Help save Aldeburgh’s Amazing Swifts
Few birds stir the passion in people like the Swift. On our summer evenings, whether you’re in your garden, sitting outside your local pub or walking through a church yard, the sight and sound of screeching Swifts can stir the senses and stay in children’s hearts throughout their lives
Aldeburgh has attracted Swifts for many years because its historic architecture has provided many nesting sites, but Swift numbers are falling rapidly due to modern building methods and our wish to refurbish and insulate our houses without thinking about who else lives there.
Just imagine it – you head south to your winter home as summer ends but when you and your children return the following May to your favourite holiday home, you find that someone has bricked over your front door and you must start searching for somewhere else to stay. Not easy when you’ve come back to the same cottage every year throughout your life.
This is the reality for Aldeburgh’s Amazing Swifts.
But YOU can help stop this decline.
Install a nest box, instruct your builder or architect to provide for a Swift hole in the roof during your refurbishment or install a Swift brick in any new building; and the great news is that they don’t make any mess!
There are many websites you can visit to get further information:-
If you have a nesting Swift at your house in Aldeburgh, please call Alan Collett on 07762 300050 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can draw up a map of known nest sites. Act now by supporting the Save Aldeburgh’s Amazing Swifts campaign before the thrilling sight and sound of Swifts fades into a distant memory…
Aldeburgh Times article March 2018
Who’s been sleeping in my bed…?
You may well have noticed that even at the beginning of February Blue Tits and Great Tits were checking out your nest boxes ahead of this year’s breeding season, despite the fact that, at the time of writing, winter seemed far from over. This may indeed be what they were doing but does this mean your boxes will only be used in the summer?
BBC’s Winter Watch had stunning film clips of Long-tailed Tits huddled together on a branch trying to keep warm and you may have often wondered where all the birds go at night. Many will hide under bushes, in the reeds out on the marsh or under whatever protection they can find but it is quite possible that, unbeknown to you, they may be roosting in your nest box – and they may well be squatting in someone else’s house while the intended resident is away on holiday.
Whilst testing our Swift nest box camera recently we were surprised to find the bird pictured below all snuggled up in our box. Certainly not a Swift given that they are sunning themselves 7,500 miles away in Africa – so who is it? Each evening she arrives at 4.30pm and leaves just before 7.30am so this ball of feathers sleeps for fifteen hours (on one leg) stirring only occasionally to fluff up her duvet.
So don’t wait until the spring to put up a nest box; do leave it out over the winter months as you may well provide a night-time home for one of our winter residents which literally could mean the difference between life and death. It may also help secure you a tenant for the summer.
So have you worked out who she is?
A Great Tit
Aldeburgh Times article January 2018
A date for your calendar!
Now you’ve hung up your new 2018 calendar here’s a date to put on it … May 7th. On this day Aldeburgh’s Swifts will start to arrive – yes, they really are that predictable and they will be the last of our aerial acrobats to arrive. The Swallows and House Martins will have beaten them back from Africa. Last year’s parents will return to the exact same nest they used last summer but this year our Swifts will have a few new houses to inspect thanks to the many local residents who have supported our local campaign to put up nest boxes.
The challenges of flying back from their winter migration are not to be underestimated and every year we expect our migrants just to turn up again. But this expectation is under threat. Songbird numbers are declining dramatically and one of the biggest threats is the reduction in their food supply. Recent research from Germany reveals that insect numbers have fallen by 75% in the last 25 years and this study was carried out on a number of nature reserves which you would have expected to be able to maintain their insect population.
The latest thinking is that the pesticide neonicotinoids is a key culprit in killing our bees and insects and it is good to see that the Government has recognised this threat and is now backing the proposed EU wide ban on these pesticides. The film, The Messenger, shown in Aldeburgh cinema back in December, highlighted this as a global problem and if you didn’t get a chance to see the film, then do make a point of doing so. Unfortunately this is just one more threat to our wildlife so make a diary note to sow some wildflower seeds in the spring – you may not own a meadow but no flower pot is too small!
Aldeburgh Times – November 2017
Aldeburgh Times article August 2017
Swifts, Swallows and House Martins are all summer visitors to Aldeburgh but the Swifts are the last to arrive, usually at the beginning of May, and the first to leave.
By the time you read this article, summer will be well underway but soon our Swifts will be packing their bags for an amazing journey south.
In early August, Aldeburgh’s Swifts will be getting ready to start the long migration to their warmer winter homes in Africa, a journey not without its perils. That said, summer in Suffolk can have its challenges as our photo shows. This one year old, seen resting rather uncomfortably in a shoe box, was brought down in the storms at the beginning of June (successfully released!) and the downpours we had on 10th July may well have taken their toll too. Unlike other birds, Swifts don’t land so they can’t shelter from the wind and rain.
Swifts usually raise two or three chicks, which take six to seven weeks to fully fledge. The young birds literally do press ups in their nest using their wings and tails to get their strength up ready to fly, as once the birds leave their nest they may not land again for the next three years. During that time they are likely to fly over 14,000 miles a year.
The winter migration route will take them down through Western Europe, into North Africa and then on to central Africa and the Congo. Here they will live until the long flight back to their breeding grounds at the beginning of May, returning each year to the same nest, providing the holes they use haven’t been filled by winter roofing work. Please bear this in mind if you are proposing to re-roof your house soon!
Aldeburgh Gazette article 14th July 2017
Our Swifts, which arrive in May and leave in August, are under threat due to the work we carry out to our homes which blocks up their nesting holes. This is a particular problem for Swifts as they return to the same nest every year and we are hoping to raise local awareness of this problem.
My wife and I launched our ‘Help save Aldeburgh’s Amazing Swifts’ campaign at the end of May to support other Suffolk based campaigns, but at a local level. Little did we know that we would be carrying out our first Swift rescue two weeks later following the storms on 6th June. See the story on the Latest News page of our website aldeburghsamazingswifts.co.uk.
To help raise awareness of our cause, we hope you will have seen our flags around the town flying in the summer wind – a big thank you to all our flag flyers!
So what can be done to help our summer visitors enjoy their all too brief visit to Aldeburgh? Firstly, if you are doing some refurbishment works, ask your builder to leave a nesting hole in your roof, particularly if you think you might have an existing nest site. If you are undertaking a new build project please look into installing a Swift brick. Local builders, please help us in this regard!
Secondly, you can put up a nesting box. Ideally these should be on a north facing wall at least 5 metres high. But this is not essential – check out the helpful information on installing nest boxes and Swift bricks on the swift-conservation.org website. And the good news is that Swifts don’t make a mess so you will be very happy to have them as tenants!
Thirdly, please get in touch with us if you know you have a swift nesting in your house so that we can build up a picture of existing nest sites around the town. Or, if you would like advice on putting up a nesting box, give us a call.
And finally, visit our pop-up stall in the High Street (outside Deben Willow Care) on Saturday 15th and 22nd July to look at sample nest boxes or just to learn a bit more about our Swifts.
In the meantime check out our website aldeburghsamazingswifts.co.uk or for a lot more information about swift conservation in Suffolk generally, visit actionforswifts.blogspot.com or suffolkwildlifetrust.org