Saturday 23 June 2018

West Cumbria Swift Group

In this story the actions of the councillor illustrate how making good the harm caused by unthinking development is almost only achieved through the actions of interested private persons. No legislation can do the job: only the endless vigilance of people who care for the environment in general and the conservation of swifts in particular.

bLesley Anne Archer-Shirley

Over the winter, with the Swifts away for nine months, a major project took place in Seascale. In the recent past, fascias had been put onto the Sports Hall blocking off several Swift nest sites. Only two remained. Ken Mawson, a local councillor, encouraged the Parish Council to back a project to put six Swift nest boxes on the Hall in the hope of getting more Swifts back into the building. A Parish Council grant paid for the boxes and Group members, along with a friend who had scaffolding, erected the boxes on May 3rd. just before the expected return of the Swifts. As it turned out we had longer to wait than expected!

The boxes chosen were ordered from John Stimpson via the website at a cost of £15 each [now £17.50].

They are made from exterior plywood with a plastic waterproof roof. Nest forms were also purchased and fixed in the corners furthest from the entry holes.

Right angle brackets were fixed to the back of the boxes after being bent to enable them to be hooked over a 2 cm thick plank. A further bracket was screwed to the underneath of the box. This would fix the box to the plank. This preparation meant that the work to be done on the scaffolding was made easier. Only two holes were drilled into the sandstone wall and plugged. The wooden plank was fixed leaving a gap sufficient to allow the boxes to be hooked over. Finally, a screw was put in place to fix the bottom bracket and keep the box in position.

Future removal of the boxes would be easier and only two holes were drilled into the wall. It proved to be a good method, if anyone reading this is contemplating a terrace of their own.

The ideal conclusion would be to attach a call system of Swifts on the nest but, as this was not possible here, we are hoping that the presence of the last two established nests further along the building will be sufficient encouragement.

West Cumbria Swift Group has been active this winter and further projects included:-
1. The erection of home -made nest boxes and call system in Low Seaton to replace nest sites lost when a property wall had to be re-built.
2. A ‘Filcris’ re-cycled plastic nest box and call system onto a house in Frizington where there is a large screaming party.
3. Nest boxes under the eaves of a house in Cleator Moor where neighbours did not want their Swifts and intended to put up fascias.
4. A barn/garage in Gosforth has been re-roofed over the winter with all the nest entrances left intact by an enthusiastic owner.
5. A terrace of 4 Swift nest boxes on a property in Gosforth with call system
6. Two home made Swift boxes with call system at Sleathwaite.

Last Year’s survey results (our first) have been submitted to the RSPB and Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre in Carlisle and we are now attempting to re-survey the 54 nest sites we confirmed last season and monitor the activity at the new nest boxes.

For Swift Awareness Week we had an open evening on June 21st in Gosforth Methodist Church Hall. With slide show and several ‘stalls’ displaying nest boxes , call systems, nest box cameras, badges, booklets and leaflets. After refreshments, we watched the local screaming party perform over the hall.

We can be proud of what we have achieved in one year and hope that spreading the word about what can be done by a few enthusiastic individuals will encourage even more people to have a go to help these unique birds.

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