London's Swifts Swift Conservation News
New Swift Nest Boxes in Denmark & at Severn Valley Country Park


Above: More nestboxes go up on a house in Southern Denmark. The owners have been hosting Swifts for over ten years now. The first Swifts there used Starling nestboxes, with success.

Then the owners Inger and Asger, put up some more each year for the birds. These are the latest batch, blocked with cloth bungs to stop Sparrows taking them over. The strings will be pulled and the bungs removed as soon as the Swifts are back!

On the right: the Severn Valley Country Park Volunteer Group puts up four Swift nestboxes under a footbridge over the River Severn. That wasn't the difficult bit! Clearing the site of obstructing bushes to let the Swifts gain access took much more time and effort.

The four new nestboxes join about 150 others (about 70% used) about the Park. Swift calls will be used to attract birds to the boxes.

We wish all these great Swift supporters every success!



Stories & photos courtesy of Severn Valley County Park Volunteer Group & A Lund

The Night Shift goes Red Light

If Swifts are the Day Shift of insect hunters, then Bats are the Night Shift! But LED streetlights can play havoc with nocturnal creatures, and can drive away bats.

More than 13,000 streetlights across Worcestershire have been converted to LED as part of the County Council’s on-going £2 million ‘Rapid LED Roll-Out’ programme, and the project also includes installing bat friendly street lighting.

In 2019, the Council installed its first stretch of bat-friendly lights in what was believed to be a UK first. Bat friendly street lighting has now been installed in ecologically sensitive areas.

The award-winning project in Warndon, Worcester, sets a high standard for others to follow: we just hope that they do! Bats have vanished from many of their old familiar haunts in the past 50 years, or even less, we'd love to see them return.


Stories & photos courtesy of Worcestershire CC and Martinets Sans Frontières

Councillor Richard Morris, Cabinet Member for the Environment at Worcestershire County Council, said:

“The bat friendly lights are part of this project and they better suit the local environment. The amber and red lights being used may look a little different, but we would like to assure those using the area at night that the colour of the lights has been through rigorous safety checks.

We know bats are an indicator of biodiversity health and so, if we protect our bats, we are also protecting the local environment.’’

Below, a photo from Jette, Brussels, showing a sign in their new Red Light Area for Bats! This red lit zone runs alongside a road running past a woodland area rich in bats and other wildlife, keeping them safe and letting them hunt in peace.



News from Harleston!

Peter Metcalf tells us the latest news from the famous Swift town of Harleston in South Norfolk.

They are augmenting the current stock of about 150 Zeist style Swift nesting boxes in and around the town in the weeks before the birds return in May.

This will build on the reputation of the town as a leader in Swift conservation. The idea is to give new and refurbished nesting boxes to interested host families, as well as adding boxes to known locations which have a successful breeding record.


Top left: Nest boxes being assembled in the workshop, below, three Swifts in a nest box, probably all chicks, above right a Swift accessing one of the Harleston nest boxes.

Photographs: © Peter Metcalf & Ian Rumsey
Machynlleth, Powys
Right: Swift nest boxes go up in Machynlleth, a unique and historic town in the Dyfi Valley in Powys, Wales. It is located in the heart of the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere set amidst breathtaking natural scenery.

These nest boxes are the vital component in the "A Home For Swifts" campaign to get more Swifts to nest in the town.

Wales has suffered some of the steepest declines in Swifts in the whole of the UK, but is putting a huge effort into fitting new nestboxes to try and solve this problem.

Swift Conservation donated £500 towards this project, and will be giving a talk, and meeting Swift enthusiasts in Machynlleth on 6th April 2024 at their Swift Festival, at the Y Tabernacl Auditorium.


Photographs: © DyFi Biosphere

Below:  the Machynlleth Co-op Store - the boxes (above) are on another facade
Below Right:  the banner with Ben Porter's Swift photograph that advertises the "Home for Swifts" project

Left: Swift nest boxes fitted at the front of the Machynlleth Co-op Store

Thank You Co-op!

The Project Launch for this will be in April at the Swift Festival, which will also be attended by Jonathan Pomroy, the well-known wildlife artist.

He too will also be giving a talk and also an innovative bird sketching and painting session, and  the event will be attended by Ben Porter, award winning wildlife photographer.

Free admission! Contact 01654 703355 or e-mail

For lots more information about the Project click here

The Leaside Trust
Leaside is a community place in East London, set beside the River Lea, where you can meet, play, and learn to support each other.

Everyone is welcome. Its mission is to serve the local community, especially young people, by providing opportunities for water based activity,
environmental learning and adventure.

kayaking iconic London waterways, paddleboarding, mountain biking, and hiking to boat rentals and venue hire. The activities offer fun, new eperiences and a community connection. Everyone is welcome, so why not join up?

The Leaside Trust is a Registered Charity No. 1027645.


Photographs: © The Leaside Trust
Above - the Leaside Trust's centre. Leaside is committed to supporting and enhancing biodiversity.

As part of that policy it has recently set up Swift nestboxes donated by Swift Conservation.

You can see three of them on the left, in a good site right opposite Hackney Marshes where the Swifts' insect food should be plentiful.

Why not visit? Take a canal boat ride, or do some kayaking, or just wander the Marshes and revel in the  local Skylarks' song, and watch out for some Swifts whizzing by!

A great way to ease off those inner-city tensions!

Major new Swift nest-box projects going up in 2023!

Going up in Wales, at Sheffield University and in Leicestershire!

Below, a huge array of Impeckable nest boxes on the Venue Cymru arts and conference centre in Llandudno - just the perfect place for Swifts!                                                

Photograph: © Len Haworth

Venue Cymru
Welsh Government - 950 nests

Leicestershire CC - 364 nests

Sheffield University - 32 nests

There are some really very serious indeed Swift nest box projects taking off in both England and Wales.

Late in 2023 we were told of the above projects, and we think that more are on their way in Wales.

Most if not all are using the Welsh-manufactured Impeckable glass fibre nest boxes, rain-proof so well suited to the wetter West coast and climate with a life of 50 years, and proven success in many locations.

Photograph: © Len Haworth

Lone Biscay Swift
Lone Swift over  the Bay of Biscay

Jane Jackson writes to us:

"Back in August I took the ferry to Santander - and was very surprised when a lone Swift joined us! We were treated to a glorious acrobatic display around the boat for at least 15 minutes.  We also had numerous Orcas - water spouts everywhere. At first I found myself trying to look at both - but very quickly it was the Swift that had my full attention! Just when I thought I'd seen my last Swift of the year - this was a real bonus.
I have no idea if Swifts often accompany boats on their migration - but thought you might be interested."

And we are!!! You can see Jane's Lone Swift on the left. Has anyone else seen this phenomenon?

Photograph: © Jane Jackson

Cala Homes, a major UK property developer, has just introduced its
Urban Biodiversity Strategy
It's very interesting! Download your copy


Above: Near the Mediterranean waterfront in Toulon, Southern France. Key speakers from Switzerland, the UK and Belgium attending the Toulon Urban Biodiversity Conference are shown
by conference organiser Katherine Dubourg (on the right) exactly where Swifts are nesting in modernist 1960's offices and apartment blocks, now needing major restoration and repair.

On the right, two views of the massive new Chalucet development in Toulon; the lower photo shows two of the Swift Bricks inserted into the fascia (the black dots are their entrance holes).

Toulon presents particular problems for Swifts and urban biodiversity. A historic and in parts very run-down building stock is housing thousands of Swifts, both Common and Pallid species. As the city adjusts to the modern world, and rebuilds, Swifts are in danger of losing their nest places. But local activists are on the case, persuading property owners and developers to preserve existing nest places and create new ones, mapping every nesting site that they can discover, and logging their sites with the Municipality for legal protection to fall into place.

Key property owners, such as the French Navy, are helping. The result? 300 new nest places being set up in the former Navy Arsenal area,  just one of many similar projects within Toulon's old town.

Many old historic buildings within the core of the Old Town, around the restored Municipal Market, now have Swift Bricks installed, while old nest sites have in some cases been retained successfully. It was a very interesting and impressive visit showing what a group of about 40 local activists can achieve in a major and fast-evolving city.

The Toulon Urban Biodiversity Conference November 2022



Swift Conservation's Edward Mayer was invited to open the Toulon Urban Biodiversity Conference. His talk was followed by expert contributions from key speakers Marcel Jacquat and Bernard Genton of Switzerland, Martin Wauters of Belgium, Gérard Gory from Nȋmes (France) and Yasmine Corazzini from Nice (France). One day of lectures and discussions was followed by two days of visiting local Swift projects and viewing local nature reserves and biodiversity projects.

Organised by the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux and supported by local government and NGO's, the Toulon Conference brought together ornithologists, local and international activists, local government, nest box manufacturers and tourism promoters.

Photographs: ©  MS Mayer / Swift Conservation
Swifts in Herefordshire Churches - the Staunton Swift Project

The Herefordshire Bat Research Group (HBRG) has been raising awareness for Swifts since 2014, as part of a local Bats and Swifts Project.  The biggest danger to Swifts is the loss of nest sites during repair and renovation works, so surveying and mapping their nest sites is important so we know where they are and what sites need protecting.

A total of 128 churches were surveyed by local volunteers for Swifts with 34 Schwegler Swift boxes being installed at 12 Herefordshire churches.  A mammoth task, and so far Swift presence has been recorded in 11 out of 28 boxes.

To see their inspirational and very interesting illustrated report download it here.

Staunton1  Staunton2

The above photographs show Swift droppings, "pellets", recovered during survey work on vacated nest places. Left: pellets as found. Right, a pellet broken open to reveal the indigestible remains of aerial insects, indisputable evidence that the pellets came from aerial insectivores enjoying a pure insect diet.

Photographs: ©  HBRG


You may have noticed earlier this year that we were supplying Action for Swifts "S" type built-in Swift Bricks to this social enterprise project in Hastings. The old Hasting's Observer building has been converted into apartments, workshops and a social support centre. As part of that project it is hoping to contribute to supporting local biodiversity  - Swifts to be precise!

The photograph above shows the Observer Building before the refurbishment project got going. The photo on the right shows the newly-installed Swift Bricks in the lift shaft wall, on the left of the side street leading up from the main street below.

The Hastings Observer Building update!


Photographs: ©  Hastings Swift Group and Swift Conservation
We Visit Thames Water's Beckton Sewage Treatment Works (STW)


Swift Conservation's Edward Mayer (right) and Beckton Creekside Nature Reserve Warden
Danny Regan (left) discuss the possibilities amidst vibrant Spring birdsong

We were invited to visit Beckton STW in East London (the largest in Western Europe) to discuss what they could do to attract Swifts to breed at their huge site, much of which is devoted to supporting wildlife. The result? With any luck we might be putting up a Swift Tower there with the help of our freinds at 51architects.

Beckton's wildlife riches are spectacular. It has Peregrine Falcons, Kestrels, Barn Owls, Tawny Owls, and Buzzards (we saw one), Little Gulls transit through it, and while we were there Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Sedge Warblers were all singing away. There are plenty of other birds there too, and in Autumn and Winter the nearby tidal banks of the Thames are packed with waders such as Godwit, Avocet and Curlew.


Plan a Visit!
There is good public access to the nature reserve, so visit while the Spring migrants are still in full song. You won't regret it!

Photos © Peter Thomas 51architecture

London's Ragged School Museum in E3 installs Action for Swift's Swift Bricks

The Ragged School Museum is a landmark of Victorian philanthropy combining two important national stories; the struggle for free universal education and the role of philanthropy in driving social change.

Opened as a Ragged School by Dr Thomas Barnado in 1877 these former canal warehouses on Copperfield Road in Mile End were saved by local activists from demolition in the early 1980's. The Ragged School Museum offers primary schools a Victorian lesson in an authentic setting.

This programme runs to near capacity with schools participating from Greater London and the South East. But Number 46 Copperfield Road, the largest of the School's three buildings, needs to be renovated, and about half of the Museum's space is not yet fit for public use.

In June 2019 the Heritage Lottery Fund approved the development of the site, permitting extensive refurbishment. This project will bring over 618 sqm into productive public use. A new permament exhibition in an atmospheric building will bring to life in the most vivid way the struggles of the Victorian poor and the power of education to change lives.
Below, a Regent's Canalside view of the School.


Swifts used to nest in houses on the nearby Victoria Park Road until they were pulled down. So Erica Davies, Director of the Ragged School Museum, thought it would be a nice idea to host Swifts in the renovated warehouse that is to become a central part of the Museum.

Working with Swift Conservation and Action for Swifts, Erica and the design team oversaw the installation of Dick Newell's "S" Bricks, ground-breaking lightweight Swift Bricks that can be matched to the existing brickwork's colour and texture.

Photo © Erica Davies / The Ragged School Museum

The Worcester 6 Business Park Swift Tower goes up!


Photos © Peter Thomas 51 architecture

Together with our friends Peter and Cathi at 51 architecture, we have been working on the design of new-concept Swift Towers and nest-boxes for some years now.

This has resulted in the production of nestboxes in a radical new material, Barsmark, made from recycled wall insulation, and a range of Swift towers based on mobile phone masts, for rigidity, strength, wind resistance and an appearance that, these days, blends into the urban and near-urban landscape.

The towers provide accommodation for Swifts in snug, very well insulated wood lined chambers, reminiscent of the old woodpecker holes used by tree-nesting Swifts in the ancient forests of Europe. The bats have crawl spaces made of oak shingles.

The biggest of these towers provides for 24 pairs of Swifts, and one has just been set up in a small river-side nature reserve, full of birds and other wildlife, beside the Worcester 6 Business Park, just outside Worcester. The photos show the installation and the result.

We work with MA Product and Furniture Design Students at Birmingham City University on Swifts and their nest box needs


Photos © Nuno Lourinho/Birmingham City University


During February and March we spent time with 6 students from Birmingham City University and their Course Director Nuno Lourinho. The students, Forum Gorsiya, Stefan Ionita, Quihan Li, Yifei Ma, Manthan Raieshkumar Modh and  Yufan Xu, all prepared detailed designs for Swift nest boxes.

The aim was to bring new and innovatory designs to the commercial market, for manufacturing in factories and for sale in big numbers, here and abroad. The UK market at present is seeing shortages of Swift nest boxes right across the board. Many suppliers are out of stock, others are struggling to fulfil orders. So the demand is there, and new products that "look outside the box" and are not just a box screwed to a wall but integrate with modern building design values are badly needed.

The designs were judges in a competitive setting, and the winner was Manthan Raieshkumar Modh, with his highly innovative and elegant "Swift Blinders", long terracotta tiles that doubled up as sun-blinds and Swift nest places, based on their traditional nesting places in Roman tiled roofs. Tow other designs became the runners-up.

The long-term aim is to bring one or more of these designs to the marketplace. So a period of product refinement with mass manufacture in mind will be starting soon. We will try and bring you more information about this as things progress.


70 Nestboxes for 70 London Schools
Celebrating 70 Years of H M The Queen's rule

The Cameron Bespolka Trust and their Young Ambassador Kabir Kaul, a passionate birder who attended one of our early lectures on Swifts (that one paid off, didn't it!) have been running a scheme to supply bird nest boxes to 70 schools in London.

The aim is to interest, enthuse and teach young people at their schools about wild birds through direct experience, an aim we wholeheartedly agree with.

The Cameron Bespolka Trust's mission is to create opportunities for young people to engage with and appreciate nature. They work with and for 14 to 17 year olds, a crucial period for keeping young people involved and connected. They try to reach in particular those who have not had the chance to experience the outdoors.

All the nestboxes have now been taken up, but do contact us if you are interested, as we support nest box projects all over the UK.

Swift Conservation is working this year with the the
Cameron Bespolka Trust  to help with their very imaginative scheme to educate and  inspire children by setting up nestboxes for birds at carefully-selected schools in London.

We have supplied 20 nestboxes for Swifts at schools that are keen, have suitable buildings to support the nestboxes, and come up with management plans to assure us the birds will be safe and well-looked after, and the results accurately assessed.

You can help with a donation to Cameron Bespolka, and/or Swift Conservation!

Below: A typical Swift nest box - similar ones will be fitted to the London Schools joining the project in 2022

Sheffield S6 Swifts goes for "S" Bricks


S6 Swifts and Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation have been advising at a new homes development in North Sheffield, at Oughtibridge, where 3 storey houses are being constructed by the River Don, (right) an ideal site for Swifts. The Swift Bricks, (shown upper right) are faced with the same stone as is used for the buildings shown above. The Swift Bricks will be inserted very near the top of each dwelling, so the Swifts get the height and easy access they need.

Photographs & Images Clockwise from above ©  Sky House plc, Dick Newell/Action for Swifts, Mel / S6 Swifts
S6 Swifts is a small Swift support group operating in the north of Sheffield, covering an area with a high concentration of late Victorian houses, with a resulting significant resident population of Swifts that visit every Summer to breed there. Their web site is HERE


Although S6 Swifts only started up in July 2021, they have fitted 117 new nest spaces so far and have arranged to fit more in 2022.

Outi2 River Don

In fact, they hope to have fitted 200 new nest places before the Swifts arrive in May. They already have hundreds of followers on social media and will be fitting the first educational nest boxes, the first of hopefully many, at local schools, again this Spring.
Taylor Wimpey's Burghley Green development in Cambourne & Swifts


Sadly, the population of Swifts in the UK declined by 58% between 1995 and 2018, resulting in the species being added to the UK’s Red List for Birds in December 2021.

To help address this biodiversity crisis, Taylor Wimpey has worked with Action for Swifts to incorporate "S" Bricks into the exterior walls of 85 new homes at the Burghley Green development in Cambourne. These traditional-looking houses with broad expanses of brickwork, big gables and brick construction should be most attractive to Swifts, as well as to their human owners!

More "S" Bricks are planned for Varsity Grange, in Northstowe. As a result, many local Swifts will now be able to find a safe place to nest when they return from Africa in May.

Other regular visitors to local homes and gardens, such as House Sparrows, Blue Tits, Great Tits and House Martins, will also benefit from this innovative approach to eco-friendly development, as they all may use "S" Bricks too.          

Dick Newell, spokesperson for Action for Swifts, explained: “We’re grateful to Taylor Wimpey for their help with our projects to help Swifts and other birds too. Natural nesting places like trees and hedges can take a few years to get established where new homes are built, so natural habitats can take a long time to materialise. For these reasons, building new homes with ready-made nest bricks is a quick way to tackle the rapid decline of Swifts and other small cavity-nesting species.”

Jordan Last, Planning Co-ordinator for Taylor Wimpey East Anglia, added: “The work that we do goes far beyond building high quality homes. We’re committed to leaving a positive, lasting legacy around our developments and we think a crucial part of this is safeguarding the natural environment and native wildlife.

“We’re delighted that the first Swift nest-places are now in place and ready to accommodate their new residents at Burghley Green and soon, Varsity Grange. Looking ahead to the future, we plan to replicate this approach across multiple sites throughout the region.”

Image © Courtesy of Talor Wimpey East Anglia

Mainz in the Rhineland goes for UK GRP nest boxes

We recently received these photographs from Consultant Biologist Jens Tauchert in Nackenheim,  Rhineland. These nest boxes are installed on the buildings of a German chemicals company, Werner & Mertz in Mainz (the town where the Pfizer Covid vaccine was created).

Above you can see five of the multiple nestboxes fitted just below roof level, and in the photo on the right, their relationship to the chemical plant.

Photographs  ©  provided by Jens Tauchert courtesy of : Beratungsgesellschaft NATUR dbR  Website:


A good sight to see - these UK made nestboxes being exported and set up in Germany, where the very first commercial Swift nestboxes were manufactured over 50 years ago, and where creating nest places for Swifts on a big scale took off well before it did here in the UK.

West Hampstead flats estate tries to boost Swifts with new nest places

CholmleyGardens        Cholmley1

© Courtesy of Cholmley Gardens Co.Ltd. and Ron Oruci of Treehab Construction Co.Ltd.
Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation, working with Ron Oruci, site manager for Treehab Construction, has been fitting Swift nestboxes made by Impeckable and John Stimpson to a major 1920's estate of apartments in West Hampstead, London NW6, Cholmley Gardens.

A dozen nest places have been fitted to lightwell walls and roof top tank houses, with more planned for erection in 2022 and 2023.

Cholmley Gardens has a famous historic populaton of these spectacular birds, nesting in the "open" eaves, and sadly driven out of many other such apartment estates in the area by unsympathetic roof repairs and intolerance.

Although reduced in number in recent years, the Cholmley Swifts are hanging on, and it is hoped that the new nestboxes will encourage other Swifts to move in and join the incredible Summer fun as the birds scoot about all over the sky, past human residents sipping aperitifs on their balconies on hot Summer evenings. Bliss!

ALDI's store in Bangor, Wales, Commits to Swifts!


This new Aldi site, currently under construction on Caernarfon Road in Bangor, will have special "Impeckable GRP" nest-boxes for Swifts installed at the rear of the building, says North Wales Wildlife Trust’s Swift project manager, Ben Stammers. These GRP nestboxes are guaranteed for 50 years.

Thanks to the developer Bampton Property Group Limited, the building will provide much-needed accommodation for these long-distance migrants, in serious decline across Wales.

‘The new site is close to one of the few remaining Swift colonies in Bangor’, says Ben, ‘so it’s hoped the new boxes, designed and made by Wrexham-based company Impeckable, will allow the Swifts to expand their local population. Swifts are our fastest birds in level flight – they can sleep, eat, drink, mate and preen on the wing, and may spend two or even three years in the air before returning to find a place to breed. Nesting in buildings, their options are steadily reducing as insulation, refurbishment and new designs eliminate old nest sites. So the Wildlife Trust has been working across North Wales to promote Swift box installation, and we’re delighted that Bampton Property Group have considered them with this measure.’

Gwynedd Council helped to facilitate this collaboration, and have recently had Swift boxes installed on their own office buildings in Caernarfon. ‘Although Swifts now also face a problem of declines in their insect prey, we’re hoping that more widespread provision of nest boxes and Swift bricks (which are built into walls) will at least start to address their housing crisis. This would contribute towards the Wildlife Trust’s vision for nature recovery networks across Wales.’  

