Update on our Swifts

Cally here from Huntly & District Swift Group. 

I just thought I would write a quick update on swift activity around No.30 before I head off to Segovia.  I will be attending the 6th International Swift Conference which has been held off for two years so looking forward to that.   The city of Segovia welcomes its Common Swift population each April and we (people from many swift conservation groups worldwide) will be welcomed tomorrow evening by the Mayor of Segovia.  The Segovia swifts nest in the enormous Roman Aqueduct which dominates the city and is constructed with large stones but no mortar enabling the swifts to access the gaps between to nest!

Anyway back to Huntly.  The swifts arrived in Huntly bang on time on the 10th May, did their usual disappearing act for a few days and numbers aren’t seeming to be great just now but should increase.  My largest count over the Square was 17. 

There is great activity in the colony next door to No.30 for which I am relieved but nothing to report as yet in the temporary nest boxes.  One afternoon I watched one swift arc’ing repeatedly at the boxes on the frontage so that’s a good sign, however not yet the adult breeders return that I had hoped for initially. The activity at the Carpet shop being so close by will encourage interest and hopefully the non-breeding birds when they arrive in earnest. 

There is plenty of time yet for the swifts to take up occupancy, but it may turn out that the returning established breeders are put off which would be a great shame because they would fail to breed this year but then may investigate again next year or may find somewhere else to go next year.  That would not be the result hoped for, but this mitigation is the only solution available for a build that spans one or several breeding seasons. 

There are risks.  Of course the hope is the boxes may be taken up by the younger birds during the exciting screaming parties that will develop over the next couple of months, they may investigate and roost, imprint for next year and hopefully return to breed. 

It’s a process and we do all we can to encourage!  Incidently I fear we have some sparrows already homing in on some of the boxes – the inevitable – and we are not one species over another but there are pros and cons to this ……that’s for another day!  I believe there was a comment was made regarding the boxes being taped up before the swifts arrived – the reason for doing this is NOT to exclude other species at all but to give the returning swifts the best possible chance of finding their ‘home’.  Swifts are territorial and can enter into fights that can go on for an hour in order to defend their nesting site and we want to minimise this amount of stress to both parties should other birds get in first! Swifts have travelled 8,000 miles non-stop to get here and are exhausted, they don’t need a stand off. 

I encourage people to contact me for further information on what we are doing, I am more than delighted to explain our actions. There is an information board on the hoardings around No.30 which briefly explains the project and has contact details for anyone interested in knowing more.

Some  local people are keen to help with surveying throughout the season which allows me to continue being in all manner of other places around the north east but I will keep monitoring No.30 myself as well as much as possible.  I will be hoping for some good data that I can collate and then  summarise the goings on at the end of the season.  If anyone is interested in joining the survey group please let me know. We have some Swift Walk and Talk events beginning this month, you can check out the dates on our facebook page ‘events’ #huntlyswiftgroup or get in touch direct T: 07411 808573 or e: huntlyswiftgroup@gmail.com.

Thanks for your interest and support – Cally