Friday 31 May 2019

Alsager Town Council

This is a news item worthy of replicating in many places. Thank you to Councillor Jane Smith for sending it to us

Left to right: (click to enlarge)
Antony Cook, Alsager Urban Wildlife Initiative
Nicola Clarke, Alsager Town Council clerk
Cllr Jane Smith, Alsager Town Council
At Alsager Town Council in Cheshire we've been helping the town become more ‘swift-friendly’ by installing bespoke nesting boxes for endangered swifts under the eaves of the council offices in the town centre.

Last summer, three special swift nesting boxes were donated as a joint project between myself, Alsager Urban Wildlife Initiative and the local Sustainability Group. Contractors from KDE Ltd. kindly installed the three nesting boxes pro bono while they were using a cherry picker for electrical work on the town council’s offices. Even the installation garnered lots of interest from passers-by, many of whom remarked just how much they'd love to see and hear swifts in Alsager again. We also installed a simple, low-cost speaker system along with the nest boxes on to help attract swifts with recorded calls.

I felt it was really important that we play our part as a local community to help these much-loved birds who give us one of the most iconic natural spectacles of sight and sound each summer, and I think it’s a really progressive move by Alsager Town Council, being a great example of local councils can work with groups of enthusiasts to help wildlife thrive right in the heart of our communities. I hope that other town and parish councils follow suit, as swifts certainly need all the help they can get.

Antony Cook from Alsager Urban Wildlife Initiative says that a small town such as Alsager should easily be able to accommodate several swift colonies. We have lots of trees here as well as a town centre mere, which is fantastic habitat for flying insects. We hope putting up nest boxes on the Town Council building will inspire others to do the same in their homes.

The nest boxes were supplied by CJ Wildlife/Vivara

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Ely Cemetery Chapels

Of all of our swift nest boxing projects this has to be the most attractive and stunning. Built in the mid nineteenth century, the twin chapels are situated on a small hill in attractive mature woodland. It is a most beautiful, peaceful and secluded spot.

The project was suggested to us by Councillor Elaine Griffin-Singh, and approval was quickly forthcoming from Ely City Council. Richard Delahe and his staff enthusiastically embraced the project, and did nearly all of the work installing the boxes.  As we arrived on site, 4 Swifts were repeatedly screaming around the chapels, below head height, and we assumed they must have been already breeding somewhere under the very low eaves.

The belfry, with 8 sides has a single bell, with no way currently of ringing it. The louvres have vertical battens on each side to hold netting that excludes wildlife. Each of 5 swift cabinets replaces a section of netting on 5 louvres and was secured by screws through the sides into these battens. Cabinets on the other 3 sides would have obstructed entry. The belfry now contains 50 nest boxes.

A tweeter playing attraction calls in the middle of the belfry can clearly be heard on all sides

Ely Cemetery twin chapels and tower

5 cabinets with 10 nest chambers each. Every other chamber is painted black inside.
Part of the installation team. From left to right: 
Ben Lather, Dick Newell, Bill Murrells and Richard Delahe

A panorama shot of the boxes by Richard Delahe

The boxes are installed behind the lower part of these louvres

Wednesday 8 May 2019

Shrimp Cottage case study

This case study shows two things: just how small a space a swift can use for a nesting place and how to provide nesting places when roofs are repaired.

by Alan Collett, Aldeburgh's Amazing Swifts

Swifts were seen entering a nest site on a number of occasions in 2018. The owners were advised and asked to contact us should they consider renewing their roof at any time. This they did in February 2019.

Following discussions with the roofing contractors, we were allowed to be present as they removed the pantiles. We were expecting to find the nest within the roof space but actually found it 30cm up the roof slope resting on the narrow batten which supported the tile.

The Swifts had been climbing up the roof felt over the first batten under the arch of the pantile.

 It had then turned left under the tile to the adjacent arch and made its nest on the batten - possibly on an old sparrow’s nest. Cramped and hot!

The headroom would have varied between about 30mm and, perhaps 85mm at the high point of the tile. The headroom over the nest itself may have been about 50mm.

We were planning to reinstate the nest in the same location but as we couldn’t guarantee the original access route to the nest, we looked to re-site the nest within the box section behind the fascia using the same entry point.

The existing entry point was lowered slightly and then built up at the sides to produce a correctly sized entrance hole, over which the felt would lay. The route up the roofing felt was then restricted and the bird ‘made’ to go into the box section behind the fascia and above the soffit with a ramp leading down to the relocated nest.

The felt was trimmed to allow access to the hole and the pantiles replaced.

Another nest site was then created further along the roof.

Time will tell how successful this will have proved, but it does demonstrate that with the cooperation of owners and contractors, a place for wildlife can be incorporated into a building without risking the integrity of the roof.

Our thanks to the owners of
Shrimp Cottage Aldeburgh
and 3A Roofing Ltd Ipswich
A "bridge" has been installed across the gutter
in front of the entrance