London's Swifts Our Projects

A few of our projects creating
& preserving places for Swifts

Pierrepont Farm, Surrey

Owned and managed by the Countryside Restoration Trust, Pierrpont Farm in Surrey is run as a dairy farm, with a herd of fine Jersey cows that use an auromated milking parlour, so they can come and go as they please, milking themselves whenever they feel the need!

In early September the Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT) with the aid of Swift Conservation erected a dozen Swift nest boxes into the clock tower at the new dairy at Pierrepont Farm at Frensham in Surrey, which won the Special Award for Rural Conservation last year as part of the Waverley Design Awards. This building has been constructed to be cow-friendly, farmer-friendly and wildlife-friendly and to blend into its rural setting. The CRT hopes in due course to attract Swifts into the timber clock tower, which houses the feed hopper.

Robin Page, CRT Chairman, says: "
The Swift is a fantastic bird. Each year more nesting sites are lost to development and modernisation. By creating these boxes and making them available in a modern building we are showing how room can be made for Swifts. We hope others will follow our example."

Photographs Countryside Restoration Trust


The clock tower at Pierrepont Farm (above) being inspected prior to fitting the nest places. Not much was required to do this, just a few pieces of board and some screws. If you would like our help to set up a similar project, just let us know!

It was easy to adapt the existing open eaves of the clock tower.

All that was needed was a few pieces of timber.

Vertical dividers were inserted and secured to provide separate compartments for each pair of Swifts, then a covering was provided to the nesting area, with entrance holes ready cut into it (see right-hand image).

To help the Swifts find the nest boxes next spring, speakers playing Swift calls will be placed next to the nest boxes, and broadcast the sounds of breeding Swifts to attract potential new occupants during the spring and summer.

Sometimes Swifts take a while to adopt new sites, but if it sounds like it is already being used they are more likely to find a site.

Swifts get new homes at Hackney and Gospel Oak rail stations

: The lift tower at Gospel Oak Overground Station, almost finished,and showing the timber soffit box feature.

Below right: The nestplaces created by simple adaptation of the existing soffit box to accommodate four Swift nest places.

Photos E Mayer  Swift Conservation 

We spotted opportunities for Swift nestboxes at Gospel Oak station, where new lift towers were being built to aid access to this station. With a lot of help from our supporters we found the right people to talk to, and in just a few short days the boxes were up, not just at Gospel Oak but at Hackney Central too!

his success was achieved by working closely with the Network Rail project. We expected it might take months or even years to get agreement and implementation, but it was only days. Now we are working on the possibility of repeating this at other sites. 



 Restored Reading Church gets 24 new Swift nest boxes

We've been working for most of this year with Richard Oxley of Oxley Conservation Ltd,  restoration advisers on this project, on plans to fit new Swift nest boxes to the spire of the Church of the Sacred Heart in Reading. It was always going to be a difficult and expensive job as the time we had to work in the spire was limited, and the scope of the project was potentially large.

Very helpfully, we were given time to visit the site, assess the situation, measure up and design boxes to fit. This, and the fact that Swifts were already nesting in the road, were the keys to success.

Luckily we found a Swift Angel in the form of Michael Shemilt, keen Swift enthusiast and activist in the nearby town of Henley-on-Thames, who very generously agreed to foot the bill for 24 new nest boxes, all made from recycled plastic plank by the
Filchris company.

Above right: The Church of the Sacred Heart, and across the road, a very hopeful sign!


Outside: on the left you can see one of the spire "windows". This is what the Swifts will see.

Just two of the four boxes are visible. You can also see that all other apertures are filled with steel mesh. This is to stop feral pigeons gaining access, but also to prevent Swifts making a mistake and getting trapped inside the tower and dying there.

 Inside: on the left you can see four nest boxes fitted behind round holes in the Spire's stone "windows".

There are eight boxes fitted on three of the four sides.

Our survey showed that of the four sides, three were easily accessible to Swifts, and so 24 boxes were fitted.

They are all made of recycled plastic plank, an economical and durable material with good insulation properties.

