We were absolutely thrilled that we ended up with 20 homes for humans now also equipped with a total of 32 new homes for swifts - extending from Teffont Evias (we could hardly refuse to include Laura Downer, our Project Manager) to the outback of Semley (we couldn't resist such a lovely property, with farm buildings nearby for possible expansion of the we-hope colony). We were greatly helped in the planning by Andrew Graham's mapping skills.
Thank you all!
We emphasised to everyone that this is a long-term project - it took a similar one ten years to get from a single breeding pair to 35, so we have to grit our teeth, especially in this most swift-unfriendly spring when all our migrators are having a hard time.
We also installed six calling systems, on properties deemed too far from a known nest site to attract residents from there.
We cannot thank Hampshire Swifts enough for their whole-hearted, unstinting support - and Ed Mayer of Swift-Conservation for his January talk, which inspired this response.
For more about this, go to Tisbury Focus magazine May issue for a wonderful feature with a lovely front cover photo showing the installation team in action.
What we now have to do is undertake a survey of the village to identify currently active nest sites and the overall size of our local population. We'll do this in early July, when there's Swift Awareness Week from 3-11.
Meanwhile ... swifts are in the air or sometimes, not: here's what to do if you find one on the ground
In the last five years, it's been a privilege to hold four swifts in my hand - two live young which I took to the Wildlife Hospital, one moribund so sadly didn't make it and one dead that I found on Cuffs Lane. So it's quite possible you may find one yourself.
I don't know if the moribund one would have survived if I'd known to try re-hydrating it, as described here on the Swift Conservation website and in this excellent leaflet about rescuing swifts. It's drafted for vets but pretty good for ordinary people.
The basic is:
Swifts can't take off from the ground because their wings are too long and their legs too short to give them the necessary thrust. So if you find one on the ground, to see if it's strong enough to fly, hold it out at head height on open palms, give it time to think and if it can, it will. DO NOT throw it into the air.
If it can't, follow the advice in the leaflet and take it to our local Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital at Newton Tony - SP4 0HW. They take in anything up to 20 swifts a year, some as tiny as this one, and nurture them till they're big and strong enough to join the migration back to Africa.
Call 07850 778752 first for advice, but they're open 24 hours for patients. If you can't take it yourself or find a friend who can, don't hesitate to call me, Elizabeth, on 07831 253616 - I know the way!
21 February 2021 Our Tisbury Swifts Campaign is taking off
The talk by Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation was the starting point - more details on the Talks/What you missed page. So - what are we doing to protect existing nest sites and provide new ones for the young?
Andrew Graham is our recorder and mapper of sightings and nesting.
Elizabeth Forbes, ie Website Editor, will provide help assessing the suitability of nesting sites, liaising with swift experts.
First, we're recording all the existing nest sites - including those believed unoccupied - that we know of in the village. Because they're so unobtrusive they're very vulnerable to maintenance and repair, so identifying them must ensure they're not disturbed. Also, when we know where in the village is favoured it will help us decide where to put up new boxes as swifts generallyh like to nest with others nearby.
Next, we will identify sites for new boxes. It is important to accept that swifts may not use the boxes for a year or two, or even three. To maximise the chance of occupation, there are recordings of the mating calls that can be played in or near the box, and this is very strongly recommended.
Then, in the summer we will ask people to keep watch in the late evening to see if birds are returning to the nest, which is the only time they do so, to feed their young. This may help find nests not identified earlier in the year.
How you can help
A range of leaflets from Swift Conservation covers pretty well all the questions you may have, starting with Swifts for homeowners.
If you know of an existing nest site, let us know: please in the first instance email Laura at TNHSswiftproject@gmail.com
If you are interested in putting up one or more nest boxes or providing accessible spaces for them, you will find useful guidance in the leaflets Swift nest boxes at your home or Swift nest places in soffits and eaves. Please contact Laura (TNHSswiftproject@gmail.com) if you are interested in a group purchase and help with installation - COVID 19 permitting. For those participating, Elizabeth will help assess the suitability of sites, liaising with swift experts. For those wishing to install boxes independently, further advice on the suitability of sites is offered by Swift Conservation. Please remember you may not attract swifts for a few years and maybe never. But if you can install the recordings of calls made by a breeding swift that are available, the chances are greatly improved.
If you would like to help survey the village for active nest sites in the summer, also please let Laura know at TNHSswiftproject@gmail.com.
Thank you - it's going to be an exciting year!
Tisbury provides new homes for migrants
Swift numbers are in swift (!) decline in the UK partly due to lack of nesting sites - they traditionally nested in holes under the eaves of houses and now that houses have been upgraded and modernised they no longer have access to suitable nesting places.
Swifts arrive from Africa at the end of April or beginning of May and leave again in August. They feed, mate and sleep on the wing and only land to nest.
Tisbury Natural History Society has paid for two woodcrete nest boxes for swifts which have now been erected on the west side of the Brewery building under the eaves overlooking St John’s churchyard.
They were put there after permission was granted by David Smale who is the representative of the residents' association. We hope to find someone living in the Brewery near the boxes willing to have a DVD playing swift calls as this may encourage the birds returning in Spring to use our boxes.
If you are aware of swifts nesting anywhere in Tisbury, please let us know - see Contacts page.
Meanwhile, take a few minutes to enjoy this delightful video about swifts from Gloria Molina, a swift activist in Segovia in Spain. Just click on the link (there is a translation into English):