This week sees the weather pattern changing with summer conditions on there way. This also means that the swifts will be arriving very soon and I wonder how many will find that they no longer have their traditional nest site available. Our modern passion for plastic, fascia boards and soffits plus the desire to remove any tiny unofficial access to roof space now means that these magnificent flying machines have been losing nesting sites at an alarming rate.
Swifts do everything in the air, apart from breeding, when they are forced to land. Their wings being so long and their legs so short means that they are compelled to fly. Once the young leave the nest site and become airborne, that’s it for at least two years, until they are mature enough to breed and land once again. That is also why they can only stay with us for seven weeks or so each side of the longest day. Even roosting on the wing each night, high in the sky, they are very reliant on day length and insect availability. If you watch swifts in the evening they all come together for a good old tare round usually screeching with delight. As it gets dark the females (we assume) return to the nest and the males fly around together slowly gaining height until they disappear into the night sky.
As mentioned they have traditional nesting sites but many have now gone due to house renovation. If you have swifts nesting in your roof space, look on it as an honour as they do no damage whatsoever. If you would like to try and attract swifts then they will take to special boxes place under eaves and there is also a ‘swift brick’ which has been designed for incorporation into new houses and extensions. Don’t expect them to nest this season as they very often look for new sights just before leaving leave but if there usual site has disappeared – well you never know.
The ‘devil bird’ as swifts are also known are one of the most wonderful sights to watch of an evening and to me a barometer of our commitment to looking after our avian fauna in general. Here in Newark we still have a good population but in many towns and cities the once large numbers have totally disappeared extinguishing a very special seasonal charm. Contact your local Wildlife Trust for information on encouraging swifts.