A spokesperson for Bampton Property Group said: ‘We take our biodiversity commitments very seriously, and in this case are glad to be able to do something to help these amazing birds’

To find out more about nature recovery, or how you can help swifts, you can visit the North Wales Wildlife Trust website:  visit North Wales Wildlife Trust

Image © Courtesy of ALDI Supermarkets plc / Bampton Property Group

HRH Prince Charles is interviewed on the BBC and he says:

"There is something irresistible about a Swift - We are part of Nature, not apart from it"

Prince Charles' world "Would come to an end if the Swallows House Martins & Swifts didn't return"

To see the full BBC Interview with Simon Armitage in
"The Poet Laureate has Gone to His Shed"
please click here and to see the text click here


Photograph © John Duckfield/Wikipedia

Prince Charles has equipped his Welsh country home Llwynywermod, just outside the Brecon Beacons National Park,
with Swift nest boxes and a calling system to lure them in.
You can rent a holiday cottage at this complex, so why not stay and see how the Swifts are doing? Use this link!
Duchy of Cornwall Holiday Cottages

Reed St Mary Church near Royston fits Swift nest boxes into its tower

Reed2Reed St Mary Church near Royston and Cambridge in North Hertfordshire.

A beautiful little church dating from Saxon times, and now hoping to host Swifts in its tower.

Another project of Gavin Vicary and North East Hertfordshire Swifts, helping Swifts survive in their locality.

Such nest boxes are easy and cheap to make, last for years and can safely be left for the Swifts to just get on with their private lives.

Why not visit this lovely place and enjoy its peace and tranquility?

For more information click here.

Photographs © Gavin Vicary NEHS



The results were impressive. 42 nest cavities, with 14 triple nest boxes fitted at 7 water pumping stations. Above: the Berkhamstead pumping station. Right: Bow Bridge. Other pumping stations fitted similarly are  Bricket Wood, Holywell Hill, Piccots End, Shakespeare Road and Harpenden.

We hope that each site will soon be re-planted with wildlife supporting shrubs, such as Berberis, Holly, Yew, Blackthorn, Wild Cherry, Spindle Tree, Ivy, Field Maple, Rowan, Dogwood, Oak, Juniper and others.

Affinity Water fits Swift Nest boxes to its Hertfordshire pumping stations

Bow Bridge

Back in 2019 we were asked by Affinity, the water company supplying Hertfordshire, for help with spotting sites for Swift nest boxes at their facilities, in particular their pumping stations which are dotted around the County. Working with Natasha Gloor, a scientist working on Affinity's environmental enhancement programme, as well as with local Swift enthusiasts, we toured pumping stations and selected potential sites for the nest boxes.

Photographs © Affinity Water Limited

The Federal Palace in Bern Switzerland fits Swift Nest boxes into its facade

A really neat job and an inspiration to us all! This brilliant new installation uses the original cornice feature of this important government building to make homes for Swifts.

By such sensitive and imaginative treatment, a site that night otherwise be dismissed as "Too difficult" or "It won't look good" has been transformed. It looks good, it provides excellent nest places, it won't need any maintenance, and it should work just fine.

Local journalist Peter Schneider reported:

"The idea of installing the nesting boxes was initiated by the President of the National Council and farmer Andreas Aebi. In order to support Swifts in Switzerland, potentially endangered birds, twelve nesting boxes were installed Monday on the facade of the Federal Palace in Bern. Andreas Aebi, in his private life a passionate ornithologist, is concerned about the preservation of biodiversity in the city and decided to act to save it. "

Photographs © Keystone/Peter Schneider




Snape Maltings and Aldeburgh Swift Accommodation

On a recent visit to East Anglia we traveled to Snape Maltings (for coffee in the sun, looking out over the reed beds) and to Aldeburgh, (for fish and chips on the front).

While we were in both places we spotted new nest boxes for Swifts, with Swift calls playing at Snape, showing that the managers at The Maltings and also the local Aldeburgh Swift group ("Aldeburgh's Amazing Swifts") had been hard at work for our favourite birds!

Did you know, you can pick up a guiding leaflet in Aldeburgh and do their "Swift Trail",  a walk round all the local Swift colonies and nest box sites, to burn off the effects of the fish and chips and ice creams!

Left: Two of the old Maltings buildings at Snape fitted with Swift nest boxes and at one of them (top photo) a calling system is in use to lure the birds to take a look at their new accommodation.

Below: Demon Yachts facility at Aldeburgh (near the main car park at the South end of the town) hosts an array of no less than 12 Swift nest boxes, a really major contribution to saving these birds from extinction here in the UK.



Photographs © Edward Mayer / Swift Conservation

Broadstairs College helps Swifts!

For years Nik Mitchell ("Wildlife Conservation in Thanet" on Facebook) has been keeping an eye out for tall buildings in Thanet that have scaffolding up and so could easily become Kent’s first nest-box based Swift colony.  

One day Nik’s wife Louise noticed Broadstairs College (where Louise works) had scaffolding up on one of its tallest buildings, which is in an area that Swifts regularly visit. Louise emailed the principal to explain the potential conservation project, and guess what they said, it was YES ! 

The college has been making efforts to do its bit for biodiversity on its campus and the assistant principal Sarah quickly realised the potential of this project. Installing nest places for a Swift colony has massive potential; it can bring excitement, joy, life, love, education and inspiration. 

Nik and his friends installed 7 triple-cavity next boxes, that’s a total of 21 nest places. They also installed a call system because there is a much better chance of attracting Swifts to nest boxes if you play a recording of their calls.

They also had information boards made by and put up around the college to explain the project. Here's hoping for Swifts at Broadstairs College in 2022!

Opposite right: Top - Broadstairs College - the nest boxes are fitted right at the very top of the scaffolding. Bottom - the triple cavity boxes ready to be fitted

Photos © Nik Mitchell WCiT


Albury Village Hall in East Hertfordshire

The Village Hall in Albury has had a superb new multiple Swift nest box installed on its gable, courtesy of UK Power Networks, who sent along a team (shown below) with all the lifting equipment needed, and put it up for free! Maybe they would do it for your project too! Why not ask them?

Gavin Vicary of North East Hertfordshire Swifts group sent us these photographs when he told us about this project. This sort of gable apex box is very neat, out of the weather, and has been proven to be very successful. It is also aesthetically highly acceptable. A scheme that is well worth copying wherever you can!


A  house owner in Elblag, historic Tudor port in Poland, helps Swifts

Back in the 16th Century English merchants set up shop in Elblag, near Danzig (today's Gdansk) on the Baltic Coast, as they were excluded from Danzig by the merchants of the Hanseatic League.

Knowing this fascinating but obscure fact, we were delighted to receive a message from a Swift fan in modern Elblag, Leszek Serwis Turbin,
telling us of his efforts to help Swifts.

The town had to be rebuilt after being almost totally obliterated in the 2nd World War, and so most buildings are new, and inhospitable to Swifts as with modern central heating and insulation there are no apertures left in the buildings for Swifts to nest in.

So nest boxes, not just for Swifts, but for other hole-nesting creatures like many bird species, small bats, dormice, lizards, salamanders and bumble-bees, start to become not just desirable, but absolutely essential if these species are to survive.

Leszek has done a great job here. The publicity gained will be invaluable.

Top right, the nest boxes on his home, below, the innards of the calling syetm, exposed to view. Wish him and the Swifts of the Baltic Coast Good Luck in the years to come!

Photographs © Leszek Serwis Turbin


The Hastings Observer building to get Swift bricks in a brave new project

On the right is the Observer building in Hastings, East Sussex. It has lain half-derelict for thirty years or more. But now it is to be restored as a mixture of workshops, small businesses and affordable housing for the many people needing such premises within Hastings. A brilliant and exciting project that will not only build up the economy of Hastings, but keep fresh and positive its Bohemian charms, and ensure its streets and buildings are very much alive.

And it will have Swift nest bricks built into the walls of the old lift tower, the highest part of the building that you can see going up the street beside the right hand facade of the building. There may even be some bat boxes set up there as well, but we will have to see.

Swift Conservation has offered to pay for the Swift bricks using the donations that we have received over the past year.

Watch this space for more news as it becomes available!


Photo © Edward Mayer / Swift Conservation


The Public Library at Battle, and on top of this charismatic building is the Clock Tower that will house the 12 Swift Bricks being installed in it this April.

Hastings & Rother Swifts, East Sussex County Council, Swift Conservation and Action for Swifts have all worked together to drive forward this ambitious plan to have Swifts nesting in the clock tower of the Public Library at Battle.

This is the fourth UK Public Library to have Swifts nest places installed in it that we know of. The others are at Cullompton in Devon, Antrim and Bournemouth!

Your donations fund 12 nest bricks for Battle Library's clock tower

Dicks_BricksTower Sketch

What a perfect site for the local Swifts!

Above left: 12 new "S" Bricks, designed by Dick Newell of Action for Swifts, stand ready for installation. They have Perspex back panels to permit CCTV observation in the Library below.

Above right: Dick Newell's idea of how the project might will look when completed, with all the new Swift Bricks in place.

Photo and Sketch above © Dick Newell / Action for Swifts

Photo of the Library (upper left) © Ian Donovan / Hastings & Rother Swifts

Major Swift project gets going in Catalunya

Here are some photos of Ken Anderson and his team of friends in Vilaplana, in the province of Tarragona, Catalunya, Spain. Ken is transforming this town with 20 new Impeckable nest boxes made by Len Haworth at his factory in Wales.

You can see here the yellow nest boxes going up around the lovely little hill town, shown in the photo below.

As in so many other places, Swifts are losing their nest places in Vilaplana (photo below) as buildings are repaired, modernised, and insulated. The answer for Ken is to fix nest boxes to the outside walls of suitable buildings, and the GRP ones made by Len are going to last for a very long time indeed and should require neither maintenance nor cleaning.

Photo © courtesy of
Cata2 Cata1
Photos © Ken Anderson
With the help of Mike Priaulx of Islington Swifts, links were established with the Roger Ascham School in Waltham Forest London. The result was that Swift Conservation provided the John Stimpson-made Swift nest boxes now up at the school and awaiting new occupiers.

Photos will follow after COVID has receded and everyone feels confident about allowing us to photograph the buildings and the nest boxes at the school. Meanwhile, the Swifts are welcome to nest here as soon as they get back from Africa!

Four John Stimpson Model 30 nest boxes installed at Roger Ascham School, Waltham Forest London E17

Parma goes "Swift Friendly", restores a major church and an iconic hospital in its historic heart retaining the old places where Swifts nested, and adding some more

SanFrancesco1Francesco Mezzatesta writes to us with news of the Swift projects he is advising on in Parma.

This photo shows what is known in the UK as a "putlog" hole. This one has been adapted with a piece of brick to restrict entry to Swifts and other small creatures only, and to exclude Feral Pigeons.

Putlogs are holes made in the outer wall of a building to put wooden scaffold poles into whenever the building needs to be repaired. It's a quick, easy and safe way to get the scaffolding up, but no longer used today in the era of metal scaffolding.
They are a feature of many larger buildings of the pre-industrial period in the Western Mediterranean, as well as further afield.

Over time these holes have been used as homes by Swifts, Jackdaws, Black Redstarts, Sparrows. Lizards and Geckos. In more recent times they have been taken over by Feral Pigeons, and so very many of them have been blocked up, or filled with wire or anti-pigeon spikes.

This has been deadly for Swifts and other creatures using them, and it is also affects the historic authenticity of the architecture.

Ospedale Vecchio 1

Photos © Francesco Mezzatesta

Above you can see the many"putlog" holes or "buche pontiae" set into the walls of the Church of San Francesco, Parma.

Dr Mauro Ferri of Modena with Giovanni Boano and Giorgio Malacarne invented ways of reducing the aperture size of the holes to suit a broad range of creatures, Swifts included, while excluding the proliferating Feral Pigeons. They showed that this could be done while still achieving an acceptable appearance for historic sites.

Their techniques have now been used on the Church of San Francesco, above, and also on the Old Hospital, the Ospedale Vecchio, on the left, 
by a team advised by Francesco Mezzatesta. The putlog holes are visible as black dots running up the walls.

The Swifts' breeding sites have been saved, and even added to.

This is a superb example of what can be done to help Swifts and many other beneficial creatures too in ancient histroic buildings.

Denmark's very first integral "Swift Bricks" are installed!

Jesper Toft, our Swift correspondent and an activist in Denmark writes:

"24 integrated nest boxes are being fitted into 6 buildings by a pension fund who wanted to expand 6 of their buildings with an extra floor. I made them aware that several Swifts were breeding in the buildings. We entered into a good dialogue with the result that they chose to integrate 24 nest bricks with 4 in each building gable. You can see what is being done in the photo on the right.

These are the first buildings in Denmark with integrated nest bricks. During the rebuilding of a couple of the buildings (which got underway before the arrival of the Swifts), we set up temporary nesting boxes on the scaffolding so the Swifts had the opportunit to use them for that breeding season".


Jesper Toft (left) with a Swift Hero Bricklayer, fitting one of            Denmark's first ever integral Swift nest places into this commercial office building.                                                                                           Photo © Jesper Toft

SEO, The BirdLife partner in Spain, fits 330 UK-made Swift nest boxes for at a huge housing project in Orcasitas, Madrid

Len Haworth of the UK's Impeckable Nestboxes, manufacturer of glass-reinforced plastic nestboxes, working with Beatriz Sánchez of the Spanish Ornithological Society, SEO, has delivered 330 triple nest boxes for fitting during roof repairs to a very large housing estate in Orcasitas in Madrid.

The estate already houses many Swifts, but it was feared that removing and replacing the asbestos roofing removal would evict them and prevent their re-entry,  so the nest boxes are being fitted to re-house them. The shiny white boxes were chosen because they will reflect heat well. Summer in Madrid is extremely hot, so this aspect is very important.

The glass-reinforced plastic is guaranteed for 50 years life, another factor in its favour, as is the fact that these boxes are well proven.

The photos show the loading of the boxes at the factory, the boxes before packing, and the unloading in Madrid. To see SEO's article about their installation please click here.




Photos © Len Haworth / Impeckable Nestboxes

We are doing our talks on "ZOOM"!

The Society of Architects, Landscape Architects and Conservation Architects in Varese, Italy arranged a ZOOM talk with us this December for 377 people

We were invited to give a talk by the ORDINE DEGLI ARCHITETTI,

A great honour for an English person to be invited to speak in Italy, and an invitation that we jumped at.

We spoke about Swifts, their lives and conservation needs, showing a wealth of slides of sites in the UK and across Europe where Swifts had been helped to survive by careful restoration of the building features they were using, and where additional help had been provided in the form of Swift Bricks to give them more nest places.

Italian Swift and Swallow experts Giovanni Boano and Francesco Mezzatesta (the man who founded LIPU, the Italian RSPB) also gave highly-appreciated talks at this Webinar, which is available on-line in Italian.


Photos © Ben Bender & Cyril Doussin / Creative Commons/Wikipedia

The photos: On the left the sort of very old but partly restored local building that can still house Swifts, Bats, Lizards, Geckos, Black Redstarts & Sparrows. See the many holes in the flank wall - ideal nesting and roosting spaces for many of these typical local species.

Directly above: a street view showing the variety of building types, in Varese. Many are old, most have been restored, some are very old but completely refaced, one is being restored. They are typical of the buildings at the centre of most Italian small towns and villages.

These sorts of sites can still be good for many urban species to live and breed in, but with increasing wealth and increasing restoration many small, beneficial wild creatures are being forced out never to return.

The  tragedy is that this is completely unecessary if we apply the correct techiques at the start of the work.

We can advise you how to get it right!

Many More Nest Places go up on buildings...

Amboise: the Old Gendarmerieamboise5

Carolyn Knowlman of the association SOS Martinets tells us that this 
building used to be the local police station. Empty for years, despite its fine location, close to the banks of the Loire looking across the river to the château & the old part of town.

But then it was bought for renovation as apartments. As it was thought that Swifts might had been nesting in apertures under the gutters, SOS Martinets wrote to the new owner explaining that the town had a policy of including nest sites for Swifts in new and renovated buildings.

Luckily the new owner was happy about the idea of installing nest boxes and a plan was developed on how to fix them to the building, which was to be fitted also with exterior insulation.

The plan was to fix the nest boxes to the old walls, just under the gutters, and then to surround them with new externally applied wall insulation, then to apply the standard insulating plaster mix over both nestboxes and the fixed insulation layer, leaving only the entrance holes accessible. The nest boxes are completely hidden within the insulation layers.

amboise1 France, Spain, Bristol & North Wales... Read On...


You can see the building above, and in close up, the eaves and entrances to the new hidden nestboxes.

Having identified the thickness of external insulation they would be using, 
SOS Martinets drew up plans for nestboxes that would sit snugly within the insulation layer, and the boxes were made up locally. 

They were designed to be easy and quick to fit, and most important, virtually invisible once fitted. Only the entrance holes would be visible.

The finished result looks aesthetically good, the nest entrances are almost imperceptible, very important as this site is within the legally-enforceable "zone de protection" in place around the château.

Photos & drawing © Tim Knowlman / SOS Martinets    

Bristol builds snug homes for Swifts!

Guy Hodgson of SNUG Homes Bristol has written to us with two photos of a new project built by his company on a local brownfield site. 

He says "I thought it would interest you to know we have designed in some Swift boxes to the parapet wall of our new build. We followed your advice sheet as best we could. Hopefully we will be able to attract some in the fulness of time!"



Isn't that great! If you are having a suitable structure built, or you are say a trustee of a school or institution having something built, do the same. The Swifts will be there to greet you when you get to Heaven!

Seriously, if you are working on a project like this, we can help you to design and build in facilities for Swifts and Bats too.

Just ask us, our advice is free.

Photos  ©  Huy Hodgson / SNUG Homes Bristol
But sadly the Swift population decline continues unabated

Dick Newell of Action for Swifts, the East Anglian designers and manufacturers of Swift Bricks for all sites and specialised nest boxes for church towers, has made some calculations from trends derived from the British Trust for Ornithology's Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) between 1994 and 2019, as well as population estimates for 2009 published in British Birds Magazine (Musgrove et al), and has created the graphic on the right from these figures.

A good part of the reason for the decline is loss of nest places. As old buildings are refurbished, insulated, re-roofed or replaced with new ones, the old-fashioned eaves and gable gaps where Swifts used to nest are lost. This, combined with changes in farming world-wide, requiring the massive use of insecticides, removing the food of insectivorous birds like Swifts from the environment, makes the situation very difficult.

But creating new nest places for Swifts should be easy. The Government is planning for unprecedented increases in house building, millions of new homes are in the pipeline. If every one of these new homes and related infrastructure like schools and hospitals, factories, offices and shopping centres had nest places for Swifts, then more than enough would have been done to support Swifts, and other birds as well as several species will cheerfully use Swift nest boxes and bricks too.

The Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA) recommends in its publication "Designing for Biodiversity " (available via our Shopping Page) a ratio of one new nest place for every new housing unit. An increasing number of local authorities are saying the same. If this is implemented (and you can do your bit by commenting to this effect on all the Planning Applications in your borough) then we will be a long way down the road to creating the right conditions for a Swift recovery.

The graphic opposite shows that the UK population of Swifts, calculated from published data (BBS) and published estimates (Musgrove et al),  declined from 133,600 pairs in 1994 to 52,000 pairs in 2019. That is a decline of 81,600 pairs (61.1%) in 25 years, running at 5% every year since 2009.


Invariably, when looking for places to nest, Swifts often fail to find new nest places, and may be choosy about which they use, and so occupancy rates may be much less than 100%, and more like 30%.

Given that the 2009 population level for Swifts was underestimated we foresee a need for 300,000 new nest places to be installed in UK buildings if Swifts are to recover to their level of just 25 years ago, let alone recovering from the undoubted earlier losses in the 20th century.

Lobby your MP and Councillors to get Swift nest bricks made part of local Planning Biodiversity requirements!

Lobby your councillors also to get your local Borough made pesticide and weedkiller-free, and to leave their verges uncut all Summer long! More and more towns are ceasing to use weedkillers and insecticides when managing their parks, gardens, sports grounds and verges.

It saves money, and it gives our Swifts the insect food they need so badly to survive.

Graph © BTO as annotated by Dick Newell / Action for Swifts
Fallen Pallid Swift re-launched at Rye

Marie Denston of Secret World Wildlife Rescue launches a rescued Pallid Swift on its journey from Rye back to Spain and Africa. Found in a garden in Weston-Super-Mare after a big storm that blew several Pallid Swifts all the way from Spain as far as the Baltic, this little bird was rescued, fed and cared for until it was well enough to fly again.

Jamie Kingscott together with Marie drove the bird from Somerset  to Rye in East Sussex where it was greeted by Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation and Barry Yates of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Guided by Barry, a good safe spot was found for the take off, and after final checks, it was released and headed straight for Dungeness, and the shortest route to France, in strong fast flight. Rye was selected for the launch because it avoided the Swift having to undertake a long flight across the sea without access to water and food. It is a key migration point for our Common Swifts too.

Pallid Swifts are rare vagrants to the UK; they nest around the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf and winter in Northern and Central Africa, some even winter now in Southern Spain. When they appear here, it is usually after severe storms from the South.


Photos © Edward Mayer & James Tomlinson
14 Swift nest boxes go up on Zaragoza's Fire Station

Local Swift activists and the local Fire Brigade got together on November 6 to install another 14 nest boxes at the Pallid Swift colony at the fire station.

Pallid Swifts are very similar to our Common Swift, but can be the most common of the two species around the Mediterranean and inland along river valleys and in the towns along them. They arrive earlier, leave later, and can have two broods rather than just the one that our Swifts have. They dominate some towns in the Autumn, good examples being Seville,  Rome and Tirana, and of late a few have started to overwinter in Andalusia.

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The photos opposite show the nest box placement job under way. The idea is to keep adding more nest boxes as time goes on.

In the coming months boxes will also be put on to the bridges across the River Ebro - a most exciting prospect and a very good reason to visit Zaragoza in the Summer!                                
Photos  © Jose Antonio Pinzolas
Wrexham Industrial Estate: North Wales Wildlife Trust

The photos show glass-reinforced plastic "glass fibre" Swift nest boxes, made by Impeckable, installed by Henry Cook of the North Wales Wildlife Trust onto a prominent factory unit on the Wrexham Industrial Estate. This is the largest industrial estate in the UK; JCB has two big factories there, as do Kelloggs. There are hopes that these factories too will soon have Swift nest boxes fitted to them.

North Wales Wildlife Trust has been especially active in getting Swift nest places put up around their area; lots of places on Anglesey now have them, and local people are getting keen on helping the birds.


