Sunday 21 July 2013

The Worlington Swiftfest

When the Swift nest boxes in All Saints church tower, in the small Suffolk village of Worlington, were inspected in 2012, we were pleasantly surprised to find 7 occupied nest-boxes, up from 2 the previous year. So the idea was floated of having a Swift evening in 2013 for the people of Worlington to come and be informed about their Swifts. Cameras had been installed in 2 of the nest boxes before the Swifts returned in May, and both had chicks.

by Vida Newell

The date was set for 17th July, a date of peak Swift activity. Displays and exhibits were assembled in the church. Before people arrived, Bob Tonks and Simon Evans inspected the boxes to find 11 occupied, with 8 chicks in 5 of them (only 5 because Swifts do not normally breed in their first year of occupancy). And the single egg in the 2nd camera box had hatched the previous night.

Part of the exhibits, showing the Trumpington Orchard swift tower,stories about Swifts, nest boxes
and nest bricks and a Swift mobile (top right). Photo Judith Wakelam
Organisation, displays and publicity for the event, principally by Judith Wakelam and Don MacBean, together with refreshments provided by Ellen Clowes with help from other church members, attracted an unbelievable turn out. Suffolk Wildlife Trust did a great job publicising the event.

About 200 people turned up to see the exhibits, to watch the TV monitors, to hear Dick Newell say a few unscheduled, but well-received, words (twice because so many more people arrived after the first time) and to enjoy the Swift spectacle outside, which, on this night, was particularly stunning. The TV monitors were particularly entertaining when an adult returned to feed its chicks.

John Stimpson put on an impressive display of nest boxes for many species, from hedgehogs to Barn Owls, and he ended up selling his complete stock of Zeist Swift boxes.

Television monitors on 2 nests with chicks and a map of the track taken by a Swift from Landbeach
that carried a geolocator to Africa and back. Photo Judith Wakelam
Worlington church proved to be a wonderful location for an event like this. The tower is not high, so to see 20 to 30 Swifts charging around, no more than a few metres above our heads, was particularly enthralling. The format and environment was an ideal way to get the message across to people about Swifts, their problems and what can be done about them.

People came from places much further afield than Worlington, from all the neighbouring counties as well as from Ireland. There were representatives from the RSPB, BTO and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, all actively working for Swifts, as well as a number of people from AfS. Chris Hewson of the BTO was on hand to describe the results of geolocators on Swifts, unravelling the details of their travels through Africa.

Early on in the proceedings, one or two people asked "Why Swifts?". By the end of the evening, they had their answer.


  1. What date is the swiftfest in 2016?

  2. There will not be an organised Swift fest this year in Worlington, but there may well be somewhere else not too far away - so keep an eye on the events diary: