homes for Swifts! The Jury's Inn project built by the Macaleer & Rushe Group, under the planning auspices of Brighton and Hove City Council, is just outside Brighton's railway station. It is fitted with nest boxes for Swifts, a prime urban species at high risk of local extinction, that with luck will find them and move in. The facilities also include "Green Wall" vertical habitats, good for beneficial insects like bees.   Photos © Ben Kimpton The Ecology Consultancy 

 

 

Success for Swift Attraction Calls CD
Brian Cahalane of Northern Ireland set up his own Swift colony

He 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 Mayer

"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, the 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!"




Swift Conservation supplies a Swift Calls CD using recordings from Ulrich Tigges' Berlin Swift Colony. To order click on the Swift button below.

Swift Calls CD's Order a Swift Calls CD - click on the Swift!

How to use Swift Calls Click on the Swift to learn how to use the Swift Calls CD

Contact Swift Conservation For further information contact Swift Conservation

Back to Contents Back to Contents

Thank you for your interest - Please help Swifts