Help Save The Chiswick Swifts!

Campaign launched to help stop dwindling numbers of the bird population

swifts in the sky

Image by Jon Perry


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Did you know that swifts spend their whole lives on the wing, landing only to nest and rear their young; that they mate for life and return to the same nest site each year; and that they are the world's fastest bird in level flight?

Or that due to the growing number of new buildings, they are losing their nesting sites in the nooks and crannies under house eaves and the UK population of swifts has declined by about 40% in the past twenty years.

Chiswick resident Catherine Day has been trying to raise awareness of the threats to swift nest sites in London, particularly in her own local area, and she is now setting up The Chiswick Swift Project to raise awareness of how local people can help save the bird population from decline. The idea started from a stall at Green Days during the Bedford Park Festival two years ago.

Says Catherine; "We are lucky to still have several small colonies of swifts in Chiswick, so we think that Chiswick – and the Thames in our area – could become a model ‘hotspot’ for swift conservation."

Catherine, who is a volunteer with RSPB Central London Local Group, will give an illustrated talk, 'The Life of the Swift' on Tuesday 15th March, at the Chiswick Pier Trust, The Pier House, Corney Reach Way, London W4 2UG. 7pm for 7.30pm. (Free to CPT Members. £3 to non-members). She will be joined in the talk by Brenna Boyle of Wild Capital a wildlife discovery service for schools and communities.

"In the last decade, satellite tagging has revealed lots of detail of the astonishing migration and lifestyle that were previously totally unknown. I would urge local people to learn more about these fascinating birds. It's a very sad situation that we are losing birds because they are being squeezed out of their traditional nesting sites- they spend nearly all of their lives on the wing apart from when they nest in the nooks and crannies of our old buildings. Now with so much new building going on, they do not have the same access to the traditional nesting sites."

In the next swift season, Catherine hopes to gather much more information about where swifts are still nesting in Chiswick and other Thames-side places. Last summer, she identified four probable locations in Chiswick by noticing 'screaming parties' as she went for her usual walks. Next summer, she needs help with surveying swift activity in more of Chiswick and neighbouring places. There is information in this Fact Sheet.

She has also pursuaded St Alban's to include swift boxes and/or swift bricks in the reroofing of the church to try and give them a traditional home there, if they can be encouraged back.

If you want to know what a swift sounds like, listen to this BBC Tweet of the Day narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

If you live or work in W4 or not too far from the Thames from Hammersmith to Richmond (i.e. within about half a mile), you might like to get involved in the next survey.

This will mean going out on a handful of nice summer evenings between early May and end of July and watching, noting down and counting local swift activity. This survey will supplement and be more narrowly targeted than the RSPB swift survey and will be essential information for a real, live Thames project.


March 11, 2016

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