Photos Richard Oxley; Oxley Conservation Ltd. & E Mayer, Swift Conservation


111 New Cavendish St, London W1 gets Swift, Bird & Bat Boxes

Bat "tubes" & a bird box inset into the wall

Triple Swift nest box inside the plant room

Plant room exterior with 6 bat tubes visible

Swift, Pipistrelle Bat and Black Redstart / Wagtail nest places have been installed in the walls of roof top plant rooms high above Oxford Circus in Central London! The contractors, Faithdean plc, required a multi-species solution to improve biodiversity at this site to meet a Planning Requirement. Swift Conservation was asked to advise, and as a result five key urban species, all know to be present in or near the area, were selected for assistance; Swift, Pipistrelle Bat, Grey and Pied Wagtails, and Black Redstarts. By providing shelter plus food resources on an adjacent "green roof" it is hoped these species will move in and thrive.   Photos E Mayer - Swift Conservation

Lambeth Hospital & the London Borough of Lambeth

Steven Robinson, a Community Psychiatric Nurse at the Lambeth Hospital, was keen to see Swifts breeding there. With the help of Swift Conservation (who surveyed the site for nest box positions), Mitie, the Hospital's estates management team who fitted the boxes, and Lambeth Council's Parks & Green Spaces Team who obtained funding for the project from Veolia, he achieved his aim. Here you can see some of the boxes and the team fitting them to the walls of the ward blocks.

Photographs left Steven Robinson (SLaM) and right Iain Boulton (London Borough of Lambeth)

London Borough of Islington at Highbury & Islington
Swift Conservation was invited by Leanne Brisland and Andrew Bedford of the London Borough of Islington to advise on establishing Swift nestplaces at their Municipal Offices at Highbury and Islington. The 10 double chamber Schwegler boxes, shown above, were fitted by the local building management team, and have been installed in time for the 2007 nesting season. Some Swifts are already nesting nearby, so the chances for occupation are excellent, especially if, as is hoped, a sound system is installed and used to attract the birds.  Photos E Mayer / Leanne Brisland

Zoological Society of London - ZSL London Zoo

London Zoo's Bugs House            London Zoo's Mappin Terraces
ZSL London Zoo invited Swift Conservation to advise on setting up Swift colonies at the Zoo in Regent's Park. We picked two sites, the wide shaded eaves of the "Bugs!" house and the Bear cave in the Mappin Terraces. Both were set up early in 2003, and Swift call recordings were played to attract the birds. The first Swifts visited the "Bugs!" nest boxes in late Summer 2004, and have bred ever since, with two pairs breeding this year, 2012. The boxes used are Schwegler types, available from Jacobi Jayne and Co.    Photos Zoological Society of London and E Mayer.

London Borough of Barnet - Notting Hill Housing Trust

          London Borough of Barnet & Notting Hill Housing TrustLondon Borough of Barnet & Notting Hill Housing Trust
Local journalist Paul Harrison put together a pioneering project in New Barnet, bringing together Swift Conservation, the Notting Hill Housing Trust, the London Borough of Barnet and Higgins Contractors Ltd to achieve the Summer 2006 installation of Swift Brick nestboxes under the north-west facing eaves of this new community development on the corner of York Road and Gloucester Road. Photos E Mayer.

London Borough of Camden - Swiss Cottage
Swiss Cottage Swift Nestbricks     The Swiss Cottage Development
The London Borough of Camden was keen to improve biodiversity at its major project at Swiss Cottage, designed by Terry Farrell Architects. Swift Conservation was asked to advise on the installation of Schwegler Swift Bricks (just visible above as small holes) into walls where they are suitably high up and sheltered from the sun.  
Photos London Borough of Camden and EMayer.

St Mary's Church Chantry House - Henley-on-Thames
 St Mary's Church Chantry House            Chantry House temporary Swift Eaves
Our very first project! Oxley Conservation, the specialist building consultants managing this project, invited Swift Conservation to advise on ways to retain the locally-famous Swift colony during the works to replace the roof and completely repair and conserve this superb medieval building. Swift Conservation designed the temporary nesting eaves (see above right) which provided roosting space for the birds while works continued on the building. The roof was available again to the Swifts the following year, with their nests restored to the original eaves, and they have enjoyed successful breeding seasons ever since.
Much of the success of this project was due to the positive input and cooperation of the building contractors IJP Building Conservation.   Photos E Mayer.

Need Advice? Need advice? For more information contact Swift Conservation

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