Swifts have been recorded flying at almost 70 miles/hour, which makes them the U.K’s fastest bird in level flight. And that isn’t even the most startling fact about them. They can fly 500 miles a day, do everything on the wing, including eating, sleeping and mating, and only land when they’re ready to nest. Swifts catch an incredible 300-1000 flying insects in one go when feeding their young.
Tragically, the population of these amazing birds has plummeted in recent years, due primarily to a lack of suitable places to nest. As traditional nesting sites such as tall old buildings with plenty of nooks and crannies under eaves and in roofs become scarcer, we truly need Swift Action to give them alternatives.
Our initiative to put up 30 swift boxes in the city centre has already inspired neighbours to run their own Swift Action projects, by installing multiple nest boxes on houses in their streets.
Swift Action projects so far:
Since July 2023 we have also being coordinating with Fleetville Swifts, encouraging residents on Wilderhood Watch streets to take up their offer of supplying and fitting swift boxes for £40 each.
Swift Action in the City Centre
As part of the St Albans Sustfest 2022, Wilderhood Watch has teamed up with Executive BID Manager Alison Berneye and Mandy McNeil, BID Director for Business and Community Engagement to launch a Swift Action project in our city centre. With the help of Heidi Carruthers from Wilder SA and Tim Hill from the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, we identified suitable sites for 30 nest boxes (funded by the BID), including the St Albans Civic Centre and SA Law.
Permission to install the boxes on the Civic Centre (pictured above) was granted from the St Albans District Council in record time, which resulted in them installing eleven nest boxes in May 2022. In only the past few days there have been reports of swifts returning to the St Albans area, so it looks like we put them up in the nick of time. Let’s hope the PA system we’ve attached close by to play swift calls will help the birds find their brand new nests!
Funding for the nest boxes was provided by St Albans BID, and members of Wilderhood Watch paid for the PA system. Installation was funded by the St Albans city council – many thanks to everyone involved in this.
A big thank you to Alison’s husband Pete, a professional builder, who installed 6 of the swift boxes and a PA system on the SALaw building on June 6th 2022, free of charge (see above photo). Also thank you to Marilyn Bell, solicitor and BID Director for Business and Community Engagement, for giving us permission to do this. Once we’ve been granted permission from other close by businesses, we’ll hire a cherry picker (funded by Wilderhood Watch) to install 4 more boxes at SALaw, and the remaining 9 boxes elsewhere.
The swift boxes are made out of woodstone (a mixture of wood and concrete), so are extremely long-lasting and breathable. They come with their own mounting plates, screws and plugs, which is just as well as they each weigh 6kg!
- For more information on the installation of swift boxes, check out the Swift Conservation Trust.
- For news about Stevenage Council’s swift action, follow this link Council is taking swift action for wildlife | Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust (hertswildlifetrust.org.uk)
- For fantastic information on how to install swift boxes and when to play swift calls, check out the Friends of Gillford Wood Totley Swift Group web page.