Is Climate Change having an impact on our Swifts?
Last summer many rescued Swifts were being found underweight and seem to have been jumping out of the nest due to hunger. Whilst we can’t be sure of this, a lack of food may have been the cause. Much has been written about the reduction in insects and this has led us to launch a Green & Clean community initiative here in Aldeburgh to start a conversation about what we as a community can do, in some small way, to help stop the advance of our changing climate.
Aldeburgh is particularly at risk due to rising sea levels, an eroding coastline, marine pollution and wildlife habitat loss. We all need to do something now. Visit our library to find out what we are doing and how you can help. Thank you.
A few Swifts are still being seen over town heading south …it’s going to be a long wait until May 7th 2020 when our birds return.
Our two chicks flew to Africa in the early morning of Monday 12th August. These are the first young to be raised in a nest box in Aldeburgh but the prospects for next year are already looking good with at least four other boxes to our knowledge being ‘reserved’ for next year.
George, our last rescue (hopefully), surprised us and was ready to fly on Tuesday. After showing no signs of flapping or exercising until Monday evening, he seems anxious to fly the following morning and with no hesitation took to the skies at 10am.
Swift chicks which have been rescued across Suffolk and indeed elsewhere in the UK, are showing signs of malnutrition this year and there is growing concern that the lack of insects is causing a food shortage for our birds.Government please take note and start taking action now.
Our screeching juvenile Swifts have left town and set off on their journey to Africa. Most went a week ago but more birds were seen flying south over town today. The few who remain will the be the adults with babies in their nests and it is hoped that these will be safely on their way shortly. The two chicks in our box have still to leave but are making regular appearances at the entrance in preparation for departure.
Two of our rescues, one who has been with us since 11 July, were safely released over the weekend but one little baby, found in Westleton, was brought to us last night weighing just 19grams. He is likely to be with us for a couple of weeks so if he makes it into the sky he will making the journey probably on his own
From dawn until dusk our Swifts continue to put on an impressive show. But we are also into the rescue season and a number of Swifts have already been brought to us – four are currently in our care and all seem to be putting on weight well. Three rescued adults have been safely released but a couple of little ones didn’t survive the trauma of falling out of their nest.
If you ever thought all Swifts look alike, trust me they don’t and they certainly don’t behave in the same way. At a young age they already have different characters – some get excited at the prospect of food, some just sit there waiting for the waiter to bring a dish of wax worms and crickets; some like food, some don’t; but find a matching pair and they will snuggle up together for hours.
Most of us never see a Swift close up but below is The Duchess, aptly named due to her stunning markings and svelte shape who was found at the bottom of the Town Steps.
Please read our section on ‘Nest Boxes and Injured Swifts’ to find out what to do if you find a Swift on the ground. In short, pick the bird up straight away and put it in a box for safety and never throw it up in the air ! The risks of leaving a bird on the ground are that a cat or dog may find it and cause a fatal injury or flies may land on it and cause infection. Call us immediately, any time of the day or night, and we will offer advice and care.
It looks as though our two nesting pairs are down to one. An egg was found on the ground and the birds do not seem to be returning to feed anyone. But they are still flying around so hopefully next year will see their return.
In the evenings the Swifts are putting on a good show in the early mornings and late evenings and more natural nest sites have been identified around town. Around the Cragg Sisters tea shop at the bottom of the Town Steps is the best viewing location and definite interest, if not reservation for next year, has been observed at their nest boxes.
Great news! We think we have nesters in the two end boxes. The only problem is that the cameras are in the other two!!
Swift numbers seem to be down quite a bit on last year but three pairs were flying over our house yesterday and two pairs visited our nest boxes this morning so hopefully others are just returning too.
7th May 2019
Our Swifts return…
20 Swifts were seen over North Warren on Monday 6th May and two were over the town on the 7th.
The bird migratory system is still working….
Aldeburgh’s ‘Welcome back’ fortnight is underway – look out for our flags and banners…
…and enjoy a ‘Swift’ cappuccino at some of our cafes.
Update 13th April 2019
A Swift was sighted a couple of weeks ago off Portland Bill but the latest news is that groups are now starting to cross over Gibraltar on their way north. Hopefully Aldeburgh’s Swift will arrive here on May 7th, although the warmer weather may well have tempted them north earlier.
Update 19th September 2018
The second of our Swifts was successfully released on 23rd August, much to our relief.
Update 21st August 2018
One of our young Swifts made it into the sky today to start her long journey to Africa. ‘Her’ brother didn’t want to go so hopefully the weather holds for a safe release later in the week.
And the Carnival is over…but our Swifts weren’t left out as they featured on our beer mats and in the shops!
Update 13th August 2018
Our Swifts have all left…well, not all!
Due to the late spring and breeding season, there may well be some young still in their nests and therefore some adults who will be hanging on to do the feeding.
The last couple of weeks have seen a number of young needing to be rescued – one of our rescued birds, found in Saxmundham, unfortunately didn’t make it as he just couldn’t fly upwards. It was a bit of a mystery as his wings were well formed but clearly there was something we couldn’t see which impaired his flight.
But we still have two little ones with us who were found in Leiston. They are feeding well and spend hours huddled next to each other awaiting their next feed of waxworm maggots. Hopefully they will be ready to fly within a week…when they will be straight off to Africa.