Photos  © Henry Cook / North Wales Wildlife Trust

Swifts have now headed back to Africa
They'll be back with us next May!

Robert Relph took these amazing photos of a young Swift launching into its first ever flight out of its nestbox.

Two days later it could be over Madrid, a week later over Mali, a month later feasting on insects over the Congo.

Then, next June, it will be heading back to the UK, to fly, socialise and feed as well as migrate again for another year or two before finding a place to breed and a mate for the next year.

Photos  ©  Robert Relph

First Flight - The moment of truth - "Can I really Fly?" the answer "Yes!"

Swifts spend nearly all their life in flight, they can fly from one end of the Earth to another, they can fly at 8,000 feet, they can get through terrible weather, heat waves, sand storms, they can cross deserts and seas, and still arrive spot on time here in the UK to breed for another year.

Very Good News from Malta!
Swift nest boxes are set up at the Salina Nature Park Visitor Centre

Photos  © BirdLifeMalta

Manuel of BirdLifeMalta writes: In Malta, Common Swifts and Pallid Swifts are a very recent addition to the breeding birds of the islands.  Probably the absence was due to illegal hunting.  But over the last 10 years or so they have established several colonies in rural areas and also in built-up areas.  


BirdLifeMalta took on the management of the Salina Nature Park in late 2018, but it lacks breeding birds as it was not previously managed for wildlife.  Now we are trying to encourage various species to breed, like Little Ringed Plover and Black-winged Stilts, with the construction of islands in the saltpans.  We have also set up nest boxes for Kingfisher (wjich has never bred in Malta), Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Sparrow and Swifts.


The Swift nest boxes were set up at our Visitors Centre (see photo attached). They were immediately taken over by Spanish Sparrows, so next year, I’ll block the holes until the Swifts arrive. We are planning to have many school visits, and having a Swift colony would be a great educational experience for the kids to observe the birds chasing each other and visiting their nests.  We have also organised nest box building activities for families which were quite successful.

Brighton General Hospital's Swifts are breeding well again this year!
bghs1  bghs3

Above, and to the right, a pair of Swifts nesting again this year in converted ventilation holes in the Brighton General Hospital buildings.

Just a few years ago, in a project supported by Swift Conservation, the hospital, and its surveyor agreed a project promoted by Chris Lowe and Heather Ball of Brighton's Swifts to restore and make suitable old and decaying ventilators in the walls of the hospital as Swift nesting holes.

Swifts had already been nesting in them, but obviously any repairs would have made them unusable by the Swifts. So Heather and Chris  made the case for Swift Bricks to be installed instead of ventilator bricks when the buildings were refurbished. A Swift brick made by Ecosurv was selected as it matched the existing yellow brickwork.

Photos  © Heather Ball

The project was a success; the Swifts returned and have nested there ever since. About 80% of these recently installed Swift bricks now have nesting Swifts in them. This is an excellent result!

The Brighton General Hospital site has potential for at least 30 nest sites identified in broken air bricks, soffit holes, and the Ecosurv bricks. Each year new nest sites are discovered by Heather and her colleagues.
They're Back & Very Early too!

Swift People have started to report sightings these past few days of April.

Here is Liz Cotton's photo from Italy of a Swift on its migration North, passing under the Moon on Easter Sunday - an amazing image! Who knows where it is headed and will nest?

Liz Cotton's Moon

Photo  © Elizabeth Cotton

Daffyd Coe told us he had spotted one lone Swift at Shoreham-by-Sea, near Brighton, on Sunday 19th April. Robbie Gooders spotted a Swift over Winchelsea, near Rye, the evening of the 21st April. Jacqueline Dubet at the WWT's London Wetland Centre tells us that Swifts were seen overhead on 22nd April. and Andrew Mcveigh saw some over his home near Winchester on the same day.

And amazingly Steven Robinson found a Swift already in one of his next boxes in Dulwich, South London, on the evening of 22nd April, an incredible three weeks earlier than last year. Here it is, (photo opposite and above), snug in its nest.

Wayne Lewis in West Wales e-mailed (24th April) to say he has seen Swifts above his house, 7 to 10 days early. Same for Jennifer Greitschus (London E5) and Bob Coates (Ewhurst, Surrey), both saw their first Swifts on the 26th April.

Swifts will be flooding back to nest all over the  Northern Hemisphere starting now and then on into June. Keep an eye open for them, and keep their nest holes open for them too!  Protect and save!

Back from Africa,
now safe in its nest in Dulwich,
South London

  Photo  © Steven Robinson

Can't travel?
No holidays? Here are some Swifts from Morocco instead


Photo  © Elizabeth Cotton

Above, just to whet your appetite for travel once we are all free to move again, two magnificent, huge and super-fast Alpine Swifts at their nest hole in a building in Fez, Morocco, where they are plentiful, and very easy to see.

See them, admire them, and encourage local people to  treasure them!
A difficult New World is here, and we can survive it- with Swifts!

Covid 19 "the Wuhan Flu" has changed our lives, for the immediate and  forseeable future. Until a vaccine is produced and we get it popped into us, we are all going to have to live more sheltered, carefully protected lives.

What  has this meant for the world of Swift experts, amateurs and carers? The International Biennial Swift Conference, to be held this coming May in Segovia, Spain, has been postponed to 2021, the Rutland Water Bird Fair has been cancelled, though the lecture programme may be run on-line, Swift Conservation has had to cancel all its public talks,  but...... nest box work is thriving!

Nest box makers are telling us they are handling a big increase in demand, and we at Swift Conservation are selling record numbers of our Swift call CD and MP3 recordings. So people stuck at home are thinking "Let's help Swifts! Let's get a nestbox or two up and running!

Great, isn't it? Opposite, a "Lockdown DIY Swift Project", Tim Knowlman's (of "SOS Martinets") new nest box system now up in his and his wife Carolyn's flat in Amboise right by the River Loire, a great Swift spot where birds (and bats too!) feed over the river on the plentiful insects that swarm there.

You can do it too! Go on, help Swifts, help the World, make nestboxes for friends and neighbours too, and keep your morale up with a nestbox project!

You'll find all you need to know right here on this website, and then you can spend the summer days lolling at your window, on your balcony, or in your garden, scouring the skies for Swifts, G & T in hand (note Tim's G & T on top of the nestboxes on the right - an essential Lock-down Tonic!)

Living or working in France? Then have a look at SOS Martinets too!


Photos  ©  Carolyn Knowlman Swifts of France

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Photo  © Carlos Palma Burgos Swift Conservation Group
Burgos Swift Nest Box Project

Nest box makers are thriving too in Burgos, Spain! Carlos Palma (on the left in the photo with Orlando Garzón) has written to us about their local Swift Project.

With the help of John Stimpson, nest box maker in Cambridgeshire, (20,000+ Swift nest boxes made and sold so far!) they have been making Swift nest boxes locally, together with the nest bowls that encourage Swifts to nest. This can only help the Swifts of this spectacular town, so rich in historic buildings, and history too.

Spain still has some of the biggest Swift populations in Europe, concentrated mostly in old buildings in the heart of  ancient towns. With all the endless pressures from redvelopment iy is esential that they are preserved.

What is more, and unique, is that Spain has populations of no less than 5 species of Swift, Common, Pallid, Alpine, Little and White-rumped, the last two African species that have moved in to Andalucia in the extreme South of Spain, maybe as a result of the climate changing to become warmer and dryer.

All but White-rumped are easy enough to see if you go to the right places.

Use this link for more information on expert Swift watching in Andalucia!

Parma Ospedale Vecchio Swift rescue Project heads into second year


In February we jetted off to Italy to meet local Swift Groups and see their projects, to give any advice that might be needed, (and also to try the unique local cuisine of this area, with its highly individual wines and foods).

One major project in Emilia Romagna that we visited was at the Ospedale Vecchio in Parma, shown above. This is a very old public hospital, dating from the 15th Century, and in use until 1926, but now undergoing renovation for new public uses.

In poor condition for some years, but very far from derelict, with a sound structure and watertight roof, many Swifts had found places to breed inside its eaves. Wrapping the building to protect it during the works meant the Swifts could not access their nests, so the Parma Swallows & Swifts Group ("Gruppo Rondini & Rondone Parma") became involved, and a technique recommended by Mauro Ferri of Monumenti Vivi  was used to keep the Swifts nesting without population losses.

This technique was to fit temporary nest boxes to the scaffolding, so the Swifts had somewhere to nest while the works proceeded.

The project has been a success. Of the 43 nest boxes put up, 22 are occupied by Swifts, with some Back Redstarts and Titmice using them too. This is entirely normal; there is always strong competition for the most desirable holes in a building from the many species of hole-nesting creatures, and in Italy this will include Lizards, Geckos too. Rather oddly, Swifts seem to occupy no more than one of every two nest boxes put up at some sites.


Above: Nest boxes, designed, manufactured and supplied by CISNIAR and donated by Renzo Rabacchi, were fitted to the scaffolding of the Ospedale Vecchio in front of the wrapping. Other nest boxes were donated by Francesco Mezzatesta, Franco Roselli and Renatao Carini both of As.O.E.R.

Returning Swifts in 2020 will be using the nest boxes again, as they are still in place for a second year of works. Hopefully works will end some time this year or early next, and the Swifts can return to their old nest places beneath the tiles.

Working in Parma, Piacenza and Pavia, we spent time with Francesco Mezzatesta of ADA Onlus - Parma Swifts & Swallows Group, Mauro Ferri of Monumenti Vivi, and Eugenia Parisi of Swifts of Campiglia, all of them devoted to keeping Swifts, Swallows and Martins thriving in Italy's ancient monuments and buildings, both old and modern.

Photos © ADA-Onlus Parma


Photos © Ian Hartrey

This wouldn't have happened without all the efforts of Ian Hartrey who devoted two years to getting Swift and Bat boxes into this new development.
It meant frequent liaison weith the builders, a huge amount of determination, drive and, it would seem, sheer nagging, but in the end, it worked!

And you can do it too!
The St Paul's development Penarth

Ian Hartrey writes to us from Penarth in Wales to tell us that the developers with whom he has been working have fitted 13 Swift nest boxes and 3 Bat boxes to a local new housing development.

The photo on the left shows in close-up four of the new "woodcrete" heavy-weight, long-lasting nest boxes, while on the right is a wider view of more of the development.

This is very much the route we hope to see all new building developments take. Incorporating nest and rest places for birds, bats and other wildlife, to replace the devastation we wreak daily on the living world all about us.

There are many ways to get involved, to if possible help to swing things in local developments Swifts' and Bats' way.

Contact us if you need advice, examples, ideas, and mentors.




Photos © Daniel O'Byrne - Friends of Surrey Square Park

A superb project set up on a Southwark Council Estate, the Kinglake Estate, next to Surrey Square Park and Burgess Park Lake in South London.

Residents there are already highly aware of the need to support and enhance local biodiversity, and much has been done in the way of planting and sympathetic managment to support resident species, inlcuding a good population of a Red-Listed bird, the House Sparrow, now extinct from much of its former range in London.

Swift Conservation was invited to survey the site back in early 2019, and to recommend a nest box scheme for Swifts.

To our delight we found an ideal site, handsome and highly suitable buildings in good condition, and most important of all, highly committed and enthusiastic people form the Esate, from the Management, and from Southwark Council itself.

This is really important; hardly any nest box scheme will work without sustained consistent intelligent support from local people.

A local website is planned, using web-cams fitted within the nest boxes.

Southwark's Kinglake Estate
gets more Swifts - thanks to Cleaner, Greener, Safer!


That's  the way you do it!
You just need a huge Cherry Picker, and friends at the local Council!

Sixteen new Swift Nests right here!

The nearby lake in Burgess Park is great for attracting Swifts and House Martins who feed over it, and some Swifts are already nesting in old ventilation bricks within the Estate.

Last year some 20 Swifts were seen feedingover the Lake, and about 12 were seen to be inspecting the new nest boxes on the Estate. It looks like there are excellent prospects for establishing a colony there.

This is a Local Biodiversity Project put together with the support of
Julian Weston - Residents Association - Kinglake Estate
Nills Battye - Project Manager - Southwark Council
Edward Mayer - Swift Conservation
Daniel O'Byrne - Friends of Surrey Square Park
Funding: Southwark Council's "Cleaner, Greener, Safer" Scheme

Multiple Swift nest box inserted into historic building near Turin

Giovanni Boano, Curator of Birds and Mammals collections at the  Museo Civico do Storia Naturale di Carmagnola, near Turin in Northern Italy, has sent us this photo of a new multiple nest box, that he has built into his old home in the Via San Francesco di Sales in Carmagnola town.

A project like this can house maybe as many Swifts as have been evicted from half a dozen nearby buildings by renovatuon and modernisation works.

Giovanni has worked hard for years now on behalf of Swifts in his region of Italy, organising local conferences and activities, participating in National Swift Day celebrations, leading walks, talks and displays, all for the benefit of local Swift populations, local school-children, and local environmental enthusiasts (of which Italy has very many, much to some people's surprise; they outnumber the hunters by far).

Photo © Giovanni Boano Museo Civico do Storia Naturale di Carmagnola


Islington Swifts - NE London


Photos © Michael Priaulx - Islington Swifts
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Very Easy Swift Nestplaces!

Where buildings have wide eaves and timber or Upvc "boxed" (i.e. internally separated from the roofspace) soffits, easy to drill into, you do not need to install separate nest boxes. Just drill 28 x 65mm holes in the soffit between the internal timber supports, and you create a Swift nest!

These photos of a project in Highbury, Islington, NE London, were sent to us by Mike Priaulx of Islington Swifts, who works for Swifts all over North and East London. You can see just how easy it is to create spaces for Swifts to breed in when the scaffolding is up. All you need is a hole saw and a drill, and the guidance freely available on this website and in our leaflets which you can download here.
Swift Care in Majorca, Spain

Wildlife casulaties are treated at public expense in Spain. There is a sort of National Health Service for wildlife there, and each of Spain's semi-autonomous regions is required to provide veterinary services for all injured or ill wildlife found by the public and brought in for care.

We were sent some photos form the Majorcan wildife care centre late in 2019, showing their volunteers hard at work looking after the over 700 young Swifts brought in to them. These are mostly young birds that fall from the nest before being able to fly. It seems that 2019 was a bad year, with extreme heat causing many young Swifts to jump too early from their nest holes.

It is hard work, but their success rates can be high, so it is very much worth while.

We are very grateful to Fiona Browne and Cristina Fiol for briefing us and for sending us these photos.



Photos © Conselleria de Medi Ambient, Agricultura i Pesca and COFIB (Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre Mallorca)
Bill Murrels

Photo  © Swift Conservation & Mandy Mayer

Bird Fair 2019
The Swift Stand wins First Prize

The 2019 Bird Fair held at Rutland Water saw the new enlarged and redesigned Swift Stand win First Prize in the Conservation category.

A joint effort by Action for Swifts, Swift Conservation and Swifts Local Network, the stand is staffed by volunteers from the UK's 80+ Swift Groups, and greets several thousand visitors every year.

It welcomes enquiries from all over the UK, Europe and indeed the World regarding Swifts, and it provides a place to sell nestboxes, Swift call systems and souvenirs.

But its main purpose is to encourage people to set up Swift nestboxes, establish their own colonies, and spread the word that Swifts need help, are a vital part of urban biodiversity, and can be helped by anyone with an interest.

On the left the photo shows
Bill Murrells of Action for Swifts holding the First Prize certificate won by the Swift Stand, against the backdrop of the posters and temporary walls demonstrating how to install the many different types of Swift nest boxes and Swift bricks now available.

Beryl Hunwicks, Mayor of Woking, formally opens the Woking Swift and Bat Column on 1st August. Woking's column sits in front of the town hall, opposite the World Wildlife Fund HQ next to the canal. Its base is carved with a migration map, Swift images and Swift facts.

We hope this is the start of a Woking Swift Renaissance, with many nestboxes being set up in the pedestrianised and greened shopping streets leading from the Council Offices, where this column is situated, right through to the railway station. As part of this project, Swift nestboxes are being fitted to the Peacocks Shopping Centre at the heart of this area.

This is the first Swift and Bat Column to be commissioned, another one has been installed at the University of Birmingham. We hope that as interest in our Swift Columns builds up, more will be set up in 2020 and beyond.

Photos  ©  51 architecture & Edward Mayer
A new Swift beacon for Woking

A couple of years back we gave a talk on Swifts and the benefits of urban diversity to the local Council staff of Woking, and as a result they were really keen to get a project going!

When they were looking for a new focal point for the town which would make a connection between their offices and the new HQ for the World Wildlife Fund just across the road, and serve as a waymarker for their twinned towns in Germany and France, they decided on a Swift Column.

They ordered one of our new Swift and Bat Columns, designed by us in collaboration with 51 architecture for their Habi-Sabi nestplace range, and turned it into an educational  info-point and waymarker, with a stone base decorated with Swift images designed by Jonathan Pomroy, the well known bird artist, and a time sequence and migration map provided by the British Trust for Ornitholgy showing Swift migration across the Globe.


The idea behind the steel and oak Swift and Bat Column is that it mimics the natural woodpecker holes used by Swifts in parts of Scotland, Poland and Lapland, and it also fits easily into the modern urban landscape.

woking head
The head of the Column, with places for 8 pairs of Swifts and bats too.
New homes for Swifts in Poland


Karen Sayce writes to us from Szczecin:  "I don't have any scientific evidence, but I don't think our Swift population has suffered as much from the storms further south and west which seem to have had a detrimental effect on the Swift populations nearer the Mediterranean. Perhaps ours fly up via Greece and the Balkans. They were a bit slow arriving, but numbers seem to have picked up recently - maybe the second wave is here!

I have also found a couple of renovated buildings in town where Swift nest boxes have been installed, and in large numbers - a very pleasant surprise! I don't know who runs the buildings - whether they are privately or council-owned - but I hope it's a sign of things to come.

Photos  © Karen Sayce

These nest boxes (see close-up photo on the left) were installed under the cornices as part of a renovation of old art-nouveau apartment blocks (see above) in the city centre (the first on the corner of Bohaterów Getta Warszawskiego and Królowej Jadwigi, and the second on plac Zgody) which had not been repaired in over seventy years.

Since they were only completed in the past year, I'm not sure how occupied they are, but I think I heard some peeping from the first one when I went past to vote in the Euro Parliament elections on 26 May!
In town, those in charge of housing associations and cooperatives still have a tendency to do renovations at nesting times and will block up nest sites with chicks of all species in them. However, there seems to be an increase in awareness among ordinary residents who are complaining to the authorities when such building work starts, and I think it very much depends on whether you have an enlightened individual at the housing association."
The Isle of Man helps Swifts

Following a visit from Swift Conservation's Edward Mayer, who gave a public talk and ran a private training session for council staff, Manx National Heritage have installed 6 Swift nestboxes on one of their buildings in Douglas and have fitted a loudspeaker below to encourage birds to investigate.

The nestsboxes were placed on two of sides of the building on the left, to see which side the Swifts prefer and once they have made their choice there’s room for more to be installed. If this trial is a success it is hoped to place more Swift nestboxes on other Heritage buildings.

Photo  ©  Manx National Heritage
Huntingdon Station Flyover Swifts

We were asked a few months ago to help with a problem at Huntingdon. The huge ring road that encircles Huntingdon is to be demolished, but in the span that crosses the North East railway line, Swifts  have used drainage holes in the underside of the bridge to enter and make their nests. This is the only place I have seen this happen in the UK, but we know of  a famous site near Siegen in Germany where Swifts are nesting like this.

The road, bridge included, is to be totally removed. What is to be done? As discussed with the contractors CH2M UK, we plan to ask nearby homeowners to let us put Swift nestboxes up on their homes, and to erect a Swift Tower on a nearby greenspace just up the road. Calls will be used to attract the birds to use the new nestsites, when they find their old ones gone.

On the right you can see photos of the bridge, and below in close-up, one of the holes under the carriage way (near the lamp-post) where the Swifts are nesting.



Photos  ©  Edward Mayer
The Duchy of Corwall installs Swift Nest Places big-time

Stephen Fitt, the RSPB's Volunteer Swift  co-ordiator in Exeter, reports to  us that following his approaches, the Prince of Wales is promoting wholesale installation of Swift nest boxes within the many new urban developments being built by his contractors and architects within the County, and also in Dorset and Oxfordshire on Duchy of Cornwall land.

There have been installations in Nansleden in Newquay, Tregunnel Hill also in Newquay, and on Union Hill in Truro. More nest places are being installed in Poundbury, another Duchy site, near Dorchester.

Opposite and below are photos showing the Tregunnel Hill site. Can you spot the Swift nest holes? The Duchy has committed itself to place at least one Swift nest place in every house that it builds.

It is hoped that in this way between 5000 and 8000 nestplaces will be created for Swifts in these properties over the next 30 years.

ttegunnel detail

Photos  ©  Duchy of Cornwall Estate
Shepcote House in Enfield to keep its Swifts despite complete rebuilding

Swifts had found plentiful places to nest within apertures in the walls of a 1960's  multi storey Council owned apartment block at the New Avenue estate in Oakwood, Enfield.

When the time came to rebuild it, a well-informed team of London Swift activists, Catherine Day, Mike Priaulx and Edward Mayer, guided by a local Swift fan,  Andy Potter, and expert Swift surveyor Mary Dixon, intervened on behalf of the birds, and secured superb cooperation from the owners and the developers, Countryside, and the advising ecologists, Middlemarch.

So far 42 nest places have been installed in two of the new buildings, (one is shown below) with more to come, and Swift calls are being played to lure the birds in. Swifts were seen there on 1st May, a very good start!

Photos  ©  Michael Priaulx


cherry picker
Bangor Uni
Menai Bridge in Anglesey

The Ocean Sciences building in Menai Bridge is part of Bangor University and was amongst the first places North Wales Wildlife Trust (NWWT) installed Swift nest boxes at in 2015. It was close to two existing Swift colonies. In 2017 they saw the first signs of Swift occupation (the previous two years there were Sparrows in one of the boxes). In 2018 when they surveyed the site they recorded Swifts in and out of all four boxes which was great.

In addition NWWT has installed five nest boxes at Bangor University's Dean Street site and also a terrace of nine boxes on their Natural Sciences building, with the help of BTO Cymru who are based nearby.

NWWT is preparing to install some more Swift nest boxes on the same building and possibly on another University building nearby this Spring.

