Thursday 26 May 2011

Swifts and Churches in the Cherwell District of Oxfordshire

Contributed by Chris Mason

In April nest boxes were installed in the tower of St Swithun’s Parish church Merton, on the edge of Otmoor near Oxford. The work was done by members of the Cherwell Swifts Conservation Project which is publicising the decline in our Swift population, and the reasons for it, in the towns and villages of North Oxfordshire.

St Swithun’s Merton already has one or two pairs of Swifts, which nest under the eaves of the nave, and as the church is thought to be the last remaining nest site for Swifts in the village, the Parochial Church Council readily agreed to the installation of the nest boxes. We are hoping that the boxes will help add to their number.

The Cherwell project has recently forged a link with the local Diocese. There are still churches around the district which have nesting Swifts, but as elsewhere these are at risk when repair work has to be done on the church building. The Diocese has now agreed to consider how a system can be established to ensure that traditional Swifts’ nest sites are taken into account when repairs are being planned. This is not just to fulfil the legal obligation not to disturb nesting birds, but also to make sure that advice is obtained about undertaking ‘out of season’ repairs in a Swift-friendly way. 
The Diocese has also helped to publicise the idea that Swift nest boxes can be installed in church towers. Recently the Bishop of Dorchester visited the tower of St Mary’s church in Kirtlington near Oxford, where some years ago Action for Swifts installed nest boxes

This photograph was used in a feature article encouraging other churches in the Diocese to consider installing Swift nest boxes. It appeared in the March edition of The Door (the local Diocesan newspaper).

Chris Mason

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