Update 28th July 2018
Bon voyage! Our Swifts started leaving today. Hundreds of Swifts were seen flying south over Aldeburgh during Saturday evening, ahead of the approaching rains. But strong southerly winds wouldn’t have made the start of their journey an easy one. Some of this year’s young may have still not left the nest as the breeding season started late but the good weather we have had may well have helped accelerate their growth. So the next few days will be your last chance to see the sight of our screaming Swifts this year.
As for Star, she was successfully released on Friday and will now be making her way to Africa.
Update 24th July 2018
Star is growing well although she seems a bit reluctant to tackle her climbing wall! But she continues to feed well and is happy to pose for pictures.
Update 23rd July 2018
Groups of Swifts have been active around town both at high and low levels during the past week and this weekend. But this morning at 7am the skies were noticeably empty.
Now is the time when sometimes the young leave the nest too early and can be found struggling on the ground. One such bird was found last week in Snape and is currently being cared for – there is every chance that he/she will be able to fly in the coming week. The Swift is feeding well and being given waxworm maggots every four hours and has now been introduced to a climbing assault course (a towel hung over a chair!) for it to climb up and help strengthen its wings.
Good luck to ‘Star’ and well done to Derek and Lesley Walduck for their rescue and recovery efforts.
Update 14th July 2018
Aldeburgh’s first occupied Swift box? We have evidence of four nest boxes being occupied, one overnight, by Swifts who are most likely checking them out for next year. Fingers crossed that we have some nesting pairs in the future!
Update 13th July 2018
If you want to see Swifts in their thousands (literally!) go to Jerez in southern Spain. Alcazar, the old fort, is full of holes which the Swifts have used for nest sites for many years. In the morning and evening the sky is full of screaming Swifts – it is an incredible sight.
Update 9th July 2018
For the past few days our Swifts have been enjoying the sunshine and putting on a great display all over town, early in the morning and in the evening. The number of birds does now seem similar to last year and we suspect that some were just very late in arriving back due to the bad weather over the Mediterranean during their migration.
Best viewing is from the top of the town steps above the Cragg Sisters Tea Shop but there are screeching parties all over town. There are four key groups – over the Town Steps, at the southern end of town towards the boatyard, over Church Farm and along Saxmundham Road.
We have identified 18 natural nesting sites around town although we are not actually sure if they are back in the White Hart, so if you see one entering the roof do let us know! We found a further nest during our Swift Walk during UK Swift Awareness Week so if you are fortunate to find one please get in touch so that we can add it to our display in the Library.
Whilst we have no nesting birds in our own boxes, we now have a pair regularly taking up residence in the mornings. We suspect they are just reserving the box for next year. Two of our other boxes are also being visited regularly so hopefully someone will be nesting there next summer!
First Report 29th May 2018
Some of our Swifts returned on time with a few early sightings around town and again over the Town Steps at 6.47pm on Monday 7th May, much to the delight of our new box owners!
One set of nesters in the High Street appear to be back but there are concerns right across the UK that fewer birds have returned than in previous years. 50 were seen over the southern end of town (North Warren) on 18th May but these birds may just have been passing through. A count on 22nd May numbered 9 over Church Farm Road, 2 over the Church, 11 over the Town Steps and 7 over Saxmundham Rd. And on the 24th, a screaming party of 6 birds was much in evidence over the Cragg Sisters’ Tea shop where a pair nested last year.
As mentioned during Spring Watch, the weather here in the UK and in Europe may be to blame for the late ‘arrival’ of flowers and migrant birds (and the lower than average numbers) and certainly the recent strong northerly winds and cold rain in France would have made their return flight a difficult journey.
The number of Swifts in Aldeburgh does seem to be down on last year so we can but hope for a successful breeding year for the ones who are here. Do let us know if you have any Swifts around your boxes in the weeks to come as the juveniles will be ‘banging’ on the entrance all through the breeding season as they reserve nesting sites for the following season. Similarly let us know if anyone else takes up residence! We will keep you posted.
Mark telephoned us yesterday to report a Swift sitting on the bench outside the White Hart which had been picked up off the ground. Was this one of the pair who nested next to the pub last year and had just returned, exhausted from his journey back? Fortunately he was able to fly off without assistance.
Our children’s story book – Storm, The story of Aldeburgh’s amazing Swift – is now available. It tells the story of our rescued Swift and where we hope he will have travelled to since last summer.
Copies are available from the Aldeburgh Bookshop or from Suffolk Wildlife Trust (including their online shop) for just £2.
We hope it will inspire you and your family to want to find out more about the challenges our wildlife are facing and what you can do to help.
We are also delighted to have been awarded some funding by the Suffolk Secrets/AONB Fund to help promote our Swift conservation project.
With their support, we have been able to install three nesting sites in the Aldeburgh Parish Church – they can be seen between the slate louvres on the south elevation (see pictures below). We have also set up a call system to attract the Swifts and a camera to hopefully capture some wildlife action. No Swifts were attracted this year to the nest although birds were seen around the tower. Maybe next year!
Our nature boards can also now be seen along the seafront, opposite the Wentworth hotel and along from the Lifeboat Station. Also funded by the Suffolk Secrets/AONB Fund, one board helps identify the difference between Swifts, Swallows and House Martins whilst the other demonstrates the support local residents and businesses have given to help preserve the town’s Swift population. Our ‘Swift nest box trail’ leaflets are also available in holders on the display boards.
And finally …
Swift boxes in the town
Aldeburgh now has 104 boxes installed so we have significantly exceeded our target – a huge ‘thank you’ to all the residents who have supported our project. A town map in the library shows where these are located so do drop in and take a look.