Spectacular aerobatic displays of swooping flocks of swifts, circling as they feed on airborne insects, have long been a familiar sight on summer evenings in the UK. Sadly, these birds have become a rarity in Poole, so we are assisting a project run by the charity Birds of Poole Harbour to bolster the numbers of these remarkable long-distance migrants.
The quantity of common swifts visiting the country each year has declined by more than 50% since 1995, according to the British Trust for Ornithology, and the rate of decrease continues to accelerate. While some reasons for this decline lie in Africa, where they spend the majority of their lives, a reduction in suitable nesting sites in this country is also to blame.
Swifts have traditionally made use of holes in man-made structures, nesting under roof tiles, in eaves, lofts, barns and spires. But renovation of old buildings and the drive to make homes more energy-efficient has meant many houses have been made impermeable for these visitors.
To encourage swifts to continue to breed in the heart of town, Birds of Poole Harbour and Saltwater Stone are putting up eight to ten purpose-built nest boxes. In order to encourage birds to use these boxes, they will contain equipment to play swift calls to make them more attractive, a technique that has been proved to work well for this species.
Saltwater Stone, based at Strand Street near Poole Quay, will be providing 50% of the funding for the ‘Swift City’ project. Founder and Managing Director, Georgina Bartlett, said: “I have lived and worked in Poole for 20 years but never seen a swift here. We hope that by providing nest boxes, we will encourage a colony of these remarkable birds to re-establish and thrive in the heart of our town for many future generations to enjoy.”
Birds of Poole Harbour founder Paul Morton added: “Swifts are incredibly charismatic and are true signs of summer. One of the major problems facing these birds is a lack of nesting sites – our modern buildings simply don’t have the nooks, crannies and cavities that swifts need to build their nests in.
“We hope that with this project we can safeguard their future here in Old Town Poole, where it’s likely they have been for many hundreds of years.”
Birds of Poole Harbour is still seeking additional assistance for the project and donations can be made by visiting the charity’s JustGiving page at: www.justgiving.com/campaign/swiftcitypoole