Tuesday 29 September 2015

Swifts on BBC One Songs of Praise

On July 17th 2015, a BBC film crew visited the Worlington Swift Festival at All Saints Church, for a piece to be included in the religious program 'Songs of Praise' on 27th September. 

You can read the history of the Worlington project up to 2012 on this blogpost and about the last Worlington Swift Festival in 2013 here. In 2013, there were 11 pairs in the belfry, then 20 in 2014 and now 26 in 2015.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

The News from Tashkent 2015

Our Uzbeki friends, Pavel and Elena, began rescuing and rehabbing a few years back, and now their work has grown into a major operation. Operating in difficult circumstances, with very little help, with very few resources, and a limit of time (as they both have demanding jobs), they manage to rehab a large number and variety of species, mostly birds, but some mammals as well. By June this year, for example, they had already taken in over 90 Swifts.

by Jake

Pavel & Elena
Why do they do it? It is clear that rescuing a Swift nestling here or an injured Sparrow there will make no difference to the population of those species. Some people would even argue that it's a waste of time and resources, which could be better spent on other aspects of conservation. But that is to miss the point. We rescue and care for individual animals because - at least this is my view - in so doing we show a “duty of care” for our environment and its denizens. We do more than that: we set an example to others.

White, Black, Bosnly and Shugar
Whatever their philosophy of rehabilitation, Pavel and Elena are totally devoted to every one of their patients. To start with, they give each one a name - Swifts this year included Bosnly, Cobra, Elm, Emilion, Gold, Shugar and White; their Nightjars were Agatha and Ruby; their Scops Owls Solomon and Babayka; their Roller was Jora; and their two beautiful Red-rumped Swallows were Kiki and Melissa. 

Ruby the Nightjar

Most of these, and many others, were successfully rehabbed and released back into the wild. Inevitably, there are cases where the rehab is touch and go, for example, the Scops Owl Babayka, which was brought in with an old wing injury. Against all the odds, Elena and Pavel nursed it back to health and, after two nailbiting months, were able to watch leap from their hand to fly strong and free again.

Solomon the Scops Owl
They also offered to take an injured Eagle Owl, but the people who had it decided to keep it (it was later put to sleep). Swifts, of course, are their main business. By the end of August, Elena sent us a report on the Swift year so far: 

Spring was beautiful, the weather was nice. First fallen Swift chick was 18 days old! We didn't get any fallen “babies” without feathers and with closed eyes. Thankfully! But in June the weather became incredible hot, and Swifts began to jump from roofs. The last wave of swifts was the worst, with more fatalities. We had 120 birds this season, maybe we will have more later…”

Their success is amazing when you remember that they are operating on a shoestring. They depend on donations and the occasional help of friends. They can save petrol money if people who find an injured animal will bring it to them instead of expecting them to go and collect it. To have built aviaries and other keeping cages in these circumstances is nothing short of miraculous. 

Jora the Roller
To have produced posters and other publicity materials to spread the message of their work is equally so. They are getting more and more well-known for their work, and are reported occasionally in the local press. They now have plans to create their own website, with local friends to help them. And they are never short of plans for the future: already, Pavel has started on the building of a greenhouse and a big outside aviary for birds of prey.

What is perhaps most heartening is the way Pavel and Elena have become part of the international network of Swift enthusiasts and Swift rehabbers. A special mention of Ulrich Tigges, who has done so much to support them over the last few years.They are in regular correspondence with other rehabbers: ours - Judith and Deborah - and others such as Christiane Haupt in Frankfurt. 

Kiki the Red-rumped Swallow
They also get occasional visitors to Tashkent, for example, two zoologists from Spain visited them this summer. And, of course, they stay in touch with everyone by email. Their regular reports are a joy to read.

Pavel and Elena, in a word, go from strength to strength: they are the most professional of amateurs, and they deserve all our support.