Wednesday 26 June 2013

Will a swift response save the devil bird?

We thank Brian Cahalane for bringing our attention to an article in the Irish Times. Jake has prepared a summary, it is another example of the encouraging progress in Swift conservation in Ireland.

Swifts in Ireland and elsewhere are still thought to be losing out to the replacement of 18th- and 19th-century houses with modern constructions without any suitable nest sites. But good work is being done to tackle the problem. Lynda Huxley at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Castlebar, for example, has installed “swift bricks” along a modern roofline to offer the birds substitute accommodation. This project was inspired by the Northern Ireland Swift Group, which had pioneered a similar initiative at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast.

The Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
Photo © The Crescent Arts Centre
Inspired by this example, Helen Burke, a community officer with Dublin City Council invited Eric Dempsey, national bird expert, to address a meeting of “planners, architects and parks people” about the threat to swifts’ nesting habitat. “These are Dublin swifts,” he told them. “They have a Dublin passport. They are as much a part of our heritage as the Irish language or Christ Church.” The response was immediate. “Alan Hester, the buildings superintendent, spoke from the back of the room. He simply said, ‘We’ll put 10 nest boxes on the roof. And so some nest boxes have been installed in the heart of the city, complete with recordings of swifts calling, to attract others. It is much too early to say whether they will be successful, although further projects are planned in Ballyfermot and Chapelizod. According to Maryann Harris, Dublin's biodiversity officer, Dublin City Council is planning to assess the populations of swifts in Dublin in conjunction with Birdwatch Ireland. This will inform future measures for swift conservation, including planning controls, provision of nesting areas, understanding the connections between Dublin and the wider east-coast ranges and awareness-raising.

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