More Swift nest boxes have been set up on nearby homes too!

Photos  ©  NWWT

proud owners
We talk to Parma!

The ADA-Onlus environmental protection society in Parma invited us to come and speak at a half-day seminar "Edifici Viventi" (Living Buildings) all about the Swifts and House Martins living in the historic heart of this city famous worldwide for its Parma ham and Parmesan cheese, but also for its stunning Cathedral and the adjacent amazing multi storey Baptistry.

Students from the local Liceo Scientifico Giacomo Ulivi working with famous wildlife expert Mauro Ferri and their teacher Andrea Beseghi had conducted a thorough survey of Swifts and House Martin nesting sites throughout the historic heart of the city.

They had also looked for Swallows, but had found none. Older residents can remember days when the skies were filled with all these birds, but now numbers are sadly reduced and the conference was called to alert all those concerned.

We were tasked with presenting Swift recovery projects from all over Eutope and Central Asia too. Showing nest place projects from more than a dozen countries, we worked hard to inspire all those there with the hope and the means to start reversing the declines in these amazing, beautiful, charismatic and life-enhancing creatures.

The conference was supported by the Ministry of Culture and the Gruppo Rondone Italia. See the conference presentations here.

Photos  ©  ADA-Onlus Parma

Parma Two
GRP Swift box 
First success for new UK-made fibre-glass Swift nest box?

We were sent this photo from Tonbridge in Kent, of a Swift checking out one of the latest types of nest box made here in the UK, the "Impeckable" fibre glass nest box, single cavity version.

Note the sound system (the tweeter loudspeaker is visible at far lower right) playing the calls that attract the Swifts to the new nest places.

You can find these nestboxes (guaranteed for 25 years) which are available in a wide range of colours and sizes, plus the Swift calls recordings on our "Shopping" page - click here to go to it.
Dublin corner shop starts Swift revival

Helen Burke of Dublin Swift Conservation has sent us this photo of a mural of Swifts, part of a shop improvement scheme supported by Dublin City Council in association with the Dublin Swift Group and The Haven Pharmacy.

This new local feature has kickstarted an entire environmental enhancement scheme involving local people.

The partners in this scheme together with Dublin Swift Conservation have plans for more and similar local projects, all with the aim of getting more people to both know about and to protect their Swifts, and to brighten up their neighbourhoods at the same time.


Photos  ©  Helen Burke / Dublin Swift Group
Saving House Martins in Italy

We love House Martins too, so when WWF- Italia asked us for our advice we headed off to a disused oil-powered power station just outside Piombino, on the coast of the mainland near the island of Elba, where large numbers of House Martins (Balestrucci in Italian) had nested for years.

Right next to an excellent sea-side and salt-marsh nature reserve, hosting great populations of Waders, Herons and Flamingoes, this site could have a great future in wildlife conservation if it is developed sympathetically.

But unless we could come up with a viable rescue scheme, the nests were going to be knocked down together with the whole of the power station, and the site reclaimed for other uses.

Working with the site architect, Riccardo Stoppioni and his team, and with our wonderful translator Eugenia Parisi always at our side, we devised a solution; ranges of new walls stacked across the site running up to a nice muddy drainage canal, that would provide ample attachment areas for new mud nests, as well as on their lower regions areas for creeping and rambling plants.

The photos on the right show, top left, original House Martin nests on the eaves of the metal sheds housing the boilers and generator, and on the right initial ideas from the architects responsible for restoration of the site for artificial arcades to support the nests of the House Martins in nearby locations.
Something like this, but with a lot less greenery is likely to be selected for the scheme.

Below is a photo of the power station site as it is now, awaiting demolition.

Photos  ©  Edwad Mayer, Drawing ©  Architect Riccardo Stoppioni
Pimbino1 Piombino2
Swift Awareness Week - Amazing Results!

We have been featuring just a few of the many amazing (over 90!) events organised for Swift Awareness Week 16 to 23 June. There was stacks more going on, over 90 events nationwide, some of them very ambitious indeed!

The famous village of Aldeburgh in Suffolk has done some amazing things for Swifts. On the right, a lovely little Swift House on show in the local estate agent! The local Aldeburgh Swift Group got its leaflets and Swift books for chldren into lots of the local cafés and shops, and set up a Swift Trail too!

Other Swift Groups like Tring & Hackney & Islington Swifts & Lewisham Swifts ran Swift Walks & Talks and pub get-togethers, and some put amazing floats into local fêtes - we hope to get some photos of them to show you!

On the right, a Giant Swift being interviewed in Presteigne, Powys, Wales, for its views on Swift Awareness Week! We hope you got out there and joined in the fun! Meanwhile, get ready for next year!

Photos  ©  Alan Collett & Peta Sams

Aldeburgh Tiny Swift Housegiant swift hat 
Swift News from Southend-on-Sea

John Smart writes to tell us that this area is still a stronghold for Swifts as it still has a much older building stock. But refurbishments with additions of fascia and soffit boards are always ongoing, as is the case nationally.

Essex Swifts is in partnership with the Essex Birdwatching Society and the Essex Wildlief Trust, and we were invited to mount a Swift project on EWT’s Belfairs Woodland Centre.

It was thought it wise to protect the entrance surrounds with metal plates as Belfairs Wood is known to be a stronghold for Great Spotted Woodpeckers!

A tweeter is located in the box furthest from the camera and its cable connects to the amplifier in the office down on the right.

The line-up:- From left to right – Essex Swifts is represented by John Smart, EWT Maintenance Officer & Technician David Murdoch, EWT Centre Manager Greg Borgartz and Paul Jenkinson from the Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.

Sadly, EWT’s Assistant Manager Alison Askwith was not available for the group photo on the day of installation having been so instrumental in assisting the project.

Photos  ©  John Smart / Essex Swifts

Dovercourt Estate Swift Development

This Estate is in the east of Islington and is being regenerated by Islington Council and Lovell, with 70 new homes to be occupied within two years. The mix of Council and private homes have been designed to meet Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, to demonstrate a high environmental performance.

Despite being quite modern, Dovercourt is excellent for urban biodiversity. It has colonies of House Sparrows and Swifts nesting on the boundary of the estate, in addition to a wide range of commoner species.

The new-build works at Dovercourt successfully avoided disturbance of the nests, by simple measures such as stopping workmen lingering in the vicinity of the nests and removing scaffolding before the Swifts returned in the spring. Juvenile birds were seen at the end of the summer, demonstrating success.

Sparrow “terrace” nestboxes have been installed to provide additional nesting for them, and bat roosting blocks and Swift nest bricks of the Schwegler type are being installed in one of the taller blocks.

It is worth noting that the Swift bricks were installed voluntarily by the developer in lieu of standard nestboxes, after a request by a resident. The close proximity of nesting Swifts was only discovered after planning permission was granted. However, the developer preferred the simplicity of installing Swifts bricks compared to the complications of installing nestboxes in trees.

Both Islington and adjacent Hackney make an interesting case study for how residents can influence their Council to enforce measures for Swifts, in these two cases to implement their Biodiversity Action Plans which for both Boroughs specifically mentioned Swifts.

A small number of developments in each Borough had included measures for Swifts. But there were many high profile buildings that had not included them.

Hackney Swifts Group took a very assertive approach initially with a petition and strongly worded articles in local publications. Islington Swifts Group took a more conversational approach, through commenting on planning applications and attending events and planning committee meetings etc. Both have seen significant results with most suitable applications requiring Swift bricks now, although each relevant application is still being commented on to make sure none are missed.

In less than 18 months, more than 20 planning applications have been approved with planning conditions for Swift bricks, increasing from almost none at the start of this period. With the help of the Parks Department, residents and local organisations there have been at least 32 nesting boxes installed in the same period, to provide the Swifts with interim nest places whilst the buildings with nesting bricks are put up.                                         

Mike Priaulx - Islington Swifts

dc3 dc1



Photos  ©  Mike Priaulx / Islington Swifts
Bennys Boxes
News from Sweden

Benny Båth has sent us this photo from his home in snowy Southern Sweden. A keen supporter of Swifts and other birds, in Winter he makes nest boxes in bulk and with his brother sets them up in time for the Spring breeding season.  Here he shares with us this winter's work.

11 Starling nestboxes
40 Swift nestboxes
51 small birdboxes for various woodland species

Benny says: "The Starling boxes will be put up by my brother, he also manages some nestboxes himself. The boxes for the small birds are mostly for replacement and presents, I have 850 from this type already and will not increase that. The Swift nests are intended for two new sites and supplementing and replacement of older types. I have 103 up now but quite a few are of an old type and at doubtful locations, I will try to  improve the quality of where I place them".

Isn't this great? We need more Bennies! Can you help?        Photo © Benny Båth

Eddington Village Swifts

Eddington is a new village on the edge of north west Cambridge, with several hundred new apartments for both students and the general public built as medium-rise blocks, plus a Sainsbury's supermarket, a community centre, a primary school and nursery, and all scheduled for completion in 2018.

Developed by the University of Cambridge on farmland between Madingley Road and Huntingdon Road, the site is designed to meet high environmental standards under BREEAM and the Code for Sustainable Homes, environmental assessment methods.
There is a sustainable drainage system with a new wetland area and Europe's largest rainwater re-use network for flushing WCs and irrigation, and planting includes species selected for their benefit to wildlife.

Photographs © Michael Priaulx



As part of the overall environmental package, the developers have installed 38 nesting bricks for Swifts, (one is shown in close-up up on the left) with more integrated nesting bricks for other species including House Sparrows. That means a potential breeding population of 76 Swifts, a wonderful sight to behold if it comes to pass!

Swift Care Training

On Saturday 11 November 2017 SPARE (Swift Protection Association Reigate) hosted a visit from Enric Fusté, a highly qualified biological scientist and wildlife rehabilitator from Catalonia, and a highly-regarded expert in the treatment of injured, starving and dehydrated Swifts. 

The cause of many Swift fatalities is starvation, dehydration, and premature fledging, but prompt rescue and correct treatment can save them. Expert rehabilitators can achieve rates of over 85% success.

For the past 10 years Enric's work has been focused on the veterinary rehabilitation of insectivorous birds, especially the Common Swift. He described the scientific project he has conducted to find the most appropriate diet for hand rearing Swifts and other insectivorous birds that he encounters at the Torreferrusa Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Barcelona where they are brought by their rescuers. Torreferrussa is funded by the Catalan government and provides treatment facilities for wildlife casualties from the Barcelona area and part of Catalonia.

About sixty people attended from the Reigate area, among them RSPB members from East Surrey Local RSPB Group, members of Holmesdale Natural History Club, the Green Party, Surrey Wildlife Trust, and members of SPARE.

Enric collaborates with Torreferrusa Wildlife Rehabilitation centre, which treats up to 2000 injured and fallen Swifts (mainly chicks), and annually around 10,000 wildlife casualties. Enric showed videos of the baby birds being fed on insects and all the stages of the hand-rearing process. It was an amazing sight seeing just how much Swift chicks can fit into their small beaks and how quickly the staff have to work to feed as many as 600 birds five times a day!  Enric's talk was truly fascinating as well as highly informative.


Photo © SPARE

Want to get involved? 

If you are interested in hand-rearing information Enric Fusté can be contacted at

If you live in the Reigate area, are concerned about the plight of this dramatic, exciting yet enigmatic bird
and the destruction of its nests please email to see how you can easily help to conserve these migratory wonder-birds of the British summertime.
Irish Swifts get a new deal
from Wild Kildare

Paddy Sherican writes to us from County Kildare in Eire "Wild Kildare was set up to promote, enhance and protect the wildlife and biodiversity of Co Kildare, a land-locked county adjacent to Dublin.

Our Swift project came about when a talk was given to the local Birdwatch Ireland branch by Brian Cahalane of the Northern Ireland Swift Group. Brian really sold the Swift to us while at the same time clearly getting the message across that these birds were in trouble, of which we had no idea.

Local supporter Dermot Doran who lives on a farm, put up boxes, having never seen a Swift over his property. Birds were almost instantly attracted to them even though the nearest colony is about eight miles away, and in 2017 a pair fledged two chicks with another pair claiming a new box (a photo of a Swift in Dermot's box is below).This proved to us that a nestbox project was possible. 

Extensive Swift surveys were carried out in 2015 and 2016. From these two surveys twelve towns were identified as being in serious need of new nesting sites and so boxes were put up in May 2017 tgether with call lures. Surveying continued in 2017 and boxes were put up in a further five towns in September 2017. The vast majority were put up on schools.

It is hoped to keep the project going on a continuous basis. It is largely self funding thanks to various grants from Kildare County Council and kind sponsorship from amenity groups and businesses in each town. We use Genesis Nestboxes, Irish made, with a twenty five year guarantee; contact Stephan de Beer. The picture is of putting up boxes on a school in the town of  Naas with representatives from Naas Tidy Town and Wild Kildare.

Photograph © Noel Clare


Photograph © Gerry Condron

We at Wild Kildare feel that it is far more important to save existing nest sites. We discovered that May Wall and Eileen Doyle between them had eight Swift nests in the front of their dwellings. These two houses hold one third of the nesting pairs in Castledermot. Wild Kildare was told that the whole block was due for renovation. We approached both ladies and they kindly agreed to not block up the nests. Wild Kildare worked with the contractor and every nest was saved. An excellent result!

This year also Wild Kildare with the help of the Council Heritage Officer got a clause written into the new County Development Plan GI25 . If a new planning application for a suitable public building such as a new school is submitted to the council we trigger the clause asking them to incorporate Swift bricks or boxes. So far of the three proposed buildings that we deemed suitable, two have agreed.

If you fast forward one hundred years these are the type of sites Swifts will be nesting on in Co Kildare, hopefully safeguarding their future for generations to come."

A brilliant effort all round!

Aldeburgh gets going for its Swifts!

Alan and Christine Collett have written to us with some great news from Aldeburgh in Suffolk, famous home of the Snape Maltings Music Festival and the composer Benjamin Britten, and soon to become famous for its Swifts, we hope.

"Concerned at the local decline in Swift numbers, my wife Christine and I started an awareness campaign here in Aldeburgh, Suffolk back in May.  Little did we know that within a couple of weeks we’d be called upon to rescue our first Swift, which, with a little help from local bird ringing expert Mike Swindells, was safely released after an overnight rest.  

Over the summer we held stalls on the High Street, had flags up around the town and put mini flags in many of the shops and public buildings to advertise the need to take action now. No-one could have missed our Swiftmobile ‘float' in the town Carnival either!  We have had a fantastic response from residents wishing to put up nest boxes and having set ourselves a target of 50 boxes by next May, we are already well on the way to achieving this.

To read our story so far, go to our website "

This is the way to do it! Strong, attractive, persuasive local action with that all-important fun element added. That's what works. Try it and see!

Aldeburgh Swifts Stand
Aldeburgh Swift Car

Pop Up Stall

Photographs © Alan & Christine Collett

david naylor

Our Swifts are now officially endangered. To put this into context, here are a few more of the current  assessments for other once common species:

Vulnerable: Starling, Cuckoo, House Martin, Nightingale
Near Threatened: Corn Bunting, Collared Dove
Endangered: Willow Tit, Greenfinch, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Critical: Turtle Dove

UK Swifts: Now officially "Endangered"

Depressing but hardly unexpected news, the September 2017 edition of "British Birds" in an article titled "The risk of extinction for birds in Great Britain", using the standard IUCN Red List criteria, rates the Swift in the UK as "endangered".

The emphasis of the IUCN Red List approach is on extinction risk, informed by species' rarity, range restrictions and rate of recent decline (measured over the last ten years or three generations, whichever is longer).

Clearly a lot more needs to be done to keep our wild bird populations. We need to keep up the pressure on the media, on NGO decision-makers, local government administrators, politicians and civil servants, and of course do even more ourselves to prevent the dying-off of our wildlife and the sterilisation of our world.

Easy actions you can take: buy and put up a Swift nest box or even better two. Write to your MP, MEP and local councillors, get an article into your local paper, start off a campaign on social media.

Photograph © David Naylor
Our 3rd Year at Bird Fair!

On the long weekend of August 18, 19 & 20 we were back at Bird Fair with our own stand, shared with fellow Swift activists Action for Swifts and local advice service Swifts Local Network for the third year running. We featured our new Swift Column on the stand, and it attracted a lot of interest (see our Shopping Page for more information on this).

Hundreds of people visited our stand in Marquee 8, and it was a great pleasure to meet them all and see just how interested they all were in helping Swifts!

Volunteers from all three groups plus Hampshire Ornithological Society, and also John Stimpson the Swift nest box maker, attended to ensure that there was plentiful advice to hand. 
John Stimpson has made to date almost 11,000 Swift nest boxes, you can see the models and their details here. Scroll down the Shopping page to find the boxes.

Sales of Swift nest boxes and sound systems were very good, ensuring that Swifts returning to the UK next year will find more places to breed, and that we can all afford to have a stand again at the 2018 Bird Fair.

We hope to see you  there!
bird fair 2017
Photograph © Edward Mayer
More Swifts for Essex

On the right is the latest Swift project of the Essex Birdwatching Society (EBS) Swifts team, working with the Essex Wildlife Trust. Essex is a good place for Swifts, with livestock farming, a lengthy coastline with many inlets and salt-marshes, excellent nature reserves, many rivers and some large reservoirs, all providing good supplies of flying insect food. Yet much of the new housing and building development in this busy county has been effectively Swift-proof, denying them any chance of finding nest-places.

Six Swift nest boxes and a Swift call device have just been set up under the eaves of the  Maddison building at Writtle University College.

John Smart of the EBS, and Alan Roscoe, Senior Lecturer at the College oversaw the installation, with copious assistance from Peter, of the college maintenance team, and Gerry, chairman of the EBS who together rode the cherry-picker to fix the boxes.

The call system works with one "tweeter" loudspeaker in one of the nest boxes, the recommended position for it, and the call equipment operated from a timer in the room behind the window you can see in the photo on the right.

With a bit of luck Swifts may be nesting at Writtle College in 2018 or 2019!

Writtle College
Photograph © Essex Birdwatching Society

Designed for the modern urban and industrial environment, the Habi Sabi / Swift Conservation Swift & Bat Column is robust, long lasting, low-profile, automatic in operation, and easy to install.

A New Swift Column

On the left is an artist's impression of two of our new Swift & Bat Columns at the Velodrome at the London 2012 Olympics site. Designed by award-winning 51% Architects from a concept by Edward Mayer, head of Swift Conservation, with financial support from the RSPB, these towers provide a high-quality, long-lasting product, that can be erected with ease.

Intended to mimic tree-hole nest sites used by some Swifts in Scotland, Scandinavia and Poland, these columns are intended to merge  into the modern urban and industrial environment with its plentiful street lighting poles, mobile-phone masts, road signs and CCTV columns.

The columns are fitted with automatic Swift call players to attract the birds to the 8 internal nest places. Ample roosting space for small Bats is provided in the base of the Swift nesting area.

For more information please contact
Matt at 51% Architecture, 1a Cobham Mews, London NW1 9SB tel:0044 (0) 2033 551205
We visit Seville & Mérida

In May we were invited to visit Southern Spain, Seville, Mérida, Alange & Cacerès, to advise on problems concerning the use or renovation of buildings, & infrastructure like bridges, holding Swift & Hirundine nest sites.

Accompanied by an impressive array of Swift experts from Belgium and Switzerland, we were taken to key Swift and Hirundine sites in all these towns, shown the problems, and our advice considered and discussed.

Meetings had been organised with the Mayors of Seville and Alange, with the Biodiversity Officers for Mérida and Cacerès, with journalists, and with local wildlife vets and enthusiasts, so that we could put the case for municipal  & public support for these species, we hope with some success.

We met brilliant people, saw marvelous sights, had splendid meals,
had a great time, and we hope, managed to do a bit to save these vulnerable populations, maybe even to change minds about their value to human communities, via health and tourism benefits.

Our grateful thanks go out to Jésus Solana, who masterminded & managed the entire trip, and escorted us everywhere, to Elena Moreno Portillo, who arranged everything for us in Seville, and to Carolina Climent Villegas, for her kind hospitality at her cosy B & B in Alange (with Black Wheatears in the back garden!)

If you would like to follow in our footsteps, see these beautiful places and their Swifts (and lots of other great birds too), just get in touch!
Las Setas Seville

This is home to 100's of Seville's Pallid Swifts!

The Metropol Parasol is a spectacular & vast wooden structure located at La Encarnación square, in an old quarter of Seville. It was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer & completed in April 2011. Soon after it was taken over by Pallid Swifts, who nest in profusion in the joints.

Experiencing the sight and sound of these birds at dusk on a Summer's evening is just magical -  you could head there in 2018 for a brilliant time!

Two species of Swift, Common and Pallid,  nest in Seville, including in the lovely courtyards of the Alcazar. They can be seen together with Lesser Kestrels over the Cathedral, feeding by night in the floodlighting.  
Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

A rescued Swift contemplating the skies before its first take off. It will head straight for Africa, and the Congo where it will spend most of the Winter. It will migrate alone, or with a few other Swifts, but how it knows how to get to Africa, and back again, is still a complete mystery to us.                  
Photographs © Nick Upton

Swift Care in Action

One of the unique features of the "Swift World" is the network of highly-skilled & dedicated  specialists across the UK and Europe who care for rescued Swifts.

Swifts need specialised care; they must eat only insects or else they will eventually die from feather malformation, & they need extremely careful feeding & very high standards of hygiene if they are to thrive.

One of these specialists is Judith Wakelam of Worlington, shown here feeding a fine young chick well on its way to its first flight.  

Swifts over Tuscany

Uniting the initiatives of the "Festival dei Rondoni"  and "Swifts and Fun 2017", Giuseppe Bogliani, ornithologist and Professor of Zoology at the University of Pavia, gives a talk
on Swifts in Campiglia Marittima in Tuscany on 24th June last.
Photographs © Eugenia Parisi

A few kilometres inland from the Tyrrhenian seashore, the medieval village of Campiglia Marittima is still a favorite nesting site for Swifts: old stone walls and traditional roofs encourage the annual return of a large Swift colony. Local residents have realised that this colony depends entirely on nest places being kept available for them in the ancient buildings, something that repairs and renovation can easily overlook, so they have got together to create awareness, tell people about their Swifts, and also, most important, have a bit of fun!

The biscuits were specially made for the event and are called "The Sweet Swifts of Campiglia". 


