Screaming Swifts are one of the sounds of summer that stay with us through dark and dreary winter months and help us look forward to warmer times. These birds and others such as Swallows and House Martins travel thousands of miles from Africa to breed in the UK, staying with us for a relatively short time. Unfortunately, these birds have suffered significant declines over the years – with Swifts declining by almost 60% in 40 years and now part of the UK’s RED list.
There are several reasons for these declines with climate change and resulting weather conditions being key contributors of course. However, the loss of nesting locations as houses are modernised and the lack of adequate provision for wildlife when new houses are built have also been significant factors.
In early 2022, our Sussex Wildlife Trust regional members group covering Storrington & the Arun Valley decided to do what we could to try to slow this decline, launching a project to increase nesting locations by installing Swift boxes at key locations in the villages of Amberley, Billingshurst, Pulborough, Storrington and Sullington. Local volunteers identified existing breeding sites and approached local residents, businesses and public buildings to see whether they would be willing to host new nest boxes. There was an enthusiastic response and the project team used the offers of support to apply for a grant from Wilder Horsham District.
Shortly before Christmas, we were delighted to be told that our application had been successful and funds were being made available to us.
In 2023, we are tackling the first ‘wave’ of installations – adding almost 50 new nest locations through single and some multiple boxes. We’ll then monitor the level of interest and breeding success in all these locations, as we watch these birds acrobatically swirl and swoop around our villages.
We know that this will not be a ‘quick fix’ and expect to add further nest boxes over the coming years, similarly moving out in waves from existing successful nests. The birds will return each year to where they fledged and our challenge is to steadily build the breeding population from what is a low base. We, also, plan to evaluate whether we can help Swallows and House Martins in the same way – albeit recognising their different needs for nesting locations and their preference for mud cups rather than the holes or boxes which swifts prefer.
We would like to thank Wilder Horsham District for their grant, the hosts who have volunteered to house new boxes and, of course, our volunteers without whom nothing would have been possible!
If you are interested in finding out more about the project, please email us at email@example.com
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