Guest blog by conservationist Peta Sams
You think you’ll remember. But you don’t. The first swift sighting of each year is a magical moment – the shape, the speed and, of course, the scream. You think you have fixed them all in your memory but it’s a long time from August when they leave to May the next year and the image has faded.
Many of us regularly feed birds in our gardens and the frequent trip to refill the bird feeder is part of our daily routine. We put up boxes for our garden visitors to use for shelter or nesting but somehow the birds that need our buildings to breed are sadly ignored or regarded as a nuisance.
Swifts are part of the urban scene during the summer months – with us but in many ways beyond us as they take little notice of humans, screaming around at rooftop height. I have always taken much enjoyment from what lives with us and am amazed that many are oblivious of screaming parties right above their heads as they walk around towns.
However many times I watch swifts returning to or coming out from those small gaps under eaves and under roof tiles, I just cannot work out how they do it. Being able to show this to people on organised Swift Walks is always good especially as many are often unsure about identifying a swift. But it’s also an opportunity to talk to them about how swifts are losing nest sites as we renovate our older buildings, asking them to think about what they might be able to do to help.
Maybe putting up swift boxes or leaving those harmless holes in the mortar– and often these are things that have not occurred to people. Putting up scaffolding in bird season is a particular hobby-horse of mine and the whole swift conservation community, I know, struggles with how to engage with builders and architects. It is always good, when giving talks, to be able to give stories of where swifts have taken to boxes and show pictures of some of the inspirational projects that have been carried out by members of the Swifts Local Network which helps support all of us who are trying to secure a future for these amazing summer visitors.
Swift Awareness Week runs from 22-30 June this year.
Image: Ludlow Welcoming the Swifts Event 2015 - G B Thomas FRPS