Swifts fly-past over Campiglia Marittima - flimed with a mobile 'phone!
See more on this facebook page

Photograph © Eugenia Parisi

To celebrate the Swifts and their presence in Campiglia a special evening event was organized jointly by newly-formed Rondoni Campigliesi / Swifts of Campiglia, and Ente Valorizzazione Campiglia.

They held a meeting in the main square, and afterwards there was food and drink for all, together with concentrated Swift watching until dusk! It formed part of nation-wide Italian Swift Evenings and Events, called the "Festival dei Rondoni - Swifts & Fun", taking place usually in the second half of June, when the Swift presence is at its peak, and with more towns joining up each year.

Swifts go Woolly in Walthamstow!

Walthamstow Primary Academy's contribution to the 1000 Swifts Project
Photo © Waltham Forest Echo

The most amazing things have been happening with Swifts in Walthamstow, NE London! Walthamstow Wetlands is a new nature reserve, open to the public, made from the lovely old Walthamstow Reservoirs, an area of luscious watery calm and liquid vistas in a predominantly Victorian urban area. To get people thinking about the possibilities for enriching everyone's lives that the new reserve offers, the textile artist, Deidre Nelson, set up knitting groups who together made, under the umbrella of an "Urban Swifts" campaign, 1000 Swifts, knitted or else made from recycled materials. Something like 3000 local people have now been involved in this amazing campaign, which has seen hand-made Swifts set up in and around people's homes in Walthamstow, with a flock of knitted Swifts enlivening the indoor sky of the Wetlands Centre in time for its opening in June.

The old Pumping Station chimney has been rebuilt

with plentiful accommodation for Swifts and Bats
Artist's impression © London Wildife Trust

Focal point for the new Reserve will be the spectacular rebuilt chimney of the old pumping station, now recreated with plentiful accommodation for Swifts and bats too! We advised on this aspect of the project, and are keeping our fingers crossed that Swifts will move in soon! The area is perfect for them, with plentiful insect food emerging from the waters of the reservoir in the form of Mayflies and similar species.

here to go to the Walthamstow Wetlands web site for more info 

New! Abbotts Hall, Essex Swift Project
The Essex Birdwatching Society, the Essex Wildlife Trust and John Smart have formed a partnership to create more nestplaces for Swifts in Essex.

Working with Andrew Impey, the new CEO of the Trust, (who previously worked on Swift migration in Southern Africa for the RSPB and who very kindly arranged funding for the project) Lisa Smart, the Trust's Operations Manager and Emma Ormond its Living Landscape Coordinator, a site was chosen on an agricultural barn at the Trust's Abbott's Hall reserve.

The Trust's maintenance team (David, Bones, Brian and the tractor driver Mark) swiftly fitted all the John Stimpson-type boxes as well as the Swift call sound system on 15 May.

We are hoping that this is just the first of many such projects that will be created in Essex by this team. The County can be a brilliant place for Swifts, this sort of project should keep it that way.

The new Swift Nestplace Project at the Essex Wildlife Trust’s Head Office at Abbotts Hall, near Abberton reservoir, a feeding area for many thousands of Swifts

Photographs © John Smart

They're back!!!

The long wait is over! On
5th May, we received  reports of Swifts over Walthamstow in North East London, and Harleston in South Norfolk in East Anglia where community group Harleston's Future/Swift Action are flying their flag of welcome (see right).

Today, 6th May, we received  reports of Swifts over Dulwich in South London, (see two nestbox photos below right), and most exciting of all, our own Swifts returned over West Hampstead, screaming over the local gardens just before 11am!

In fact Swifts arrived back on the same day, 5th May, as far apart in Shepreth in Hertfordshire and in Askrigg in Scotland!

We had heard earlier of hundreds of Swifts seen feeding low over the trees in Epping Forest, over the past weekend.

This is a typical strategy for migrating Swifts; they may head for their nest areas, but as these are still too cold and wet to support many flying insects, Swift's only source of nourishment, they spend their time gathering their aerial food where the richest sources of flying insects can be found, hatching from fresh water ponds, flooded gravel pits and reservoirs, or flying just above the canopies of forest and woodland.

It's not too late to set up your nestboxes and Swift calls systems for 2017. Give Swifts a home and keep them flying above us for ever and ever after!

Check out our web site for all the information you will need, on nestboxes, where to site them, how to make or buy them.

Any questions? Contact us by  e-mail 

Photographs © Ian Carstairs & Steven Robinson

The Ospedale Vecchio, above, and on the right some of the temporary nestboxes, and far right, an historic scaffold pole hole, left in the facade to enable rapid cost-effective re-scaffolding with timber scaffolds, but now adapted to house only Swifts, and not the feral pigeons that were taking over the site to the detriment of the Swifts and other small birds.

Italy has suffered outbreaks of three newly introduced mosquito-borne diseases in recent years, and is promoting support of urban insect-eating birds, like Swifts and Swallows, as one way of keeping control of these insect populations.

Parma helps its Swifts

The historic Ospedale Vecchio (Old Hospital) in Parma, Italy, is home to many Swifts. To preserve the colony during renovation work the Municipality at the behest of local ornithologist Franco Roscelli consulted Francesco Mezzatesta, the Swift expert from Elba.

He advised them to set up temporary Swift nestboxes on the metal scaffolding during the works, and to reinstate the old wooden scaffold pole holes that had been used by the Swifts for nesting. City Planning Commissioner
Michele Alinovi supported the initiative, which was put into practice by Architect Tiziano Magri, surveyor Marco Ferrari and site foreman Giovanni Ciampa.

Scaffold pole holes are a common feature of many old Mediterranean buildings, but are often filled in to stop feral pigeons nesting. It is however very easy to convert them for use by Swifts, excluding the problematic pigeons.               


Photographs © Francesco Mezzatesta 
Essex helps Swifts!

The Essex Birdwatching Society and the Swift Representative for Essex (Chairman Gerry Johnson and John Smart respectively) have recently embarked on a series of Swift box projects at colleges and farms.
Shown below is a photograph of GJ atop a cherry picker just about to install the eighth box on the north face of a grain silo at a farm in Blackmore, not far from Chelmsford. The farm owner, John Bucknell, was very keen to pursue the project and kindly funded the operation. A call system has been installed with the tweeter within the box second in from the right. John Bucknell is seen standing by the cherry picker. Luckily, some very high winds during the earlier part of the day died down in time to complete the project in the afternoon.

Although the EBwS is essentially a recording society for the county’s birds, it has as you can see here a keen and active conservation aspect to its remit.


Italy's "Save the Swallows" Campaign
We have just heard from Italy that the "Save the Swallows" resolution for the protection of Swift, Swallow and House Martin nests has now been adopted by 100 towns countrywide. Part of the impetus comes from the fact that all these birds eat copious amounts of mosquitos and gnats, that otherwise would make life very unpleasant indeed during the hot humid summers of the peninsular. 

This is a campaign that we have been promoting during our work in Italy for many years now, and with excellent local support and activism it is taking off really well. It started back in 1999, and a complete list of the towns that sighed up to this resolution can be had from the Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli at or you can write to LIPU's Head of Urban Ecology

Swifts fly like rockets over an ancient church - Photo © Jorge Sanz

Holy Trinity Church, Lane End, Buckinghamshire now hosts eight Swift nest boxes in its belfry; see them in close up on the right. A sound system to call the Swifts in is being fitted soon. The project was started by activist Tim Grout-Smith who wrote an article in the local magazine asking for volunteers to build boxes - eight responded! With the aid of a generous grant from the Buckinghamshire Bird Club the project was brought to fruition. There had been Swifts in the local methodist Chapel until it was sold and converted - this project aims to get them back into the village.    Photos © Mel Davies

New Swifts for Lane End, Bucks?

church window

Swift Farewells!
Most of the UK's Swifts were leaving our shores during July and August, (with some huge numbers passing the observatory at Spurn!) but some went much later. Dick Newell of "Action for Swifts" reports that one of his nestboxes held a single adult left alone with one chick until they both fledged on the evening of 22 September, a touching moment!

You can still see a few Swifts heading South / South East down the UK. These will be birds from Scandinavia, the Baltic and Russia, that start, and finish, their breeding rather later than ours do.

inger songwriter Maggie Groom wrote and performed "Swifts: Harleston's Farewell" to wish them well on their journeys. The lovely song is backed-up by video images of more than 400 cut out paper Swifts designed in the colours of African Flags by Harleston Primary School pupils (seen on the right) which were turned into many decorative flags and displayed throughout the town and in the Church. 

You can hear the song on You-Tube here: 

Rutland Water BirdFair 2016 - great!
This August, Swift Conservation got together again with Action for Swifts and the Swifts Local Network to run a stand; we also gave a talk at the prestigious Rutland Water BirdFair.

And we won Second Prize for the best Conservation-themed stand!

Chris Packham graced our stand and had a good look at our work for Swifts, including an exciting new project in Harleston, new integral and wall-mounted nest boxes and the famous Cheng-Sheng Swift call system.

Above we see right to left: Judith Wakelam and Dick Newell of Action for Swifts, Chris Packham, Chris Mason of Oxford Swifts and Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation. On the left, our prize certificate!

Enthusiasts from Action for Swifts, Swifts Local Network, Swift Conservation, Hampshire Swifts and beyond all helped staff the stand and inspire our many visitors.     

Photos © Louise Bentley and Edward Mayer

 What a show!

This was our third year at Bird Fair, our second running a stand with Action for Swifts and Swifts Local Network. On sale were new nestboxes, the heat and rain-resistant Model 30  from John Stimpson (available in a self assembly flatpack) and being demonstrated was the new Swift Brick from Manthorpe Building products (see item below).

This year, like the last, the Swift Conservation talk "Yes! You can help Swifts!" in the Reserve Centre was standing room only, (at 9-30am on the first day! OK, it was raining...) and hundreds of leaflets went on their way. With all this effort, and the great response we had, we hope that when the Swifts come back to us next year more of them will find new homes, rather than the blocked up eaves and gables that re-roofing, insulation and rebuilding have caused them to be greeted with in so many past years.

Photos © Judith Wakelam & Dick Newell


The Manthorpe Swift brick comes in several different colours to match various brick clays. Easy to fit, it provides a suitable nest space for Swifts at a very low price - the cheapest such product on sale in the UK.   All pictures © Manthorpe Building Products

New UK-made Swift Brick on sale!

A new UK manufactured "Swift Brick" has been designed and is on sale for about £15. This makes it the most cost-effective such item on sale, as far as we know, and a potential market leader.

The Manthorpe Swift Brick was promoted by a major house builder and the RSPB, inspired by work done by Dick Newell of Action for Swifts, providing a safe, habitable area for Swifts to nest within the walls of modern houses. This new and innovatory design -

  • Takes the place of a single brick
  • Coloured faces blend in with surrounding brickwork
  • Neat, simple to install, can be fitted quickly during bricklaying
  • Integral nest concave provides ideal point for nest building
  • 29 x 65 mm opening leads into the entry tunnel
  • 413 cm2 floor gives maximum habitable living space within the wall
  • A built-in cavity tray protects against water ingress 
  • Nest area has integral drainage to keep it dry
  • The Manthorpe Swift  Brick could change the future for UK Swifts - So start installing them at a rate of two to every second home you build, and 10 to 20 in groups of four or five for a School, Hospital, Factory, Warehouse or Shopping Mall. This should help redress the immense loss of nest places suffered during the past 50 years, and get Swifts back in our skies again! 

    Off to the woods - some of the delegates head out for professionally-guided local birdwatching in the
    Puszcza Bukowa.   Photographs ©  Zofia Brzozowska

    The 4th International Swift Conference was held in Szczecin this April. Adjudged a great success by all who went, the four day event provided an ideal forum for intense and detailed discussion of the many issues arising from the efforts across Europe, Russia, the Middle East and NE Asia to retain and if possible restore dwindling populations of Swifts.

    As well a sharing many ideas and learning new strategies for conservation, delegates enjoyed excellent facilities, food and hospitality at the Hotel Nord in Szczecin, and also participated in a high-interest local birdwatching trip on the final day, before leaving for home.

    Great credit is due to the local organisers of this conference, Zofia Brzozowska and her dedicated team, for making the arrangements that brought this ground-breaking event to a very successful conclusion.

    For further information and abstracts please contact Zofia

    The 4th International Swift Conference held in Szczecin, Poland, April 2016

    Don't miss the next International
    Swift Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel in Spring 2018
    For more information click

    Harleston Norfolk welcomes its Swifts

    The historic
     market town of Harleston, Norfolk, UK which recently launched its Swift Action Harleston to improve the fortunes of the town's Swifts.   Harleston, has just held its Swift welcoming ceremony, helped on its way by a talk from us at Swift Conservation.

    Children from local schools made flags and paper cut-outs and decorated the streets and the church (right and above) to let everyone know that the Swifts were on their way, and to illustrate the African countries where they over-winter by showing their flags. Organisers of the project say that caring for the Swifts is to care for the wider community, and will involve all ages and abilities and will contribute to the social and economic well-being of the town.

    The project has three objectives: to record and look after existing nest sites,
     create as many new sites  as possible and help everyone build biodiversity within the town. 

    Flags of Swifts & the African countries where Swifts over-winter welcome them back to Harleston, which still has lots of places for Swifts to nest in
    Photos ©  Ian Carstairs  


    Edward talks with Swifts overhead! It's a mobile - you can make one too!
    Photo ©  Carolyn Knowlman

    Amboise Swifts Club gets going!

    Deep in the dungeons of Amboise Castle, on the River Loire in France, Swift Conservation does its bit to get a new Swift support club going. Amboise and other historic towns along the Loire and Cher rivers are still rich in Swifts, Swallows and Martins too. But the pace of restoration and urban renewal is strong, and these building-dependent birds are losing out in the search for nestplaces.

    That is where concerned local residents Carolyn, Tim and Gismonde come in. They set up a local Swift evening, with Marcel Jacquat, the Swiss Swift expert, and his UK colleague Edward Mayer to enthuse Amboise's many residents interested in birds and the environment, and try and get them to help their Swifts.

    Next:  Amboise Swift & Bat walks at the beginning of July! We'll be helping people find, admire and count Swifts and Bats on an extended evening stroll, taking in a few cooling drinks en route!

    Swift Boxes move to Petty France

    A few years back we worked with the Metropolitan Police on the installation of Swift nest boxes, 20 in all, at New Scotland Yard and a selection of their sites around London.

    With the forthcoming sale and demolition of New Scotland Yard the nest boxes there had to be re-sited. So we arranged with Dr Phil Thomas, Ecology Manager at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), for them to be found a new home nearby on top of the roof of their offices at Petty France, right next to St James Park, an ideal location.

    A hand-over ceremony for the nest boxes was held on the roof of the MoJ on 5th November. Right to left: Dr Phil Thomas from MoJ, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, Sarah Foster, Recycling Officer for the Metropolitan Police, and Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation.

    Don't worry! The nest boxes are being fixed well above the anti-gull netting you can see in the photo. It's not that MoJ don't like gulls, it's that the gulls pick up and drop those pebbles onto the glass roof below!


    Photo ©  Metropolitan Police London

    Slovak Swift Conference Success

    Our contact in Slovakia Dr. Lubomira Vavrová, writes about the recent LIFE Project conference held in Zilina in Slovakia:

    "I am happy to tell you that our project's conference was very successful. We had 80 participants, mostly from regional environmental bureaus, and also nature conservation professionals, NGOs and a few construction companies.

    Our new documentary, which shows practical and simple ways to preserve Swift nesting populations in buildings undergoing insulation and refurbishment works, was presented and was received very positively. We have already had some requests to present it in schools".

    For more information and / or to participate with the schools exhibitions, showing the documentary (an English translation is available) or with any other aspect please send an e-mail. To do so click HERE

    Photo © Mgr. Lubomíra Vavrová, PhD 

    Here is a photograph from the event; you can see Lukas Viktora of the Czech Society for Ornithology, (one of the star lecturers at the 2014 Cambridge Swift conference), presenting his session. You can see also the pull-up posters that are going to be used for the LIFE Project's mobile exhibition. 

    Belfast gets a Swift Tower too...

    After Warsaw and Exeter, Belfast too has put up a Swift tower, one of the increasingly popular pattern designed by Menthol Architects of Dublin and Warsaw, and incorporating nest boxes built from information provided by Swift Conservation and Action for Swifts, and using a solar powered call system to attract Swifts in to breed.

    The tower is at the Window on Wildlife (WOW) site on Belfast Lough, a new reserve enshrining a brilliant area for saltmarsh and marine species. You can find out more at these links:

    The Belfast WOW project was made possible with funding from the European Regional Development Fund administered by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Belfast Harbour Commission and the Alpha Programme administered by Groundwork NI.

    Call the reserve directly on 028 9046 1458 for visitor information.

    Photo © RSPB Northern Ireland

    Luxury and Beauty for Vauxhall's Swifts in Tyers Street


    Swifts will be able to nest in the nine nestbricks hidden within the amazing intaglio sculpture of five flying Swifts featured on the wall of this modern apartment block. Buy a flat there and have Swifts grace the skies and enliven your days all Summer long. What a change from looking at the I-Phone and watching Strictly Come Dancing. Life-enhancing - just do it!

    Jeremy Wingate-Saul developed and built this unique property in Tyers Street, Vauxhall, London.

    After consultation with Swift Conservation, the result has been this magnificent installation of nine Swift bricks hidden within a delightful intaglio sculpture showing five Swifts in flight.





    What a stunner, I hope you will agree! And what an advertisement for hosting Swifts in Central London properties.

    Just what's needed. Let's hope it starts a trend! For more info please contact
    Jeremy Wingate-Saul  direct via this link.
    Photos © Jeremy Wingate-Saul 

     Berwick's Swift tower goes up

    Down in Sussex, Chris Powles has been equipping his solar farm with bird and bat boxes. Latest to go up is this Swift tower, an all-timber structure on a tall pole, with plenty of places for not just Swifts, but bats too. It has an integral MP3 system to play Swift calls to lure them in and breed.

    For more information, please contact Chris Powles via this link.

    Photos © Chris Powles

    The tower provides an excellent opportunity to publicise the plight of urban birds. A hundred Swift nest boxes have been installed in high rise buildings neaby and also in Exeter's new Bus Station.         Photo © Emily Stallworthy - Devon Wildlife Trust

    Swifts get a new home in Exeter

    Much determination from Devon Wildlife Trust, Exeter City Council and the RSPB, plus developer funding, has given the town a 90 nest Swift Tower!  It has just been installed on a roundabout near the city centre along with new wildflower sowing to benefit all pollinators too. 

    The tower is a version of the Warsaw Swift Tower designed by Rafal Pieszko of Menthol Architects, with solar panels to power Swifts' calls played during the summer to attract new nesters.  The tower is perfectly located between residential areas known to hold nests and the city centre where there are fewer opportunities to nest but where screaming parties have been recorded. 

    The Tower was developed under the Exeter Wild City initiative, a partnership that seeks to help residents enjoy and support urban wildlife.  Advice and support were been provided throughout the process by Swift Conservation and Action for Swifts. 

    This project team are grateful for the support throughout of Stephen Fitt, the South West RSPB's Swift expert, who has ensured that hundreds of bird nest bricks have been included within new developments in the city as recommended in the city’s
    Residential Design Guide

    At Last! China's Swifts Reveal their Migration Routes

    Last year a joint Chinese-European team of Swift experts and enthusasts fitted geo-loggers to 31 Swifts nesting in ancient buildings in Beijing. This year they went back to try and recover the geo-loggers.

    This May the China Birdwatching Society and its volunteers set up the nets at 2.30 am and, together with visiting swift ringer Lyndon Kearsley from Belgium and Dick Newell of the UK's Action for Swifts nest box project group, they captured, processed and released more than 80 Swifts in 2 hours, including downloading data from 13 birds with geolocators and fitting a further 25 geolocators to ‘new’ birds. Liu Yang, one of China’s top ornithological academics, travelled from Guangdong to participate in the ground-breaking project.

    After processing the data they discovered that these Swifts had travelled an amazing 13,000km on their migration to spend the winter in southern Africa. and another 13,000km to return to Beijing.  They seemed to have spent a good time over the Congo, as "our" western Swifts do, and then moved on to Namibia and South Africa for a further spell while ours go over to Mozambique.

    Max's Italian Swift Nests Web-Cams See the full story on Birding Beijing - and visit Beijing too!

    The map above from Beijing Birding's web site shows a typical track of a Beijing Swift, based on preliminary analysis of the data from the 13 birds re-trapped so far in 2015.  A fuller analysis will be made in due course with a scientific paper planned for later this year.

    Sedburgh People's Hall's gets Swift Bricks in its new extension

    Photo © Tanya Hoare / SCS

    Sedbergh Community Swifts (SCS) has been successful in getting Swift nest bricks into the walls of the People’s Hall - the community building for the town of Sedbergh in Cumbria. A new gym extension to the Hall was being built during the winter so they seized the opportunity to get bricks installed.

    After establishing that there was no technical reason why the Swift bricks could not be installed, they obtained agreement from the Peoples Hall management. An important point was that Swifts are not messy birds.

    The building is of blockwork with a rendered exterior, and it was important not to compromise the insulation of the building. It was decided to use four Schwegler bricks (Type 1A) in the gable end. Also included was the facility to play Swift attraction calls, using the Cheng Sheng amplifier system.

    There being a number of Starlings in the area, they reduced the height of the entrance holes to 27-28mm by smearing Isopon (a car body filler) on the upper surface to reduce their height and obstruct the Starlings, but not the Swifts.

    Swifts often fly over the adjacent playing fields and a few nest in nearby buildings, so it is hoped it will not take too long to attract them.

    SCS would like to thank Edward Mayer of Swift-Conservation for advice, and architects Garsdale Design for their enthusiastic support. The project was funded by a grant to SCS from the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

    Eight of the sixteen new nestbox entrances on the West side

    The four completed cabinets, fuly installed and showing rear access doors

    Above: The four
    completed cabinets, ready for installation
    Photos © Dick Newell / Action for Swifts
    Above right:
    St Mary the Virgin St Neots. Photo © E Mayer

    More nest boxes for St Mary's in St Neots - already a proven success!

    Dick Newell of Action for Swifts who devised the project, and designed and installed these nestboxes writes:

    In 2007, we installed 12 Swift boxes in the north side of the belfry of St Mary the Virgin, St Neots. Most years, attraction calls have been played and in 2014, 9 of the 12 boxes were occupied. With the help of generous funding from 'St Neots in Bloom' we have now added 32 more boxes, 16 in the east and 16 in the west.

