Connecting for Nature

A Biodiversity Partnership for Ryedale, Scarborough and the Howardian Hills

A good year for Swifts?

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Swifts, those vocal summer visitors to our urban skies, screeching overhead at breakneck speeds are for me eagerly anticipated each May. My impression is that this year was a good season for them, but this could be entirely a function of my changed patterns of commuting.  The summer of 2017 has been, personally my best ever season for seeing Swift nest sites. I happened across eight Swift nests sites this year. In fact there have been many years when I’ve seen and heard swifts aplenty but never witnessed them approach a nest hole on a building. I blogged about this earlier, during #30DaysWild (on a blog I set up for the purpose) which you can read here A Swift Update.

However, my ‘good year’ theory may be more a by-product of my walking regularly through areas where they are present than necessarily an increase in the birds. I should point out that since March this year I have been taking buses to work on a regular pattern, which involves a short stroll from Falsgrave Rd in Scarborough where I alight, along St John’s Rd and up Wykeham St, which seems to be a good area for them. I would be interested in anyone else’s perception of Swift presence this year, either in Scarborough or elsewhere.

It leads me to wonder if we should do more to focus on Swifts within the Local Biodiversity partnership. It is certainly a species with a specific preference for older housing stock with crevices and voids around the roofline. Certainly all of the nest sites I happened upon this season have been pre-1950s housing. In Scarborough my ad hoc sightings were principally in Falsgrave, for reasons given above, on rather older, Victorian terraces of two and three storeys. St. John’s Road seemed a particular hotspot, but then again I’ve been walking the street twice a day for up to four days a week…

Where else are they reliably found? Do swifts consistently prefer taller buildings? Could we do more to educate homeowners whose properties may be graced by nesting Swifts each summer? Do many premises have Swift nest boxes and are they used at all? What sort of information do residents in Swift hotspots need or want?

That is a long list of questions and I have more… If you have suggestions, observations or would like to be involved in discussions about a future Swift project in Scarborough Borough (or in Ryedale District or the Howardian Hills, for that matter) do get in touch. Perhaps a funder would be interested in supporting a citizen science and engagement project. Perhaps a student is interested in a survey project. Do we have local schools who already have Swift colonies nearby who are keen to promote Swift Conservation? Please contact me at tim.burkinshaw@scarborough.gov.uk  I look forward to hearing from fellow fans of Swifts.

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Author: Tim Burkinshaw

I work in ecology and biodiversity in North Yorkshire. I'm often found outdoors snapping nature and landscapes or spotting birds. In the garden I enjoy having my hands in the earth and striving for the perfect mix of greens and browns in my compost. As a Daddy and adopter I'm used to endless questions about the world around us, and generally have an answer up my sleeve for most things. If you spot me and my hat in real life or on social media do say hello!

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