Update 19th September
The second of our Swifts was successfully released on 23rd August, much to our relief.
Update 21st August
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 (soon to be online) 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 90 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.