Save Our Swifts
One of our Members approached us with the suggestion of trying to encourage the return of Swifts to the village. In our initial survey, when we asked villagers to note what wildlife they had seen in the previous year, swifts were notable by their absence, despite some suggestions that in previous years they had been frequent visitors. We decided to explore further, giving rise to the Save Our Swifts project for Weedon and Hardwick.
There are numerous national surveys that reflect the same picture we are experiencing. Overall, there has been around a 50% decline in the number of swifts visiting the UK in the last 20 years. The reasons come down to a small number of factors, key among which appear to be:
- swifts take advantage of small crevices in buildings to nest, and changes in bulding control regulations now encourage house owners and builders to work towards more 'air-tight' structures;
- the swift diet is based on flying insects whose numbers have significanly reduced;
- climate change
To help us understand more about swifts and the challenges they face, we arranged a presentation from the coordinators of the Oxford Swift City Project. You can hear a recording on our Members Only page (login is required)
We learned a great deal about these birds, including some fascinating facts:
- they are the fastest birds in horizontal flight
- they spend their entire life 'on the wing' only landing to bring up their young
- they sleep 'on the wing'
- their diet includes bees, but only male ones - somehow they can identify them while they are flying
- once a fledgeling leaves the nest it does not return, effectively it flies out and then immediately lives life on the wing, no longer dependent on its parents
We also heard about the practical things that can be done to help them
Although some of the challenges facing swifts are rather daunting, there are things that can be done to help:
- provide nesting opportunities. We have held a workshop and now have 18 nest boxes to a design by RSPB - if you would like to have some boxes for your property let us know (they like to live with other swifts so 2 or 3 boxes are more attractive than one on its own). The nest boxes need to be positioned 5 metres or so above ground, preferable under the eaves, and facing North or East.
- plant a wild flower patch in your garden to encourage the insects
- consider a pond in your garden, again to encourage the insects
We Need You!!
Watch out for further events in our Save Our Swifts project.
Help spread the word and encouarge other folk to get involved - every little helps.
But the key thing is to have patience. The decline has taken place over a period of 20 years or more and we cannot expect to reverse it overnight! BUT - when you do spot some flying around the village, do take a moment to submit a record on the sightings page of this website - THANK YOU!