We are making a difference – a huge difference in some areas. And little by little in many places the Swift population is starting to increase by the installation of lots of boxes. And the House Sparrow population is also increasing for the same reason as they love using the boxes too. Be in no doubt that the major cause of the decline of Swifts is changed building practices that have led to a colossal loss of nesting sites across the UK.
It just shows what can be achieved by putting up many Swift boxes in an area. The hardest part sometimes is getting the first pair in, but as Swifts attract Swifts it gets easier from then on. I’ve been told several times recently of boxes that have been occupied just a few weeks after installation which definitely brings a glow to the heart. Several of these were in the Highbury area of Cosham where we recently installed 18 boxes just before the Swifts returned. There is still a reasonable, though declining, population in the area according to the local folk that live there.
The existing Swift population nests mainly at the sides of the front gable overhangs which occur at the ends of each of the end of terrace properties. They were built in the mid-1930s so it is quite possible that the colony in this area has been here for around 80 years! I wonder if there are folk of that age that have lived here all their lives that can remember them as a child? The reason why the nest entrances have generally not already been blocked up is because the nests are not over bedrooms so residents will often not be aware they are nesting there.
And of course by the 1950s, when the council house building programme was really getting going, the designs were very different and it’s the loss of nesting sites in those, caused by the recent and ongoing replacement/over-cladding of timber fascias and soffits with uPVC that has been so catastrophic to our populations of urban birds. You need to understand just a little bit about housing and construction – not just Swifts – to understand the major reason for the decline of these birds. It is this that I will be stressing to the scientist from the British Trust for Ornithology when he comes to visit Hampshire Swifts this week.
But we are only a small team and we desperately need more volunteers:
Helping with summer events where Hampshire Swifts have a stand.
Help with organising the putting up of boxes occasionally and having a day out with Roger to stand on the bottom of the ladder when required.
Commenting on planning applications with the aim of greatly increasing the provision of permanent nest sites (swift bricks) in new developments.
Putting the Swift records that come in via our website and elsewhere onto an excel spreadsheet.
Surveying for Swifts. This can cover as big or small an area as you are happy or have time to do, and we can provide information and help on the best way to do it. This is key to what we do because we have to understand where our Swifts are in natural sites, and to monitor their success in boxes each year in various areas. And then to publish that data on our website. It is only by doing that that we counter the misinformation that loss of insects is the cause of Swift decline.
And we also need some slightly younger folk to start to get involved and learn about what we do so that when required we have a legacy in place ready and willing to take up the reins. We need everyone to understand the problems sufficiently that they can talk with confidence to developers, planners, councillors and politicians about how they can help to address the problem of our declining urban birds.
So if you love Swifts and are coming up to retirement or have just retired, or have some spare time on your hands, or if you are younger and passionate about helping to preserve our declining urban wildlife, volunteering with us could be something interesting and worthwhile to occupy your time.
Please do get in touch using the Contact Us tab above or my email below. Any contribution however small will be much appreciated. Just a little time and passion is all that’s required.