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Regents Park, Southampton results 2022


Ron Cooke has even renamed his house! He put up his first Swift box in 2002 and it took till 2006 for the first box to be occupied. He has since put up well over a hundred boxes in the Regents Park area of Southampton, many of which are now occupied.

Within his core area of just three roads, the number of boxes installed has gone up from 44 to 55 in the last year, and amazingly the number of occupied boxes has gone up from 35 to 43 in 2022 - an increase of 23% in one year! And Ron tells me that Swift numbers are now getting back up to close what they were thirty years ago – all nesting in natural sites in those days of course.

Regents Park, Southampton

2022 total no. of boxes

2020 boxes occupied

2021 boxes occupied

2022 boxes occupied

King George’s Ave

15

6

5

9

​Prince of Wales Ave

32

24

24

28

​Westfield Road

9

5

6

6

55

35

35

43

He also has four cameras in the boxes, two on his house and two on a neighbour’s. This year for the first time ever, three chicks fledged from each of these – amazing! That’s twelve young fledged from just four boxes. The young are not ringed each year as they are at some other sites so we don’t know the total number of young that fledge from boxes in the area but it must be considerable. Ron takes down the boxes at the end of each season and puts them back up again the following April as that means that the boxes last longer and that House Sparrows don’t get a chance to colonise - its simple to do as they are on hooks. And he also removes any Swift louse-fly (Crataerina pallida) pupae that he finds.

And it should be borne in mind that precisely NONE of these Swifts would be nesting here if it hadn’t been for Ron putting up all these boxes. All the many natural nest sites that were here when Ron was a lad (he’s lived here all his life) were blocked up long ago by house owners doing repairs. When this is done with plastic the Swifts are lost permanently. Which is why I get a little hot under the collar when the RSPB and BTO put out what I consider to be misinformation about the cause of the decline of Swifts - because they haven’t done the right science.

Their latest claim is that the ‘our data suggest that falling first year survival, partly linked to wetter summers, may be the most likely demographic driver of population decline’. Come on guys, you can do much better than this. You don’t have to be a scientist to realise what the problem is – in fact it helps if you aren’t one apparently. As a member of both these great organisations it pains me to say that this makes no sense whatever. I think perhaps what they might have said was that ‘if we ignore the blindingly obvious cause of the decline of Swifts then this other factor, based on what appears to be very slim data, might also have had an effect around 30 years ago though since then the first year survival seems to have improved very slightly’.

Sometimes science is very good, and sometimes it’s not. Science is correctly a contested process, over time studies either confirm, contradict or nuance findings. I’ll have first dibs and say, as a non-scientist, but with common sense and a first-hand knowledge of the real problem, that first year survival is not the issue. Do the right science! The problem is loss of nesting sites and I believe these organisations should have realised this 15 years ago. The problem is now that we do not have the time to wait for them to correct this while we are losing up to 4% of the Swift population per annum while they are…. studiously looking the wrong way. We have little to no chance of convincing the Government to mandate the installation of a Swift brick in all new homes while they are blaming the decline of Swifts on the weather.

Tim Norriss


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