I have been coordinating the RSPB's South West Region Swift Project since 2010 and in 2014 was informed that the Duchy of Cornwall estate was interested in acquiring a few swift boxes for a mixed-use development in Newquay in Cornwall. I contacted them and was invited to meet their then Estate Surveyor, Tim Gray, and the Architects to look at a pilot project in this part of their extensive development portfolio.
The Duchy confirmed that their “Boss” HRH The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall is very passionate about the environment, encouraging wildlife into urban developments and swifts in particular. We agreed to install some internal swift boxes starting with the last phase of a comparatively small development called Tregunnell Hill, Newquay. Our experiences elsewhere strongly supports the theory that the internal swift boxes are used and preferred by most building dependent species, and we recommend them more or less exclusively.
Working closely with the Duchy’s consortium of Developers, an average of one box per residential home was installed, based on the protocol agreed with Exeter City Council in 2010 which is now generally accepted as best practice. The last houses completed at Tregunnel Hill in 2016 and the decision was made to follow the same process across all the Duchy’s current and future developments, including a 4,000-home urban extension to Newquay called Nansledan.
Everyone involved including the new residents were pleased with the results and a monitoring program initiated last year confirmed that sparrows, which are “red listed”, had occupied approximately one third of the boxes, together with a pair of swifts. This provides more evidence that where sparrows lead swifts will follow. This pattern was repeated on two other sites in Cornwall and the Duchy has agreed to extend the surveys to all their developments with swift boxes which should provide invaluable data about their success rates.
Since we started working together at least five hundred boxes have been installed in the new communities built on Duchy of Cornwall land at Nansledan and Poundbury (Dorchester), and the smaller but still significant housing developments elsewhere in Cornwall, Dorset and Oxfordshire. The Duchy has made a commitment to install an average of one swift box per home built on its land and therefore we anticipate that these numbers will increase annually for the foreseeable future, and could conceivably lead to between 5-8,000 swift boxes being installed over the next 30 years!
Stephen Fitt has been instrumental in securing new nesting sites for swifts in a University campus, hotel, bus station, care home, and school, and has plans for many more in South West England. In 2014 he received the RSPB's President's Award in recognition for his tireless campaigning for swift homes.
Image by Duchy of Cornwall
Last Updated: Sunday 24 February 2019