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Celebrating (and helping) Sedbergh’s swifts

An adult swift in the nest with a 3 day old chick beneath the wing, taken last year at one of the nest boxes at Settlebeck School
An adult swift in the nest with a 3 day old chick beneath the wing, taken last year at one of the nest boxes at Settlebeck School

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Bainbridge, 15 June, 2018

The “Save Our Swifts” community project in Sedbergh – which is being supported by the National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund – has reported encouraging news from its nest boxes, on the eve of the UK’s first ever Swift Awareness Week (16 – 23 June).

The two swift boxes and cameras that were installed last year at Settlebeck School are both in use – with chicks expected to hatch any day now.  There are three eggs in one nest, two eggs in the other.  See LIVE footage here.

Meanwhile all four internal nest bricks installed in the People’s Hall are also occupied by pairs of swifts. A total of 120 nest boxes and internal nest bricks have been put up in Sedbergh and the surrounding area since the project started in 2015.

Four events will be taking place in the National Park (or on its border) during Swift Awareness Week, including a Swift Celebration Evening next Tuesday at St Andrew’s Church in Sedbergh.  Full details and listings can be found here.

Tanya Hoare from the Sedbergh Community Swift Group said: “This year the swifts were late. Usually they come in the first week of May, and we spotted the first swift in Sedbergh on the 5th of May. But it wasn’t until the 19th of May when they came in any great number.  We had a mass influx coinciding with the nice weather – and they were very exuberant.

“Nationally swifts are fast disappearing from our skies. Numbers have fallen by 51 per cent in the past twenty years.  The problem is that swifts are faithful to their nest sites and householders and developers aren’t aware that swifts are nesting in nooks and crannies inside the eaves. Buildings are re-roofed, refurbished or demolished and when pairs of swifts return to breed in May, they find their nesting places have disappeared.  

“What the ‘Save Our Swifts’ project has shown is that with a little bit of help and awareness from local people, colonies can establish and thrive.   These birds – and their ‘screaming parties’ – bring great pleasure.”

Andrea Burden, Sustainable Development Fund officer at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), said:  “It is very exciting to see the results of the ‘Save Our Swifts’ project.  Seeing the swifts hurtle about has been one of the highlights of the spring.  The nest boxes and bricks, and all the awareness-raising activity such as the cameras at Settlebeck School, have made a huge difference to the swift conservation effort in the Sedbergh area.

The “Save Our Swifts’ project received £4,760 from the Sustainable Development Fund.  It has also received support from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and the Sedbergh Community Fund

SDF grants are on offer to individuals, businesses or community groups – and projects can be wide-ranging.  The fund has £175,000 to award this financial year and applications are being welcomed

Senior Wildlife Conservation Officer at the YDNPA, Tony Serjeant, added:  “The Sedbergh Community Swift Group is doing a great job.  It would be fantastic if their work could inspire other people, so that we might have swift groups forming across the National Park.  

“I’d like to hear from people who have seen large parties of swifts feeding over Dales villages and towns.  That could help us to identify areas where it would be worth putting up more swift boxes.”

Such sightings can be reported by emailing Tony and the wildlife team at:   wildlifeconservation@yorkshiredales.org.uk

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