    It was quite a feat of engineering to erect boxes 15 feet above the floor of the belfry but we thought that entrances here would be more obvious to the Swifts compared to entrances behind the louvres.

    We chose stone coloured paint (Sandtex 'Mid Stone') to provide a better contrast for the entrances. Whether this contributed to the success of the first 12 boxes we cannot say, but it worked.

    The original 2 cabinets contained 6 boxes each. This was done at a time when we thought that Swifts required a larger space. Since then we have discovered that Swifts readily accept smaller boxes, so we increased the number of boxes to 8 per cabinet.

    We would like to thank Alison Pearson of St Neots in Bloom for their generous funding and encouragement, and the Vicar, the Reverand Dr Paul Andrews, and the PCC for their permission to do this project as well as Catherina Griffiths, David Griffiths and George Bonham for their help with access to the church."

    To find out lots more please go to Action for Swifts

    Edinburgh gets cracking for Swifts

    Architects and developers working in Edinburgh have been responding to the local authority's imaginative and groundbreaking innitiative to support and restore Swift populations in the city via their Swift Action Plan.

    By encouraging the installation of Swift nest places in selected new build projects when they seek Planning Permission, Edinburgh is working towards ensuring that its Swifts still have places to breed in when they get back from their long migration to Central Africa.

    Our local Contact, John Wilson, has very kindly sent us this photo we show here, just one from several very interesting new developments that he has been documenting and promoting.


    Above: Beaverbank Place and Logie Green Road, Edinburgh EH7, a development including residential flats, some for student accommodation, completed in 2011 and already of interest to the local Titmice - if they spot this activity Swifts may soon follow their lead!  
    Photos © John S Wilson

    Hannah Chisholm, BirdLife Malta's Education Manager, with Thomas Hendry, BirdLife Malta's assistant nature reserve warden, setting the scene before a workshop at an environment fair last November. Photo and information supplied by Tim Micallef, APUS Project Coordinator

    Photos © Bird Life Malta

    Maltese Youth Project to Help Swifts

    The EUPA (European Union Programmes Agency) recently granted funds for a Swift project proposed by
    BirdLife Malta’s youth section, Falko. Named APUS (Appreciating, Protecting and Understanding Swifts), it aims to encourage these birds to breed in greater numbers, especially in current breeding localities and nearby areas, working with birders, local councils & authorities and the general public (youth in particular) to encourage and celebrate them.

    This includes introducing Swift nest boxes to schools and public buildings, also celebrating the return of these birds to the Maltese islands through public events, education in schools and information about them online, through publications and the media. Most activities are to start from January 2015, while most of the research, preparation and monitoring is ongoing and will be continued throughout the project.

    Falko will encourage birders, volunteers and the public to monitor the use of nest boxes, and will also encourage local councils to organise Swift celebration events, along the lines of those run in Northern Ireland, Israel and Italy.

    Swift Conservation wishes this project and its volunteers the greatest possible success.

    Derby's Swifts keep their nests

    Nick Brown of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has sent us
    a good news story from Derby:

    "Opposite is a photo I took last summer of a Victorian factory (now a warehouse) on Dean Street in downtown Derby. The photo shows about half the full length of the building. The building is surrounded by terraced housing. From locals I discovered that some years ago they got together a petition asking the owner, who was about to re-roof the building, to take care of the Swifts that nested in it.

    The owner agreed and had the work done in such as way as to ensure the Swifts could still gain access. They do this by flying up behind the new white barge boarding which was fixed away from the wall deliberately.

    I saw at least 30 Swifts flying over the building last summer and, standing in the back garden from which I took the photo, I counted at least seven Swifts going in at different points on the East side….and I could only see half of the building.

    Sadly the old guy who got the petition together has since died but I met his widow and her neighbours, all of whom really love their Swifts, as he did."

    A really nice ‘good news’ story…and all carried out with no recourse to any nature protection organisation at all! Brilliant!

    Above: The factory on Dean Street in central Derby where sympathetic re-roofing has let the many Swifts nesting there continue to use the site for breeding. They enter the roof under the white bargeboards, and probably breed in nests built on top of the brick walls just beneath the edges of the tiling.     Photo ©  Nick Brown DWT

    Success! Swifts check out the new Cambridge Swift Tower!

    Dick Newell of "Action for Swifts" has told us of the signs of success seen last summer at
    the highly innovatory Cambridge Swift Tower.

    Dick tells us: "During July, one could stop by the tower any time and there would always be between three and ten Swifts in attendance. We did not succeed in proving that any Swifts roosted overnight, though we did see Swifts entering or leaving 15 different entrances, so fingers crossed for 2015."


    Above: The Cambridge Swift Tower, an artwork created under the management of Guy Belcher of Cambridge City Council using Section 106 Funding, evoking the setting African sun, and also providing many homes for that part-time African bird, the Swift!

    Left: two close-up photographs showing Swifts entering and leaving the nest boxes. Swifts will often check out several prospective nest places, and even make a practice nest, before settling on their choice to nest in with their partner the next year.          Photos ©  Alan Clarke


    Liverpool's new Everyman Theatre wins the RIBA Stirling Prize and has ten Swift Bricks in its walls

    On 7th August the Royal Institute of British Architects announced the winner of the 2014 RIBA Stirling prize, named in honour of James Stirling, famous British architect of the Tate's Clore Gallery as well as of museums in Cologne, Stuttgart and Düsseldorf.

    Early on in the design process
    Michael McLaughlin of the contractors Gilbert- Ash had the idea of installing some Swift Bricks (prefabricated Swift nest places made to fit into the walls) to enable these supremely urban birds to nest in central Liverpool. With guidance from Peter Cush of the Northern Ireland Swift group, and Swift Conservation's local adviser Ian Walker, ten Swift Bricks were fitted into the project. 

    The Everyman Theatre beat Renzo Piano's Shard, and the Zaha Hadid's Olympics Aquatic Centre to win the prize, and we like to think that amongst its many eco-friendly features, Swift Bricks helped it to win.  By the way, they are on the roof, at the back near those "chimneys"!

    Photo ©  MSM / Swift Conservation

    Full Sutton Prison may soon get some winged inmates

    The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Ecology Team has been working with Swift Conservation for several years to try and reduce the decline of the Swift across its estate, just part of the wider agenda for the Team, as they work towards the Biodiversity 2020 targets set by Government. 

    The MoJ first included Swift bricks when maintaining HMP Nottingham, which proved a lot easier than first thought by the project sponsors.  With this success, the Ecology Team, led by Dr Phil Thomas, Principal Ecologist, turned to one of the Prison Service’s top security prisons at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire, and the imposing boiler house and solid fuel store there.  The prison gardeners, lead by the local works department, fitted Swift nest boxes to the solid fuel store, (which can be seen in the photo on the right), adding loud-speakers  playing recordings of Swift calls.

    The MoJ Ecology Team is now working with the National Archives, managing the Swift nest boxes at Kew (see below for our News item on that site).

    For further information regarding this project and other work carried out by the MoJ ecology team please contact:  Dr Phil Thomas at the MoJ

    Photo © HM Ministry of Justice

    Waitrose gets a Swift tower

    7th August saw the opening of Waitrose Malmesbury and the second store where the business trialled the objective of achieving no-net-loss of biodiversity as a result of their development.

    To ensure proper management and care of the site, a partnership was established with the Malmesbury River Valleys Trust, who will look after, maintain and develop the wildlife area alongside two other nature reserves that they own within 1/4 mile from the site.

    Local knowledge highlighted the need for bird and bat boxes and a suggestion was made to install a Swift tower. BTO data showed that a modest number of Swifts nest in the area and that a tower may help boost the local population.

    A site was agreed and Stoneyford Engineering installed the tower the day before the store opened, just as this year's Swifts were leaving.

    Next spring the solar powered calling system on the tower will be switched on to attract next year's returning Swifts. Keep your finger's crossed!

     "We're all very excited about the Swift tower. Learning all about the unique needs of Swifts has been very interesting and we hope the Swift tower will create interest and raise awareness amongst the community as well."
    Toby Marlow, Sustainable Development Manager for the John Lewis Partnership
    Photo © Waitrose plc 



    © Thais Martins

    Swifts get their own digs at
    Camborne's Cornwall College

    Thais Martins, Swift activist in Cornwall and the West Country, sends us this photo of a dramatic new artificial Swift colony that she has helped set up at Cornwall College in Camborne.

    As their web site says: "At Cornwall College Camborne all of our courses are vocational. That means they are practical, with a focus on getting you ready for the career you want or university, through practical skills training and real-work environments and projects."

    We at Swift Conservation are hoping that their new Swift nest boxes will becoame part of a new "Practical Biodiversity for the Built Environment" course!

    Here's hoping for that and some new Swifts too!



    New homes for Swifts on the Loire

    Here's a photo of the 5 boxes put up by the Toussaints, who are friends of one of our keen supporters, Carolyn Knowlman of Amboise, in the Loire Valley in France.

    A very lush and beautiful area, it is home to swarms of Swifts, Martins and Swallows too every summer. It is a great place to visit, not just for the birds but for the spectacular countryside, the historic Chateaux and small towns, the wine and the delicious food.

    But as everywhere these days, modernisation and renovation of old buildings is forcing out many Swifts families from their old nests, with few places left to go to.

    Note the neat and not displeasing installation of these nestboxes, with each box placed between the rafter ends, adding to rather than diminishing the appearance of the building.

    Swifts are already going into at least 2 of the boxes already, which argues a local nest box shortage, which suggests even more should be put up!


     Photo © Carolyn Knowlman

    The Cambridge International Swift Conference 2104 - a brilliant success!

    Above:  Lyndon Kearsley (centre, facing right) of Belgium explains a point to Giorgio Paesani of Italy during a break in the sessions in the Parkside Community College

    Above Right: Edward Mayer (second from right) of Swift Conservation with Silvana di Mauro and Kevin Prince and friends from Trieste, Italy, before the formal dinner in Caius College

    The Cambridge International Swift Conference proceedings Click on the Swift
    to see the Summary Proceedings - fascinating! 

    April saw the third International Swift Conference being held in Cambridge. The previous two, in 2010 and 2012 were held very successfully in Berlin. The Cambridge Conference was the biggest and most successful yet, with over 150 delegates from 24 countries giving 45 talks as well as a special seminar for Architects and Planners.

    Included for the first time were representatives from the Americas talking about the many fascinating New World Swift species, as well as a representative from the City of Baku, in Azerbaijan, talking about the successful historic Maiden Tower Swift conservation project.

    Highlights from three days of excellent fascinating presentations were Luit Buurma's session on his radar-based studies of nocturnal Swift activity over the Netherlands, Jonathan Pomroy's show of his paintings and drawings of Swifts, Anders Hedenstrõm of Lund University's work on analysing Swift wing capabilities in wind tunnels, and Hayley Sherwin of the RSPB, talking about the innovatory Belfast Swift Survey. From the Americas, Larry Schwitters session on his work with Vaux's Swift was outstanding.

    Immaculately organised by a team led by Dick Newell from the Action for Swifts blog-site, with assistance from Swift Conservation, this event set a very high standard for the next such event, to be held in 2016.              
    © M S Mayer

    Swifts get homes at Tottenham Court Road Underground Station

    The photos show (above) the new boxes in position on the disused chimney stack, and on the right, a view of the site from street level, far from finished but coming along fast. Shown below are Csaba Revesz and Assad Khalfe, who made the Swift Boxes, and some Insect Hotels too.

    With encouragement from the London Wildlife Trust,
    Taylor Woodrow BAM Nuttall, the contractors working on the new underground station at Tottenham Court Road, have made up some nest boxes for Swifts from recycled plywood, and have set them up on a disused chimney stack high above the street, on one of the buildings remaining on the site.

    Ed Warner, Environmental Manager, and Bukky Olose, Environmental Advisor, were instrumental in getting the project up and running. Swift Conservation sourced the sound equipment being used to attract juvenile Swifts to breed in the new boxes. With Swifts active over King’s Cross, Highbury and Islington and Hackney Central stations, it is hoped that they will find Tottenham Court Road a pleasing new location.

    Photos ©  (above) London Underground & (left) Taylor Woodrow BAM Nuttall

    Linenhall Arts Centre in County Mayo, Eire, gets its nest boxes up!

    Lynda Huxley of the Galway-Mayo Institute for Technology (GMIT) in the West of Ireland writes to us:

    "Here is a picture of the Linenhall building (the red arrow marks the new nest boxes).  I approached them with the idea of putting them up and they were delighted to support Swift conservation in Castlebar. 

    There are cameras in the two outer boxes which are linked to a TV in the coffee shop. Hopefully in the next couple of years the Linenhall will get birds in their boxes, visible to all who drop in for a cup of tea or a coffee.  The project was funded jointly by the Linenhall, Mayo County Council and a Local Agenda 21 grant. 

    Photos above: the new Linenhall nest boxes going up (right) and in situ (left) © Lynda Huxley


    At Galway Mayo Institute of Technology we have our first chicks and we are very excited about this.  The second ones are due to hatch any day now. The project at the college was jointly funded by a Local Agenda 21 grant, GMIT and staff (who sponsored all the cameras)."

     Lynda has also put up nest boxes at two schools in the county!

    That is not all! She has published and distributed 3000 copies of a lovely little book about Swifts "I am a Swift" with 1500 copies being ordered by Environmental Awareness Officers in 7 counties around Ireland.  Quite a set of achievements, and we are sure there is a lot more to come!

    Photo above: A local school class visits GMIT to view some of their nest boxes © Lynda Huxley 



    The re-pointing work needed on the South wall was completed and scaffolding removed in time for the arrival of the Swifts.  The open spaces around the rafters and in the top courses of stonework are being left untouched, likewise the deep overlapping eaves that ensure that the building is watertight and also protect the Swifts from harm. The ivy shown in the photo above, that might give access to predators like Squirrels and Stoats, is being removed.

    Ludlow Swift Group thanks Caring for God’s Acre for its support and hopes they can continue to work together to help Hereford Diocese look after the wildlife that relies on churches for survival. Adapted from information and photos supplied by Peta Sams, Shropshire

    The Church of St James the Apostle, Wigmore in Herefordshire

    The Church of St James the Apostle, (left) built in the 11th Century. It is important as it has an early Norman Nave and herringbone masonry on the outside of the north wall.

    But of great interest to local naturalist Michael Fieldsend is the Swift colony that breeds in the eaves of the South wall of the church each summer, a typical site in medieval buildings. Michael contacted Ludlow Swift Group in 2012 when plans to restore this wonderful building were being made, asking for their help in saving the Swifts from eviction or worse.

    Following negotiations it was agreed that
    to accommodate the Swifts' breeding season the contractors would leave the site between mid-May and mid-August. 

    Below: the South aspect holds many Swift nest sites sited between the rafters

    img11.jpgPhotos © Peta Sams



    London's Whittington Hospital

    The famous hospital near Archway in London, founded by Dick Whittington (left, with his cat and a dog) has just had two "Habi-Sabi" Swift Nest Boxes installed (right) on its rooftop plant rooms by site contractors Ecolab Ltd.

    The prominent position and playing of Swift calls should ensure that Swifts will  take up the nests before too long.

    Photos © Simon Walker at Ecolab Ltd.







     St Michael's School, Ballyfermot, Eire

    Helen Burke writes: "
    Our Boxes are up at last! This is St Michael's School In Ballyfermot.  This project is being sponsored by the Ballyfermot Environment Group, Dublin City Council's Ballyfermot Area Office and the Dublin Swift Conservation Group of which I am the founder member."

    This is an excellent example of local initiatives backed up by local government and NGOs, with eager local participation, ending up with great new nest places for Swifts.

    Why not set up a scheme like this in your area? If you can do it you will have played a vital part in saving our Swift populations from decline and extinction.

    Get going now! We can supply helpful advice and useful contacts.

    Photos © Dublin Swift Conservation Group





    Bishop's Castle project completed!

    This handsome Georgian town hall in Bishop's Castle in Shropshire, a Listed Building with great historic character, has been fitted with two bespoke nestboxes mounted inside the louvred ventilation hood, seen below right.

    The Swifts' accommodation is accessed via the two small slots in the new leadwork, visible below and to thr right of the flagpost.

    The brainchild of Peta Sams (who runs the
    Ludlow Swift group) working with the architect Philp Belchere and Peter Carty of the National Trust, the work was done with input from Swift Conservation's Edward Mayer. An electronic system to play Swift calls to attract the birds is also being installed.

    Photos © Peta Sams

    Military areas on Salisbury Plain
    get some much-needed Swift nests

    The Tilshead Water Tower on Salisbury Plain. No longer in use for water storage, but now converted (above right) for use by Swifts! This project was conceived, designed, built and installed by Major Nigel Lewis and his Imber Owl & Raptor Group. Their prime rôle is installing, monitoring and maintaining some 800 Barn Owl, Tawny Owl and Kestrel nestboxes across the Plain and far beyond, but with a little time on their hands they decided to help Swifts too.

     Left: The four boxes as they appear from inside the Tower, mounted in one of the empty window frames shown above. The black oblongs on the back of each box are labels, and the gap at the base of the window is to let in Swallows to continue to nest inside the Tower.
    We are often asked if there is any conflict between Swifts and Swallows, House Martins, and Bats. The answer is "No". Sometimes Swifts do try and nest in House Martin nests, with foreseeable unfortunate consequences!
    Bats and Swifts make good companions, one flies by day, the other by night, one roosts on the floor, the other hangs from the roof! 
    Photos © Major Nigel Lewis



    Zielona Gora, South Eastern Poland

     Jacub Marcinowski is the designer behind the setting up of two new Swift Towers in the South Eastern town of Zielona Gora in Poland.

    This sort of installation is usually done to compensate for loss of nest places when apartment blocks are re-insulated to bring them up to the latest EU standards. This has caused severe problems for Swifts all over Europe, but with this sort of response there is now hope that Swifts may find alternative nest places ready and waiting for them on their return from migration over Africa.     
    Photos © Jacub Marcinowski



    Swift nestboxes go up in Berkhamsted
    The NE gable, with two Swifts investigating, on the 13thJune 2013. The Swift-call loudspeaker hangs from the halyard below the window-sill, and can be hauled up and down so that it does not get soaked by rain. Swifts investigate new nest places only when the weather is very good, so that's OK!                                                                                      Photos © Patrick Lepper

    The best day was June 16th when he was able to watch from a position facing the gable, and to his delight saw several birds actually entering the nesting boxes, "Presumably not to nest now but to prepare a site for next summer".

    A few years ago, a local magazine article about “London’s Swifts” gave Patrick Lepper the idea of providing nest boxes for Swifts. Last year he got in touch with Hamish Burnett, a young expert on Swifts and a capable handyman, and made plans to place some nest boxes under the eaves of his north-east-facing gable.

    So one Sunday Hamish, Pete the painter and Patrick ascended the high scaffold with six nest boxes of weather-proofed plywood, made by Hamish. With Pete’s help Hamish installed them in the preferred positions at the peak of the gable. He also installed a “Swift-caller”, playing a recording of nesting Swifts’ calls.

    The first sign of interest was on June 5th, when a party of 3 or 4 flew around the house, and several times Patrick saw a bird break off and flutter up close to the nesting boxes.

    We are keeping our fingers crossed for Patrick and his Swifts!



    New Swift Tower at Yorkshire reserve


    Rodley Nature Reserve is a progressive local reserve which has taken over a former sewage farm belonging to the Yorkshire Water Authority. With their help it has become an independent nature reserve and charity run entirely by volunteers. It boasts wildflower meadows, a field farmed for wildlife, several lakes and ponds, reed beds, marshland, woodland and a visitor centre. The reserve is within a large bend on the River Aire which provides protection and a source of water for the wetlands. The river is a brilliant habitat in its own right with kingfishers and otters included in the list of inhabitants.

    Swifts regularly occur over the reserve but there were no suitable buildings where they could nest.  When contractors were there this spring, building a fish pass around a weir in the Aire, they agreed to help put in the Swift boxes at the top of two eight metre poles.

    Behind the project is Dave Nesham, in charge of habitat management. He built a four tier structure of sixteen innovative nesting compartments. The nests are in a very open position but are still largely hidden from the trails open to the public. The discrete positioning will help to avoid any unwanted attention from vandals. They  have also been insulated across the back for fear they may get too hot in summer.

    The boxes were up by the end of March 2013. Dave ordered specialist audio equipment so that calls could be played automatically. Swifts have been flying around the tower, but it can take a couple of years before Swifts accept a new structure. There is abundant insect life at the reserve; the Swift Tower is of a very high standard. Everybody at the reserve is hopeful that Swifts are added soon to the long list of species breeding there.

    See:    for more information
    Contributed by: Andy Woodall - Friend of Rodley Nature Reserve



    Swift Nestboxes go up in a shopping street in Nyborg, Denmark

    Inger Lund, our new Swift contact person in Denmark, has just sent us these interesting views of Swift nestboxes that have been set up in a shopping street in Nyborg, on the island of Fyn in Denmark.

    Inger has her own Swifts nesting at her home in Starling nest boxes; you can see one of them on our Home Page.

    How nice to see that the idea of helping Swifts survive and thrive is reaching out from Ireland, the UK and Germany, right across Europe, up to Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania and Poland, down to Spain and across to Italy, Romania and Israel, and now into Central Asia (see our news from Baku, Azerbaijan, below!) Photos © Inger Lund



    Brilliant success at Johnstown Castle Co Wexford, in Southern Ireland

    Matt Wheeler, Curator /Manager of the Irish Agricultural  Museum located within the grounds of the Castle, was inspired to erect four Swift boxes at the museum  after hearing a talk from Brian Cahalane, a member of the Northern Ireland Swift Group.
          Matt played the Swift attraction CD last year and this, and got his first pair this year. Here is the result, a beautiful young Swift almost ready to fledge .


