Swift decline

 

Spring is here and, despite the cold weather, the earliest summer visitors are arriving and birdsong is on the increase. The Swifts are the last to arrive and, depending on conditions, will be here by late April or early May after spending winter in the sky over Africa and sleeping in the sky on the wing. How do they do that? It’s one of nature’s wonders.

 


Progress on our project

I am pleased to say that local builder’s merchant SELCO at Maylands Avenue have kindly donated enough wood to make up to 50 Boxes. Lockers Park School pupils will cut the templates and build some boxes as part of their Technology studies and the Trust’s Junior Wildlife Group will build the rest. This is a great way to get young people involved and they will all receive information about the importance of their efforts.

Contact us for a free box

In addition to the small colony in Lockers Park Lane, we now know that there was a single Swift nest in Baylie Lane and another in Great Elms Road last year. Returning young Swifts like to nest near their parents. If you live on one of these roads or know someone who does who would like a free box, please contact the Trust.

Volunteers wanted

If you are unable to put a box up by yourself, we have two volunteers who may be able to help, but we are also looking for more volunteers, so if you are interested, please get in touch with the Trust.

Worrying decline

Swifts have declined nationally by 38% in just 20 years. We had as few as six nests in Hemel Hempstead last year and this is a worryingly low number. Let’s hope they beat all the dangers on migration and return with their young soon. This project could help to get numbers up again. It won’t happen straight away, as it can take two or three years for boxes to be occupied and there is always a chance that House Sparrows will use the boxes, but we must try.

How to spot a Swift

When the Swifts arrive, they will feed over Boxmoor skies for a few days to gain strength and then settle down to breed. Try to count them as they cut through the sky. It’s not easy, as they fly so fast, but if you count more than eight on their arrival then we have a promising start. There will be hundreds at Tring Reservoirs for a few days as they refuel on gnats etc before moving across the country. Swifts are a dark brown colour, but they appear all black in flight. Don’t confuse them with the smaller, slimmer, colourful Swallows, which have longer tail streamers, or the stubby white-rumped House Martins, both can feed in the same air space. At times there can be dozens of Swallows and House Martins flying above us as they travel in search of food.

It is National Swift Awareness Week between 16th and 23rd June and projects such as this will be encouraged across Britain ready for next year. Let’s hope that, by then, we will already be providing welcoming new homes for these wonderful birds.

David Kirk