[From John Day, Urban Adviser]
I have been at the RSPB since 1999 and for the past eight years developing my role as Urban Adviser. Part of that role, includes swifts as a core work area as they are a priority species having declined in the UK by 39% over the past two decades.
I have helped with the gradual development of the Swift Inventory since its inception back in 2009. It is hoped it will be more widely used by planners as a conservation tool to help inform them on where to target swift provision in planning applications. The inventory is already helping in some parts of the country, where I work closely with colleagues in support of the incredible work they do to encourage planners and the construction industry to include nest provision in new buildings. It was great to have the opportunity in presenting a summary of that work at the recent Cambridge International Swift Conference. A video of the conference including a clip of the workshop I ran with colleagues for planners can be viewed here.
The inventory has also helped open other conversations beyond swifts. We find ourselves talking to planners and decision makers about the wider environmental benefits of green space for other urban wildlife as well as the health and social well-being benefits it provides.
I sometimes underestimate how far we have come in the last few years. Looking back to those early days, I don’t think it was ever envisaged reaching the point we are at this quickly. We are now on the verge of nest cavity bricks being incorporated into buildings as naturally as you would consider plumbing in the central heating.
With their scimitar wings and high-pitched screech, swifts are the epitome of summer in any town or city. Without doubt, they are a part of what ‘makes’ the small market town where I live and it wouldn’t be the same without them.
This year swifts returned to the town, as usual in the first week of May, but remained inconspicuous. I’m pleased to say that they seemed to have a successful breeding season this year, and nests that I noticed on my walks have been logged on the inventory , have you logged yours?
[Posted on behalf of John Day, Urban Advisor]
Hello, my name is Sammie Swift, you may have seen me and my relatives this summer over the houses where you live. In fact, I may even live down your street and have reared my young in a small cavity just behind the bargeboards of your house.
I'm on my way back to spend the winter in Africa now but as I leave, my visit has again been marred with some rather sad moments for me and my relatives. It has left me wondering how you would feel if you'd been out getting in a bit of shopping for the family and when you return, your house has been demolished and your children discarded into a nearby builders skip or hedge.
We love coming to spend summer in your country and raising our families. But, increasingly each year the older buildings in which we've been rearing our families for decades are having their roofs removed and renovated. I know how important it is for us all to keep warm even for us swifts, but there are better ways of managing the work where it will not destroy our nests sites. Doing this work in the summer is illegal and there have been at least two incidents where my relatives have been evicted and their babies left to die. The police have been notified of these incidents.
We are only here for a short while (May-Aug) so there is still enough time, with the reliable weather needed, to carry out these repairs legally. When you carry out the work can I please make a special plea to all of you thinking of having your roof repaired, or if you know any roofing contractors: please help keep our existing homes accessible and make some additional ones for us.
My family is getting smaller, in fact for every 10 of us you might have seen 25 years ago you'll now only see 7. Being quite a sociable person I would like to spend my summer visits to your country in more of their company. There are lots of ways you can help and there's no shortage of information that tells you how to help us when you are doing the work. Try logging onto our website and downloading the information you need. That way you can stay warm and we will get to keep our homes and if you are really kind, it would be greatly appreciated if you could make some new nests for us as well.