Thursday 24 December 2015

Cherwell Swifts Conservation Project (CSCP) 2015

We are pleased to host another report, for 2015, of the Cherwell Swift Conservation Project. It is, yet again, a good example of what a local group can achieve (see 2014 report)

by Chris Mason

Our objectives are:
  • looking after traditional nest places
  • creating new ones
  • encouraging interest in Swifts   

Report 2015
This year saw the Swifts Local Network (SLN) established. The Network (which includes CSCP) enables groups and individuals working on Swift conservation in the UK to share experiences and expertise. We already have over 30 members, and it’s proving to be both popular and a great source of inspiration and help.

Edward Mayer and Dick Newell talking
 to visitors at the Birdfair Swift Stand.
In August, Action for Swifts and Swift Conservation organised a Swift stand at the annual British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water. Several members of SLN helped out and the display generated enormous interest on all three days. Do come and visit us at the Birdfair in August 2016 if you can.

Oxford’s Swifts
Much of my Swifts time was spent in Oxford this year. With other volunteers, I helped with a Swift survey for the RSPB which aims to:
          - establish the locations of nesting colonies in Oxford
          - monitor changes in Swift abundance through time and
           - raise awareness of and enthuse people about their local Swifts.

Regarding Oxford and Swifts, we think mainly of the Museum of Natural History. So it’s pleasing to know that there are thriving colonies in several other parts of the City.

Jocelyne Hughes and I undertook talks and walks in Oxford for staff at the University and Oxford University Press (OUP), and as part of Oxford’s Festival of Nature. We are now beginning to build useful relationships in the City. For instance OUP and the Council will take account of nest places which are recorded on properties they own, when doing repair and maintenance work.

Cherwell News
We knew that Bloxham School had nesting Swifts, but we only discovered quite how many when emergency repairs were needed at the school during the nesting season. Thanks to the alertness of local volunteers, the RSPB was called to advise about protecting the nesting Swifts and House Martins. Subsequently the volunteers were allowed to check the whole campus for nest sites. As a result we know that there are at least nesting 13 pairs. We now want to create a stronger link with staff and students at the school to increase interest and help monitor the nests.

Reg Tipping and Bill Cupit have again been active in putting up nest boxes. In Stanton St John which has only one building with nesting Swifts, boxes were installed in the tower of the parish church. Already in the first season Swifts have been seen approaching but not so far entering, the boxes. There was also a lot of interest in the boxes in Bodicote church tower.
With Councillor Mallon at 1 West Street Banbury
at one of the Cherwell Council’s Build! sites.
Cherwell District Council has been installing Swift bricks in its 'Build!' developments. Build! is the Council’s scheme to create about 250 new affordable homes in the District.

Alison Urwick and children making Swift
badges at the Oxford Festival of Nature.
We have continued to give talks and show the film Swift Stories. We had stalls at 2 major local events – the Oxford Festival of Nature organised by the local Wildlife Trust (where lots of children made Swift badges helped by Alison Urwick and David Yates), and the Wychwood Fair.

Walks were arranged in Cropredy and the Sibfords. Both evenings were memorable because we met the unsuspecting owners of important Swift homes (several nesting pairs in each) and chatted at length about their Swifts and the importance of looking after the nest places. Liz Moore made some very useful contacts on a walk in north Kidlington which resulted in requests for several boxes.

We took 6 injured Swifts and one Swallow from Oxfordshire to Gillian Westray in Laverton for her expert care. Thanks to her skill and dedication all the birds were successfully rehabilitated and released.

Also a young Swift which had been disturbed by building work was taken to Richard Woodward who has a nesting colony at his home in Combe. Richard fostered the young bird with a pair of his own Swifts which had a single nestling of similar age, and both birds successfully fledged after a couple of weeks.

Further afield
There’s a very good news story from nearby Daventry. Ian Dobson (another SLN member) persuaded the owners of the factory where he works to put up nest boxes (photo left). The boxes have only been up 2 years, but this year birds were seen flying into 2 of them. There must be plenty of similar opportunities we could propose at factories, offices and other non-residential buildings in the district. Any suggestions?
Finally please ask me if you’d like to borrow Swift Stories, or want me to show extracts to a local audience. It’s available free.

From early 2016 I shall have greetings cards of Swifts and some local churches (Horley, Carterton, Kidlington, Upper Heyford and Shenington) for sale. Do let me know if you’d like to see them or think there is an opportunity for local sales. Proceeds will go towards care and rehabilitation of injured Swifts and Hirundines.

My thanks again to all who have monitored and reported on nest sites, sent in records, raised alerts about building work and made space for Swifts in their homes; to those who have organised walks and meetings and helped at events; to TVERC for checking the records so carefully and submitting them to the Council, and to all at the Cherwell DC who have made good use of the data; and to the ever-willing team of nest box installers.

Chris Mason

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article about the excellent work your group does, Chris. It is inspirational. I am particularly happy about they way you have been able to involve children, not always easy to achieve. Best of luck with the coming season.