    This is great news and hopefully when all four boxes are filled the guests dining at the museum will be able to enjoy the exhilarating fly-pasts of the
    Swifts, and learn more about this wonderful bird.               
    Photos © Brian Cahalane



    Ove Claessen who farms inland from Gothenberg, in Sweden, has sent us these lovely photos

    He writes
    " The Swift call I got from you attracted two new nesting Swift pairs to my farm. Some evenings we have about 20 Swifts circulating between the farm's houses. Never have there been so many Swifts here, not even twenty years ago, when we had five nesting pairs on the farm. The Swift pairs nest under tiles on the residential building, but they have also looked inside nests which I have put up in the tower of my water mill. This is where I have played the Swifts call . Hoping that they nest there next year! Many thanks for your help!"                                                                                      Photos ©  Ove Claessen


    An adult Swift returns to the nest to feed its chicks, just under the tiles at this old farm in Central Sweden; you might be surprised to know that Swifts breed a lot further North than this!

    Stunning photos from Barcelona

    Laurent Godel, an architect and interior designer working in Barcelona, has been taking amazing photographs of Swifts zooming through the skies abve the famous city with its spectacular buildings created by Gaudi.

    Here Swifts fly across the sky above "La Pedrera", a famous apartment block with turret chimneys like massed lines of armoured warriors, and the Christopher Columbus Monument (left, below).

    By looking closely you can see just how they fly, with each wing beat shown clearly.

    You can see many more at his Blog site by clicking


    Photos ©  Laurent Godel



    Over 6000 Stimpson Nest Boxes Sold!

    John Stimpson, maker of the simple and economical Zeist-type Swift nest box shown on our "Shopping" page, has been in touch to tell us he has now made and sold over 6000 of them, to all parts of the UK and now to France too.

    Sales and take-up at this level can start to make a very real difference to the UK's Swift population, confined as it is by de-forestation and history to seek nest places in our buildings. Put together with other box sales and nest place initiatives, maybe things are getting a bit better for our Swifts? All we need now is a long succession of glorious summers!

    Opposite is a photo of a young Swift looking out from one of John's boxes, fitted to a building in Dunblane, Scotland.

    Photo © Anne Youngman BCT

    More Successes with Nest Boxes! 

    Bob Freeman sent us this brilliant photo of a Swift leaving one of his Schwegler nestboxes in South Shields. Bob says: "I have had Swift nest boxes fitted below the eaves on my house for 10 years now, and over the last few days I have had Swifts enter all three boxes. On the night of 6 July I noticed a bird fly in late dusk and not reappear, so it looked like this bird had gone in to roost. By the way, these birds were lured into the box area with a Swift Calls CD". It may be that the Swifts found the boxes after being evicted by building or insulation work at a nearby property. It shows it's well worth putting up boxes, and being very patient, as well as playing the Swift calls.

     Photo © Robert Freeman

    Another Splendid Swift Success!

    From Dunblane, not far from Edinburgh in Scotland, John Haddow sends us this dramatic photo of a Swift leaving a Zeist type nest box fitted to his house with the help of the Scottish Bat Officer, Anne Youngman.

    Here again, Sparrows moved in first, but then Swifts moved into both boxes. Never forget, Swifts can fly almost as fast as Andy Murray's tennis balls!

    It has taken a few years to achieve success, and again it shows very clearly the values of patience and persistence when working with Swifts.
    Photo © John Haddow

    A Big Surprise at Slaithwaite

    From Yorkshire comes this evidence that Swift nest boxes are taking off in a big way. We're very grateful to Robert Harrison for both discovering this amazing installation of Schwegler nestboxes on a viaduct in Slaithwaite, Kirklees, and telling us all about it.
    Do you know who put them up? Please let us know!

    The famous historic Viaduct in Slaithwaite, West Yorkshire dominates the valley.
    Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

    The Slaithwaite Viaduct is at Crimble on the road to Golcar (Huddersfield). There are 14 Schwegler nest boxes mounted between 25 and 30 feet up on the walls. Two are shown in the close-up above right. Robert Harrison has seen that at least 12 of the boxes were in use in Summer 2014. Such a take-up without using Swift calls is exceptional. It may indicate Swifts are moving in having been evicted elsewhere. Photos © Robert Harrison


    A Swift heads for its new home, an Ibstock Swift Brick in the end wall of the new Library in Antrim, one of 15 installed at public request.

    Photo © Brenda Campbell

    Antrim's new library gets its Swifts

    Rodney Monteith in Antrim, Northern Ireland, the man behind the 15 "Ibstock EcoHomes for Swifts" (Swift Bricks) in the Antrim Library, has been keeping a close eye on them, together with Brenda Campbell, Mark Smyth and Peter Cush of the Northern Ireland Swift Group. He reports that the nest bricks were enthusiastically taken up by House Sparrows (not a bad thing as they too are in sad decline) but now two are occupied by Swifts.

    Things are starting to happen! 11 Swift Bricks have been installed in Antrim's Oriel Gallery, (formerly known as The Long Barn), others at the new Train and Bus Station, and no less than 37 at Greenmount College!

    It's a splendid way to get some life and action into otherwise sterile townscapes, isn't it? And that's a major aim of Urban Biodiversity!

    2013 - A very bad year for Swifts

    Early breeding attempts by Swifts in parts of the UK and Northern Europe failed, due to the cold weather and resulting dearth of flying insects for the Swifts to feed on. There has been a huge mortality of Swifts in some areas; it is estimated that 90% of Swifts who made it to Bavaria have subsequently starved to death or died of hypothermia.

    From Spain and France come news items of Swifts falling dead from the sky in their hundreds; fromSwitzerland we have eye-witness accounts of Swifts desperately seeking food in rain and low cloud over Lake Lucerne, and falling into the waters there to be eaten by Gulls.

    From Bavaria we have instances of Swifts being found dead in their nests, and of abandoned eggs and chicks. Our local contact in the Czech Republic, Lukáš Victora, tells us the breeding season there is delayed by at least a month, and numbers are down sharply.

    With the recent much warmer weather in the UK Swifts have likewise laid again. It means a very late end to the nesting season; some breeders could still be with us now right through August, even into September. 

    Very sadly, our colony at London Zoo has failed to produce any chicks for the first time since Swifts moved in. Just one lonely adult Swift spent its nights in a nest box there, without a partner. Maybe next year will be better.

    Bob Freeman (see News item above) had nest boxes up for 10 years and at last
    Swifts have moved in!  It is always worth the wait.....

    Photo © Robert Freeman

    From Moscow we have an excisting new idea, that came about as an entry into a competition to find radical new uses for the DuPont product Corian, more usually used in washrooms. This is what the architect designers say about it....

    "Prefabricated concrete panel houses - that's the environment in which we grew up.
     They are everywhere - they are the real face of the city, its flesh. 
    Over time, areas built of such houses are beginning to be overgrown with tall trees, and the houses themselves take the form of the familiar, safe home, like an old, beloved cave. Districts are now picturesque, quiet and comfortable. The air is calm, broken only by the gleeful shrieks of Swifts whose wings cut the blue sky. Swifts - unique creatures. Spending all their life in flight: eating in flight, in-flight drinking, sleeping in flight, in-flight multiplying too. They do not walk on the ground on principle, do not feed on garbage, and are totally different from other urban birds. They bring the maximum benefit, no harm. One adult brings its chicks about 30,000 insects a day. Thus, the greater the number of Swifts in the city, the better for our environment. Currently Swifts have to compete with feral pigeons in finding suitable nest-places, which does not contribute to an increase in their population. These nest pods are built from Corain, expensive but durable. Each pod as well as providing numerous nest holes for Swifts, is a giant house number, which can be seen from afar. So it is very convenient for the residents and visitors. The unusual shape of the nest pods radically changes the residents' homes from simple concrete boxes to a high-grade naturalistic object. The old, familiar areas finally acquire a unique natural charm. ........... "  

    But these pods could change the scene for Moscow's Swifts, as well as for its residents. Let's hope this dramatic, handsome idea gets taken up, and soon! For more information contact  Arch Group Architects, Moscow 

    New Homes for Moscow's Swifts?

    Photo © Arch Group Architects, Moscow

    New nests for Swifts at Goose Green Primary in East Dulwich
    Steven Robinson, South London Swift Conservation Adviser, has been helping his son's primary school, Goose Green in East Dulwich, with a nest box project. The boxes look excellent; the school made three, a parent made the other, and the pupils painted them. They are insulated from excess solar heat with an extra roof and a ventilation gap between the two roofs. The school is using the Cheng Sheng player to broadcast the calls via a tweeter in one of the boxes. Here they are in all their glory!

    The boxes' design follows the well-tested Dutch Zeist model, named after the town of the same name. Such boxes can be bought here in the UK for about £13.00 from John Stimpson. Please see our Shopping Page for more details.
    For information on using the Cheg Shen amplifier please contact
    Dick Newell
    Photos © Steven Robinson 

    Another Swift Tower goes up in Northern Ireland
    Congratulations to the pupils of  Pond Park Primary School, Lisburn Co Antrim, and their teacher Mr Burns, who with the help of Mr Declan Philips of Stoneyford Engineering (who built and installed this superb Swift mini-tower) and the Northern Ireland Swift Group, have ensured that Swifts now have a new home at Pond Park Primary.

    The tower has its own built-in sound system to attract Swifts, and when a pair take up residence in one of the nest boxes a camera will be fitted when the birds are in Africa during the winter. This will allow the pupils and staff to learn more about this wonderful bird when they return. Stoneyford Engineering build a range of Swift  towers and as well as having supplied them to Tesco's and the Belfast Bus Station, also now have orders for mini towers for private houses.
    Photo © Brian Cahalane: Northern Ireland Swift Group

    Dublin puts up some Swift Nest Boxes
    Photos © Alan Hester / Dublin City Council 

    We have been working with Helen Burke of Dublin City Council on Swift nest place projects for the capital city.  With the help of Eric Dempsey, one of Ireland's leading ornithologists, who is giving public talks to promote the scheme, and Alan Hester who is in charge of the building and has been instrumental in getting this project off the ground, the first project has now been completed.

    e are photos of the boxes fitted to plant rooms on top of Dublin Council's Civic Offices on Wood Quay. A sound system has been installed and is playing Swift calls to attract potential occupiers. The boxes may be viewed from Ormond Quay.

    Cullompton's Library gets Swift homes

    Stephen Fitt, who works as a volunteer for the RSPB in the South West,
     tells us the following: "
    With the approval of the Devon County Ecologist I check their monthly planning list and if there are any obvious potential candidates for Biodiversity enhancement I liaise with the relevant Planning Officer.  In this instance Swift boxes were made a consition of Planning approval, and I worked with their Architects, the Exeter Office of the NPS Group,  on how and where.  

    We installed  Schwegler Light Weight Swift Box Type 1A's. There is a loud speaker wired to the Library’s PA System to play calls. Due to ongoing building work, there was only a very limited opportunity to play the latter last July, but I was told Swifts came visiting almost immediately and created lots of local interest!

    My work with Devon County continues and we are currently working on a number of school projects and the main library in Exeter.  As a consequence of this work I am spreading the word and two or three schools in Dorset have adopted similar policies."

    Photo © John Baggley  NPS South West Ltd

    Above left: a close-up view of the eight Schwegler boxes sunk into the facade of the new building in Cullompton, and right, a general view of the building, showing how they augment the street view. Swifts will be a very exciting aerial component of this town's summer skies.



    Frankfurt's Swifts take up new boxes


    These new boxes for Swifts, as shown on the left, are of the simplest type. Just a timber box with internal partitions, fitted under the gutters of existing buildings. Cheap, and yet highly effective, as you can see.

    This is the work of Ingolf Grabow and the
    Frankfurt Swift Group 2010, and they are starting to get results.

    With over 1400 Swift nestboxes now up and ready for Swifts in Frankfurt, they are achieving a successful breeding occupancy rate of 55% at one well-monitored site. This is a remarkable achievement by any standards. 

    Photos © Ingolf Grabow FMI 2010



    More nest opportunities created in
    historic Brussels apartments

    Martine Wauters, who works on biodiversity projects for the Municipality of Molenbeek in Brussels, has sent us these photos of a new project she masterminded to provide Swift nest places within existing architectural features in apartment blocks.

    These sorts of buildings date from the turn of the 19th Century up to the First World War, and have interesting architectural details, in this case an extended windowsill that goes across the front of the upper story and is of hollow construction.

     This feature was used to provide eight new self-contained Swift nest places.

    Photographs © Martine Wauters

    Above left: the apartment block showing the extended windowsill. Above right: the adaptation to house Swift nest places.



    New Swift Tower at Belfast
    Bus Station

    Brian Cahalane, an enthusiastic supporter of Swifts in Northern Ireland, and a man with his own home colonies of Swifts and House Martins, has just sent us this great photo of the new Swift Tower at the bus station in Belfast.

    Built by the Stoneyford Engineering Company to Brian's specifications, this prefabricated tower can be delivered ready-made to any site in Europe for a very modest overall cost.

    Find out more by e-mail - use
    this link to Christy Cush at Stoneyford

    Photo © Bran Cahalane



    Amazing news on Swift Migration

    For the past three years researchers across Europe have been fitting a handful of Swifts in accessible breeding colonies with "data-loggers" minute electronic devices that record time and daylight.

    When these are recovered from Swifts that have migrated to
    and from Africa, they can reveal their route with some accuracy.

    The results for four projects in Sweden, Germany and the UK are now known, and they paint a picture much enhanced over the minimal results gained from ringing many thousands of Swifts over many years.

    In part this is because Swifts fly high and do not land. One has to rely on getting rings back from birds that die naturally and are found, or are killed and eaten. Also, rings cannot tell us the time spent in any location, only that it has been visited. The information gained from them turns out to have been only partial, huge parts of their migration route having never been recorded before.

    Find out more -
    See the BTO's full report at this web site
    See the full Swedish results

    The flight of A320, a Swift tagged at Fowlmere on 22 July 2010 and recovered on its return on 8 May 2011.

    This Swift spent significant periods (the blobs) on its route (purple) feeding over lush West African rainforest zones, and stayed for much of the Winter over the Congo, (yellow blob) apart from a significant Christmas break (yellow arrows & blobs) over Tanzania, & Mozambique, before returning (blue route & blobs) to the UK, again spending time feeding over West Africa.

    This information greatly augments and improves on previous ringing results, but quite a bit of it does match local observations made by skilled bird watchers.
    Map diagram © British Trust for Ornithology



    Swift Tower Competition Winner

    This is the winning entry in a recent competition held in Poland for a Swift tower, organised by STOP, the Warsaw bird protection organisation. Designed by
    Menthol Architects, it is intended to provide stand-alone, well sheltered, robust, safe and long lasting nest places for a large number of Swifts, as well as being an aesthetically valid landmark in itself.

    Click here for further information (in Polish)
    left: details of the boxes

    The Menthol / STOP Swift Tower visualised on the banks of the Vistula river in Warsaw, just along from the Copernicus Centre. Swifts have been having just as bad a time in Poland as elsewhere in Euroipe, as the old building stock is updated and insulated, and all their old nest places are obliterated. Population losses in parts of Eastern Europe are thought to be as high as 70% in the past few years alone.                                             drawings © Menthol Architects / STOP

    New Swift homes in Teignmouth

                                                                       Photo © Teign Housing



    See the three small holes along the roofline of the completed blocks of flats? These are a new part of Teign Housing’s regeneration work in central Teignmouth. They are built in Swift nesting boxes. A total of 51 new nest places have been created, using Schwegler's No 17A "triple" box fitted behind the cladding.

    There is a small Swift colony nesting under the road bridge next to the blocks, and during the planning stage of the project Teign Housing (TH), the RSPB and Teignbridge District Council planners, advised by Edward Mayer and Stephen Fitt of Swift Conservation, agreed to install the nest boxes on each block so the colony could expand.

    Paul Davies, Head of Asset Management said: “As a housing association it is our responsibility to meet local housing need, and we thought we could extend this to some of our feathered friends. Sadly, the Swift population is in decline, but we hope that the boxes will encourage more to nest and help increase the Swift population in Teignmouth.”

    As TH's head office is in Newton Abbot it is difficult to monitor whether the boxes are being used. If anyone in Teignmouth spots a Swift or any other bird moving into these boxes, please let TH know the time and date of your Swift spot by using the online Contact Us form. 

    Great news from Exeter
    RSPB volunteer gets amazing results...

    Above: Isca College Exeter; Three Schwegler nestboxes have been fitted to the high brick wall to encourage Swifts to nest there. Photo © Emily Stallworthy, Devon Wildlife Trust

    Stephen Fitt, a Swift enthusiast and a volunteer for the RSPB in the South West of England has been working very hard with Exeter City Council, whose official policy is to integrate nest/roost boxes for birds/bats into all new residential properties.

    Of course a degree of flexibility to make sure that unsuitable locations are not used, but a ratio of one nest box per residential unit is the aim.

    Within this policy, Swifts are treated as a priority species, and the work being done by the Exeter Swift Project, a partnership of the Council, Devon Wildlife Trust (see illustration) and the RSPB, should make sure that there will be ample nesting opportunities for Swifts in the foreseeable future.

    Even better, the Town and Country Planning Association has adopted the Exeter Model as an example within its new "Good Practice Guidance" which is being promoted throughout the UK.

    See a special feature on the "Good Practice Guidance"

    Download the Town & Country Planning Association / Wildlife Trusts "Good Practice Guidance" documents (inc Annex C) here

    For more information please contact Stephen

    Low flying Swifts!

    This new road sign was put up last Summer near Koblenz in the Rhineland. Swifts fly low to catch insects when the weather is bad, and so can come into conflict with vehicles, something their 49 million years on Earth may not have prepared them for.

    The sign can be folded up when the Swifts have gone back to Africa. But while they are here they are now protected from accidents with traffic, just so long as drivers are careful.

    Let's hope this good idea gets copied elsewhere!

    Photo supplied by the Frankfurt Swift Group: see here for lots more information

    We visit the Swifts of Andalucia - millions of them!

    What with the rotten "summer" we (and our Swifts too) were having, we felt the need for a bit of intensive Swift therapy, and headed off to Andalucia in Southern Spain for guaranteed sunshine, heat, paella and.... Swifts!

    We were not disappointed - there were millions of them! Nesting in the eaves opposite our hotel in Malaga, right by the Cathedral, nesting in a special roof made just for them above the bar of our hotel in Granada, and filling the sky in Ubéda, they were everything we needed. If only it could be the same here in the UK.

    See our videos! Just click on the blue logos to go to You Tube

    Swifts at the Alhambra Palace Hotel, Granada  Swifts at the Alhambra Palace Hotel, Granada

    Swifts over Malaga  Swifts over Malaga        Swifts over Ubeda  Swifts flying over Ubeda

    The Alcazar, the ancient Moorish castle at the Alhambra: a landscape that is just perfect for Swifts; sun, heat, water, insects and hundreds of old holes to breed in    
    © Edward Mayer



    St Rémy, Molenbeek, Brussels

    A new Swift nestbox project in Belgium - designed by Dick Newell and project managed by Martine Wauters of the Municipality of Molenbeek
    The Swift nest box cabinets are being fitted at the base of the long louvred apertures in the tower of the Church of St Rémy.  All photos © Martine Wauters - Municipality of Molenbeek

    Above: t
    he team that installed the boxes - helping Swifts is fun!
    Below left: the boxes in position. More can be added as the project takes off and Swifts move in, and in that way the feral pigeon population of the tower can be reduced, and a pest removed.
    Below right: a Swift's eye-view of the prospect from the nest. Not bad!


    Swifts get 500 new nest places in Baku, Azerbaijan

    New Nests for the Swifts of Baku's famous 8th Century BC Maiden Tower

    The Maiden Tower, a highly important 8th Century BC national monument in Baku's UNESCO World Heritage Old Walled City, Icherisheher, is being conserved after many years of weather damage.

    Holes in its crumbling walls provided nestplaces for about 250 Swifts for the past 30 or 40 years. But the conservation, when completed, will leave only about 40 holes usable by the Swifts.

    Leyla Aliyeva, the Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and founder of International Dialogue for Environmental Action (IDEA)  initiated and coordinated a special project providing the displaced Swifts with alternative nest places. A nearby site was selected, and the Administration of Icherisheher, through its specialist restoration contractor Atelier Erich Pummer GesMBH, installed 500 Schwegler Swift nest boxes.

    The number of new nests has been doubled with the aim of increasing the future population of Baku's Swifts.

    Checks made after the Swifts finished breeding in Summer 2012 showed that some 30 nests had been made in the new boxes, a very promising start. In 2013 further efforts will be made to attract more Swifts to breed in the new nestboxes.

    Left above: The 8th Century BC Maiden Tower, undergoing conservation; on the right, the new Swift nest boxes installed on the wall of an adjacent building

    See the video of the Swifts checking out their new nest boxes here

    Left: Close-up showing the postions of loudspeakers within some of the nestboxes, used to play Swift calls to attract the Swifts to nest in them

    Far left: The Maiden Tower, centrepiece of the ancient historical heart of Baku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, following conservation works


    Below left: Another view of the new Swift Nest box arrays in the shape of three Swifts

    Photos © Samir Nuriyev /
    State Historical Architectural Reserve "Icherisheher"

    In order to smooth the Swifts’ relocation, the Tower’s conservation works were planned so that the number of holes in the façade would decrease gradually during 2012 to 2013. In February 2012, the nest boxes were fixed on the wall in the shape of three flying Swifts, to underline the purpose of the project and to enhance the appearance of the site. The new nestboxes were painted light beige to reflect the sunlight and prevent overheating.

    Swift Conservation provided Swift Call CD's to encourage the Swifts to check out the new nests, and advice on how to attract Swifts and maintain the colony for the future.

    The process of attracting Baku's Swifts to the new nest places may take 2 to 3 years, but the initial results are very promising. Just 2 weeks after the Swifts’ arrival in Baku, thanks to the use of the Swift Call CD, several were noticed flying up to the nest boxes and some were captured by video camera at the moment of flying into the nestboxes.

    Berlin 2012 - the 2nd International Swift Seminars conference

    Photos © Edward Mayer   Presentation © Lukáš Viktora CSO

    Swifts are getting much more attention:

    The 2nd International Swift Seminars were held in Berlin from 10 to 12 April, attracting 77 delegates from Europe, Turkey, Russia, Indonesia, Israel and China, to discuss ways to prevent further losses of this amazing bird.

    Decline across Europe appears to be consistent, and closely linked to trends in renovation and insulation of the building stock.

    Figures from the Czech Republic (left) match the UK's very closely.

    Ulrich Tigges, conference organiser, addresses a question to Martin Cel'uch, a speaker from the Slovakian delegation whose topic was "Will the Common Swift survive in Slovakia?"


