ANDREW BROADHURST: Helping to save our ‘incredible’ swifts

Swift numbers are dwindling in Hampshire. Picture: Doug M Dodds
Swift numbers are dwindling in Hampshire. Picture: Doug M Dodds
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HAMPSHIRE Swifts was formed recently to protect Portsmouth’s dwindling swift population.

We are urging future developers in the city to incorporate low-cost nesting sites into new buildings in a bid to safeguard the city’s dwindling swift population.

Special swift bricks and swift bird boxes can be easily and cheaply installed on new buildings and have the potential to make a huge difference to the stability of the local swift population.

Swifts grace our skies in the summer months, and are best recognised by their habit of forming screaming parties, calling loudly and flying low and fast between houses.

They will have arrived back in early May and are now sitting on eggs prior to returning to Africa in early August.

Sadly, swifts have been declining fast in the UK with numbers halving in little more than 20 years.

Experts have concluded this is closely linked to a loss of suitable nest sites.

Since then our members have been busy recording and studying nesting sites around Portsmouth.

The good news is that Portsmouth is a hotspot for swifts in Hampshire.

Several parts of the city have good numbers and on a warm summer’s evening the sight and sound of groups of swifts powering between the buildings is intoxicating.

The bad news is that these birds are nesting on fewer and fewer buildings as houses and offices are renovated or developed, removing the small gaps and spaces in the roofs of buildings where swifts need to nest.

Our research shows that a handful of buildings host the majority of Portsmouth’s swifts making them vulnerable to future development.

In order to maintain and enhance the population it is essential that existing nest sites are safeguarded.

In addition, it is necessary to create safe, alternative nesting sites by attaching swift nesting boxes to existing and renovated buildings or incorporating swift bricks into the structure of new properties.

There are some big developments on-going and planned in Portsmouth and many would be suitable for swift nest boxes or bricks.

These measures are easy, cheap, make a big difference and generate good publicity.

Hampshire Swifts, in conjunction with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and the local Portsmouth group of the RSPB, are hosting a Portsmouth Swift Day on June 24 at Milton Village Hall.

Renowned swift conservationist Edward Mayer will give a talk and there will also be exhibits, children’s activities and plenty of advice and suggestions on how best to help these incredible birds.

For more information go to hampshireswifts.co.uk, or head to the Hampshire Swifts Facebook page.