A single swift would make for a very sad summer. They are one of those birds that form a backdrop to our lives but spend theirs so far above our heads that we wouldn’t notice they were in trouble until they were gone.
Our Swifts are in trouble. Their numbers have dropped by 53% in the last twenty years and in many places in the UK the summer skies are silent.
One of the main problems is the loss of nesting sites. Swifts are sociable and loyal. They mate for life and the pair meet each year at the same location to nest. Once there, they gather together nesting material from the air and create a nest in the cavity by sticking together the feathers, straw and paper with salvia.
I love this image. I love the fact that if I brush my hair outside and stray hairs go floating up towards the clouds they may end up making a nest for young swifts. I love the idea of swifts travelling the world and meeting up at the same hole in a old building down the road from me.
Problem is, in this age of house renovations they may return to find their historic nesting site is no more. Developments, particularly of old churches, pubs and houses, means that there are less and less places for swifts to nest. Yes, there are swift nest boxes but it’s not easy to attract swifts to use them. Yes, we most certainly should be making all new developments swift friendly by installing swift bricks below the eaves but we can also do more to protect those places the swifts know and love.
A stroll along my street over the last few days has revealed that swifts are living in all manner of old houses, probably unbeknown to their occupants. Inside these tiny crevices in the brickwork young swifts are practicing press ups on their wing tips to help strengthen the muscles. I wouldn’t want to see them evicted.
Look out over the next few weeks for tell tale signs. Swifts screaming low over roof tips. swifts vanishing into walls, droppings down the outside of buildings with holes in the brickwork or crevices under the eaves. Report your sightings on the RSPB swift survey.
This survey is easy to fill in and makes planners and developers aware of swift hotspots and hopefully protect them.
I for one am delighted to discover that my road still provides a home for these amazing birds, let’s work together to keep them in our summer skies.