    Zaragoza puts up nestplaces for Swifts

    Up go the new boxes! Brand new plywood boxes, specially for Pallid Swifts,
    are lifted to their final postion by the Fire Brigade team in Zaragoza.    

    Photos © Municipality of Zaragoza

    The fire station in Zaragoza, Aragon in Spain has finally saved its famous Pallid Swift colony

    Following a public appeal, helped by us at Swift Conservation, the Municipality of Zaragoza agreed to save the prominent colony of Pallid Swifts (Apus pallidus) established at the local Fire Station.

    Threatened by maintenance work, the colony became the subject of great public interest, and a campaign to save it was organised by Spanish Swift enthusiasts, with support from right across Europe.

    The campaign was successful, and the Municipality agreed to have the special boxes made up and installed on their fires station. Here you can see them being put up, the result, and the team from the Municipality that got the job done so successfully.

    We are all hoping for a very successful breeding season for this colony in 2012 and for a long time ahead. 

    Below: The multi-disciplinary team from the Municipality of Zaragoza that designed, built and installed the multiple nest boxes for the Pallid Swifts at the Fire Station.      




    St Peter & St Paul keep Swifts safe in Lingfield

    The late Roland Giddy, local Swift expert in Surrey, was instrumental in saving a major Swift colony in the roof of St Peter & St Paul's Church in Lingfield.

    Local neighbours & Swift enthusiasts Ian & Pat Smith were concerned the Swifts nesting under the massive stone roof were potentially under threat from renovations.

    So with the help of Richard Young of the Church Council and Robert George, the architect, plans were made with Roland's help for the colony to be saved.

    Lower left: a view of the church & the Swift roof

    Heritage Roofers Clarke Roofing Southern Ltd ( performed the works, ensuring that the old nest places were retained.

    The old stone tiles were removed, the nest positions between them and the roofing membrane were noted, and retained under the replaced stone tiles.

    The result: plenty of nest places ready for the Swifts when they returned in May 2012.

    Top left: roofers remove the old roof, revealing debris from the old nests.
    Top right: the new roof goes on, using recovered stone tiles

    Lower right: just about finished!
    Photos (roof) © Ian Smith; (church) © Edward Mayer


    Guernsey's Swifts get a Reprieve
    Vic Froome, our man on Guernsey, has helped save a major Swift Colony

    Demolition of the housing estate had already started when residents spoke up for their Swifts. With Vic's help, it was swiftly agreed that the demolition would stop, and the Guernsey Housing Association allowed a further delay of six weeks to enable the Swifts to fledge and fly off to Africa. Even better, the Housing Association agreed to buy 50 Swift nestboxes, and then the building contractor J W Rihoy put them up for free!  Even more good news, Vic has been asked to give a seminar to all the property professionals involved, on buildings and biodiversity, and he has also been asked to advise on stage two of the project. You couldn't ask for any more!

    Left: Swifts' nests found under the tiles of the old housing estate demolished to be replaced by the new one (right). You can see the four new nestboxes just under the eaves. 

    Upper right, Vic, his work and the estate featured in the Guernsey Times, a great victory for common sense local conservation and for the Swifts too.

    Photographs © Vic Froome


    Photograph © Beth Hales

    A Niblock Building Contractors roofer cuts a hole for Swifts to continue nesting in eaves at the Village Park Estate in Ealing. This hole is a special one to resist entry by Starlings but let the Swifts get back to the same nest sites they used before the old wooden soffits were replaced with the modern Upvc ones. You can contact Niblock here.

    Swifts usually only nest in pre-1944 buildings. But modernisation of these has lead to a massive drop in their numbers. Swifts create a sense of well-being and eat up lots of harmful insects. They are well worth saving!

    Ealing and Niblock get it right first time... with a little help from Beth!
    Beth Hales, of the Village Park Estate in South Ealing, tells us how she saved the Swifts on her estate: We had been given notice that our roofs would be repaired under the Decent Homes programme.

    As I stood chatting with site manager Mark Lenzi, of contractor Niblock, I looked up and noticed the Swifts. I asked: “what will happen to the Swifts as they nest in the eaves”. Mark was sympathetic, but had no power to change the plastic soffits that would close the eaves. I decided not to let the issue go that easily, as I had spent the last 18 summers enjoying watching them.

    I got in touch with local RSPB member Peter Bird and the author of the Birds of Ealing, John Green. Together with resident Gary Fisher we wrote to the leader of the Council. At the same time the Swifts were becoming a topic in local Council and wildlife meetings. Within days the Council was talking to the building contractor.

    With the Council on board, Mark Lenzi agreed my suggestion to bring in Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation, who advise architects and builders on how to keep or encourage Swifts to nest.

    So I found myself squeezed into a portacabin along with 17 roofers to hear a presentation on Swifts. I wasn’t sure if they would take it seriously but as Edward began they quickly became engaged and the talk moved on to the technical details.

    The result? Niblock installed 70 Swift holes and two summers on it goes to show how an action as simple as cutting a small hole can have such a dramatic impact on local wildlife. The Swifts are still with us!


    A Very Nice Swift Story
    SWIFTS by Abbie Hart aged 6 years and 1 month 

    Once there was 2 poorly swifts and then my Mum saved them and made them better.  She let them go, but one of them couldn't fly.  And then she made it better and she let it go. They ate lots of insects and waxworms.  They were happy. They played with their friends in the sky and they flew past every day, so we knew they were better. But they went to Africa for the winter where it was warm. All the time they were thinking about us. They wished they could have more waxworms. They were too happy now.  They will come back in April or May. We will be happy when we see them again.  And, if they come back in May on my Mum's birthday, they might be happy. And, they are good at flying now - they used to not be. And it's good to fly, because everyone wants to fly. They fly even when they are asleep and eat little bugs in the air.  I love the Swifts so much, they will come back soon because it's nearly Spring. It's good when it's Spring. The Swifts are always happy, they love it. They just love drinking and they are black. They love us and my Dad is making a nest box for them. My Mum says that they are her favourite bird, but they're just my second favourite. My favourites are Long-Tailed Tits and Sparrows and the beautiful Swifts.     Drawings © Abbie Hart

    Where Swifts still nest in ancient trees..... the Bialowieza Primeval Forest, Poland

    In 2011 we visited the magnificent Bialowieza Primeval Forest in North East Poland. What a superb place!

    And what a surprise too as this ancient forest, where trees are allowed to die and fall and rot naturally, has a resident population of nesting Swifts. In 1985 to 1994 this was estimated as 600 to 700 pairs. These Swifts nest mainly in holes in Hornbeams and sometimes Conifers on open flood plain areas.

    They breed in groups of a couple of pairs, quite unlike the large colonies they set up in big buildings, but similar to a typical suburban Swift colony.

    We think that this is how Swifts bred before we deforested Europe and eliminated all old and dead trees from our modern managed forests. Of course, Swifts nest in crevices in cliffs too, but we have never seen large colonies in such places.

    Visit Bialowieza soon - such beauty cannot last.

    Above: Swifts' nest in an old Great Spotted Woodpecker nest in this ancient pine. This is at the RSPB's Abernethy Reserve in Scotland where a few Swifts breed in tree holes, believed to be unique in the UK.

    Photos © E Mayer / Swift Conservation (left) & John S Wilson (right)

    The National Archives hopes to host Swifts at Kew with its new nest boxes

    The National Archives at Kew have installed some Swift nest boxes!

    They are the brainchild of Christine Berry, a keen wildlife enthusiast who works there. Christine contacted us and we did a site survey. We recommended locations and techniques to attract the Swifts to them.

    Situated right by the Thames the site is ideal; it already hosts a good selection of wild birds and other creatures, and has pools and gardens of its own to shelter them.

    Photos © E Mayer / Swift Conservation & Christine Berry / National Archives

    WWT puts up Swift Boxes on its Tower Hide at the London Wetlands Centre

    Swifts should love these nest boxes built beneath the eaves of the Tower Hide at the London Wetlands Centre just across the Thames from Hammersmith.

    The pools of the Wetlands Centre provide masses of flying insects for Swifts to feed on, and many Swifts already visit the Centre just to feed.

    On the left you can see two of the nest boxes fitted to the Tower Hide; on the right you can see, open, the CD player system that plays Swift calls to attract new birds to look for vacant spaces.

    Photos © Wildlfowl & Wetlands Trust

    Swifts get a Tower at the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover

    Here we see Terry and his team mate Ray putting the shingles onto the second tower on the production line.The first tower, set up with help from HM Forces, is on the far right. In between is Cheyenne, one of their superb Bald Eagles, after her long range flight display. 
    Photos © E Mayer / Swift Conservation

    Staff at the Hawk Conservancy Trust at Andover in Hampshire have taken up the challenge of making and erecting one of the Swift Tower concept designs prepared by Dick Newell of the Ely Swifts Group and featured elsewhere on this web site.

    Inspired by one of our lectures, they devoted their time and effort to making this superb structure which holds 30 nest places under a roof covered in Western Red Cedar shingles.

    Visit the
    Hawk Conservancy to see the Tower and lots more - their flight displays of raptors are just amazing!

    Dulwich Park's Buildings are fitted with Swift nestboxes

    Dulwich Park's Friends have made a big commitment to Swift conservation by fitting one of the buildings in Dulwich Park with Swift nest boxes and an associated hifi system to play Swift calls to lure the birds in. Seven boxes were installed; six Schwegler No.18's (plus the hi-fi system) and one Filchris nestbox. Southwark's Parks department arranged for the installation.

    Watch this space!

    Photos © Steven Robinson

    Tesco Puts up a Swift Tower in Crumlin, Northern Ireland



    Brian Cahalane, a member of the Northern Ireland Swift Group wrote to Sir Terence Leahy, CEO of Tesco Plc, and explained to him why Swift numbers were falling through out the British Isles and asked if Tesco could help.

    Sir Terence replied sympathetically and discussions began resulting in this magnificent tower.

    The Northern Ireland Swift Group wishes to express their appreciation to Tesco Plc. who funded the project. Thanks to their awareness of the biodiversity in the area, Swifts in Northern Ireland now have twenty new nest boxes which will help their numbers increase in Crumlin.

    A plaque will be placed below the tower explaining its purpose and giving information on this magnificent bird,  Already it has been visited by school children from the local schools. 

    It is hoped that Tesco's example will encourage other supermarkets to  follow their lead.

    Photos © Brian Cahalane

    Hannover's Bethlehem Church gets Swift Nest Boxes!

    Rose-Marie Schulz, a Swift Activist in Hannover, Germany, has been running Swift projects for some years now.

    Here is her latest, fitting 24 nestboxes to the Bethlehem Church, with the help of a large team of helpers, some shown here.

    You can do the same! With a little help from your friends and some recycled plywood you can build boxes for Swifts and install them in your local landmarks.

    There's not a minute to be lost.......
    Photos © Rose-Marie Schulz

    Stevenage's Lister Hospital & the London Olympics get Swift Nest Boxes

    Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust, working with the Lister Hospital Board and Osborne Construction, have completed installation of eight Swift nest bricks in the new maternity unit at this hospital in Stevenage.

    It is this sort of thoughtful planning that is going to save Swifts here in the UK, as inaccessible new buildings replace their old homes in open timber eaves and gables.

    We can ensure them a future only by building in special features where Swifts can breed.
    But it's easy and it's cheap too!
    Photos © Tim Hill HMWT

    We worked with the London Olympics 2012 project starting in 2004, with the aim of providing nest site location advice and training as part of their commitment to biodiversity.

    We eventually got 70 + Swift nestboxes installed at various places on the site.

    Here you can see an installation of six nestboxes under one of the bridges leading to the Olympics Stadium.

    Photos © E Mayer Swift Conservation

    New Swift nest place projects, old and new, from Belgium & Italy

    Scaffold Pole Holes = Swift Nests!

    Swifts in Brussels have adapted to use a feature of Belgian architecture. Round (or square) holes were placed under the eaves of older buildings, to provide ready-made locations for the timber scaffold poles used whenever the building needed renovation.

    They were often covered with a decorative feature. On the left you can see one, a carved stone plug in the shape of a lion's head. With the plug slightly open, access is provided for a Swift to nest inside. On the right you can see a line of these holes; some were converted to Swift nest places, two are still plugged, two have lost their plugs.

    No longer in use for scaffolding, they are in peril of being lost when repairs are made. So Belgian biodiversity activists and professionals are encouraging their conversion to nest places for Swifts, House Sparrows and Black Redstarts. With some success!

    Left - Photos © Jean-Claude Hardy 
    Above - Photo © Aline Spriet


    New nestholes a-plenty in Melegnano!

    Left: St. John the The Baptist's Church in Melegnano, a small town very close to Milan, where all the old scaffold holes in the walls of the bell tower were modified to provide nest places for Swifts.

    These holes are an integral part of historic structures, and were used to support timber scaffold beams. You can see how they have been made smaller with little pieces of brick, cemented in. This gives a permanent, safe, low-cost refuge for breeding Swifts, while excluding feral pigeons.

    Everyone concerned with this project is hopeful that this idea will catch on across the whole of Italy, and also in other Mediterranean countries where these scaffold holes are still commonplace.

    Photos © Arch. Gaetano Arricobene 

    Project Advice & Design: Mauro Ferri of the
    Veterinary Service / Local Health Agency of Modena, and Luca Ravizza, Municipality of Melegnano
    Client: The Parish of Melegnano
    Contractor: GASPAROLI s.r.l. (Gallarate, VA),
    Project Manager: Arch. G. Arricobene

    Photo © Eve Templeton

    The colony's nest holes can be seen under the eaves and also under the window to the right of and just below the tower.

    Swifts get a Good Deal in Cortona, Italy

    A Swift enthusiast who is setting up her own colony at home in the UK, has sent us these pictures of a D I Y Swift colony she spotted on her travels in Italy.

    When I was in Cortona, Tuscany, a couple of years ago, I saw purpose-built Swift nest holes in houses.  As a result there was a huge colony of Swifts. They used to wheel over the high point of the hill town, screaming.  Fantastic."

    Colonies are easy to create when renovating a building. The holes can be drilled with minimal vibration and mess from outside using a diamond core drill . Nestplaces or boxes can then be created in or on the interior walls.

    Most have the nest boxes totally hidden within the wall, as shown on the right. The holes may be used during winter by other species  as roosts. Tits, Wrens and Sparrows may seek shelter and manage to survive in this way.

    These projects can help to replace Swift nests lost in other building re-developments, & vital if Swifts are to survive!

    Photo © Eve Templeton





    Photo ©
    Edward Mayer

    Photo © E Mayer

    New nests for Swifts in Modena, Italy

    Modena, an exceptionally beautiful city, has a wealth of ancient historic buildings of supreme cultural value. Amongst these is the Cathedral and its Tower.

    The Municipality, advised by specialists of the Veterinary Service of the local Public Health Agency, made plans to retain the Swifts nesting in the scaffold pole holes of the magnificent Cathedral Tower. A major aim was to exclude feral pigeons, whilst encouraging Swifts and Bats to roost and nest.

    On the left you can see the Cathedral and, far right in the photo, covered in hoardings, its Tower. On the right you can see the technique used to convert the scaffold pole holes from places that could shelter feral pigeons to ones that can provide nests for Swifts. All that is required is again the insertion of a piece of brick, but cut to the right size.

    Simple, cheap, effective! So why doesn't everyone do it?

    More Swift Houses in Grottammare, Italy

    Margaret Jarvis, who lives in Grottamare, Italy, spotted Swifts around a house by the railway tracks. Here is what she saw! Some brilliant person adapted this building for Swifts. We know of lots of Swift Towers in North East Italy, but this is the first such site we have seen in the Appennines. Are there more? Find out and tell us!

    Photos © M Jarvis 









    Midges and Aphids make up almost half the items taken
    by Swifts for their young in Antrim, Northern Ireland

    Top - Chironomid Midge
    © Entomart;
    Bottom - Aphid giving birth
    © MedievalRich 

    What do Swifts eat? Mostly Midges and Aphids
    As part of continuing research into Swifts' diets, amateur naturalist Marian James examined 10 pellets excreted by the juvenile Swifts in Mark Smyth's colony in Antrim, Northern Ireland. The results were as follows:  There were in total 897 items or identifiable categories:

    Chironomids 25.7% - non biting midges (possibly Lough Neagh fly) foodball
    Aphids 18.0%
    Psyllids 11.6% - sap sucking insects
    Lonchoptera 11.5% - small spear-winged flies
    Coleoptera 11.1% - water beetles
    Phoridae 0.8% - hump-backed flies (resembling fruit flies)
    Sciaridae 0.7% - fungus gnats
    Dolichopodidae 0.4% - long-legged flies
    Muscids / Calliphorids 0.4% - house & stable flies / blow flies
    Scathophagidae 0.3% - dung flies
    Hemiptera 2.1% - bugs
    Tipulid 0.1% - craneflies
    with traces of
    Hymenoptera - small solitary wasps
    Coccinellidae - 11 spot ladybird

    The majority of catches was of very small, weak fliers which become wafted by air currents and cannot escape. There was also evidence of spiders, presumably caught at their dispersal or "ballooning" stage. We can see that in Antrim, Swifts are catching a wide range of flying insects for their chicks, but that the biggest percentage is of midges hatching from the local lake. The photograph of the food ball above right shows it is composed of a wide variety of flying insects, including a very large hoverfly, caught and compressed into a near ball which is then fed to the chicks, often in one go, several times a day.

    Neat and New!  Swift nestboxes for traditional house eaves

    The late Roland Giddy converted his eaves to house 4 pairs of nesting Swifts - he used a scaffold to access the eaves, and boxed them in with integral nesting platforms (see right).
    Above right - the result - a neat and sound home for the Swifts, fitting in nicely with the eaves detail. 

    This sort of conversion to provide nest places for Swifts replaces others lost during re-roofing. It's low-tech, low-cost, easy, long lasting and effective.

    If eveyone did this when they renovated their house then Swifts wouldn't have lost half their UK population in the past 20 years.

    Photos © Roland Giddy

    New Swift Colonies set up in M'dina, Malta

    Following a cessation of the infamous Spring Shooting Season in Malta in 2009 (it has been reinstated this year) Swifts bred in M'dina. Mario Gauci discovered their nest, (below). 

    A Swift flies over M'dina, Malta - not normally the best place in the world to be a wild bird!

    Photos © Mario V Gauci

    Determined to assist Swifts, Mario started a nest place project - a series of Swift nestboxes fitted into old ventilators on a building facade. As you can see, the Swifts are already interested!


    Camden Council builds for Swifts


    Camden Council has installed 10 nest boxes at their Regent's Park Estate to help reverse a decline in Swift populations.

    One of the reasons for the decline is modern construction practices which render once-accessible nesting sites under roof eaves inaccessible. The installation of Swift nesting boxes in high-rise buildings is seen as one way to counter-act this problem, providing suitable nesting sites for this fascinating bird. In Camden, local surveys have established the Regent’s Park area as a population stronghold. Using the opportunity we combined our high-rise insulation programme on the estate with the installation of these specially designed brick-boxes."

    Camden tell us that more installations are planned throughout the Borough. This is splendid news and we hope this project will be a trend-setter throughout the UK and in the EU too.         

    Photo © London Borough of Camden


    Swifts get more new homes in Northern Ireland

    Swift enthusiasts Norman Watterson and Adrian McElhone have been working on a new Swift nestbox scheme at a modern industrial building on the shores of fly-rich Lough Neagh, in Northern Ireland. Swifts gather from miles around to feast on the Lough Neagh flies. The new one-piece nest box has 12 separate compartments for the Swifts; their food supply can be seen waiting for them!

    On the left you can see the 12 place nest box before it was fitted to the roof edge of the Ballyronan Marina facilities building (right).

    The myriad black specks visible are the famous Lough Neagh flies, which hatch from the waters to provide food for thousands of Swifts.

    It is believed that Swifts fly in from as far away as Scotland to feed on this amazing resource.
    Photos © Mark Smyth

    Ideal Homes for Swifts in East Dulwich, London


    This Victorian terraced house has been ingeniously renovated to provide excellent accommodation for Swifts. The arrow points to one of eleven Swift nest access holes, built in to the under-eaves brickwork. This is the creation of George Mavrias, who as you can imagine, is keen on keeping Swifts flying over his home! It goes to show that where there's a will there's a way, and Swift nestplaces can be created and sustained in nearly all types of buildings.

    Photos © George Mavrias


    Brighton gets Swift Nest Places & Green Walls too!

    New homes for Swifts! The Jury's Inn project built by the Macaleer & Rushe Group, under the planning auspices of Brighton and Hove City Council, is just outside Brighton's railway station. It is fitted with nest boxes for Swifts, a prime urban species at high risk of local extinction, that with luck will find them and move in. The facilities also include "Green Wall" vertical habitats, good for beneficial insects like bees.   Photos © Ben Kimpton The Ecology Consultancy 


    Success for Swift Attraction Calls CD

    Brian Cahalane of Northern Ireland set up his own Swift colony

    He used a Swift Calls CD to attract the birds to a previously unused nesting area.
    This is how he did it - you can do it too!   
    Photo © Edward Mayer

    "It is usually relatively easy to attract Swifts to new nesting boxes by using a calls CD. Play the CD on a CD player linked to a separate amplifier, use cheap speaker cable and as many speakers as possible, each one right beside a nest box. I often have twelve speakers going at once. I bought the cheapest and smallest speakers you can buy. Play from late April onwards, continuously from dawn to darkness as loud as you dare, and you will attract Swifts. But it may take two seasons for them to nest.
    I have been able to attract Swifts from a half mile away and more. I conducted a simple experiment using my wife and son and mobile phones. One was positioned at the house, the other a quarter of a mile away, and myself a half mile away. It's almost a straight line from my house to the centre of the village. A phone call from myself and the CD was switched on at my house at full volume, I could hear it in the village. Swifts began to move towards my house and I could observe them through my binoculars, when they passed my wife she rang me, and when they arrived at the house my son rang me. I have 24 potential nesting sites and often have as many as ten speakers playing at once, positioned at ten boxes. I now have a colony established!"

    Swift Conservation supplies a Swift Calls CD using recordings from Ulrich Tigges' Berlin Swift Colony. To order click on the Swift button below.

    Swift Calls CD's Order a Swift Calls CD - click on the Swift!

    How to use Swift Calls Click on the Swift to learn how to use the Swift Calls CD


    Contact Swift Conservation For further information contact Swift Conservation

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    Thank you for your interest - Please help Swifts