Wednesday, 20 October 2021

We have been missing a trick - each quarter we contribute an article on progress to the Glamorgan Bird Club newsletter. To kill two birds with one stone (probably not an appropriate phrase for this site), we shall post the update here too. Sorry some of the text hasn't copied across too well.

Glamorgan Swift project update

 Sadly the swift season is now behind us but there’s been plenty of activity with all of our Swift projects (unfortunately not from nesting Swifts). 

 Richard Smith contacted us to tell us that 12 Swifts had been screaming around St Illtud’s Church in Llantwit Major, where one of our church tower box schemes is located. He didn’t see any Swifts using the boxes but fingers crossed. As we keep saying - it’s a long term project.

 Strinda Davies reported finding more nests on the Marlas Estate in North Cornelly, some of which were close to the boxes erected there earlier in the season. (There were Swifts present here into early September). In addition, she has been in further contact with Andy Jones of V2C Housing association, who is keen to involve GBC in the siting of nest boxes on the new housing being built on the site of the Afon-y-Felin Primary school, which is being re-located to the Quadrant on the same estate. Let’s hope for a fruitful partnership.

 A Swift survey with the RCT Local Nature Partnership and Julia Barrell in Ferndale saw 6 Swifts and confirmed one breeding site. A local school has been contacted with a view to erecting some boxes there. They formerly bred at this site and we are hopeful of attracting them back there. (House Martins used to breed there too). There are a few issues to sort out but we it would be great to get a box scheme going there.

 We also hope to erect some boxes in a niche in Fonmon Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan. There is room for several boxes. It might be awkward putting them up, as it is a grade 1 listed building and as such we are not allowed to drill in to the fabric but Howard Driver has come up with yet another cunning plan - he’s as cunning as a fox that’s been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University - sorry watched too many Black Adder repeats during lockdown Ed J.


It’s one step forward and one step back in Trinity Church in Penarth. Annie Irving, who lives opposite the church, reported lots of Swift activity in the area (including young birds “banging” on her property) but she also reported that scaffolding went up on the church during the breeding season. The louvres with the box entrances weren’t covered. She doubted that Swifts would be able to access the site but where there’s a will there’s a way.

 Photo © Annie Irving








 Our HLF funded scheme in Cardiff Bay has had mixed fortunes. Our 3 year survey of Swift nesting sites in Cardiff has come to an end. Thanks to RSPB Cymru, especially to Angela Munn and Sue Ansell for setting up this year's survey and of course to all our volunteers. We’ve had some great feedback from some of the volunteers, who have really enjoyed watching “their” Swifts. We should be able to analyse the results in the autumn. If you’ve got any Swift nest records or reports of screaming parties and haven’t yet added the record, please put them on to the RSPB Swift Mapper app (also please add the actual address of the site in the comments box, if it is a nest site). This applies to all your Glamorgan nesting or screaming records, not just those in Cardiff.

Swifts have been seen around the tower on the barrage but as yet we have no evidence of the nest boxes being used. Please let us know if you saw any activity there this summer. In early August, the sight of hundreds of Swifts flying in the bay area was quite spectacular.

 Sadly Café Hafren, the RSPB café on the barrage has closed. We were planning to set up a Swift information hub in the café - time for a re-think. We’ve been told that the new tenancy agreement includes screening videos about CHA projects, including the Swift tower.

 We are regularly asked whether there has been any take up in the Cardiff Bay Tower (a similar tower in Warsaw has had occupation). There has been quite a debate on the effectiveness of towers on the Local Swift Forum recently. Dick Newell from Cambridge reported this:

 In recent years some have been less than enthusiastic about Swift Towers because there  are few examples of successful ones. They are quite expensive and often not near mains power for attraction calls. In this country, we know of only a handful with any Swifts. However, here in Cambridge, we can report some progress.

The Cambridge Swift Tower, 100 nestboxes, was erected in 2011. It took until 2014 to attract the first pair. It then grew to 3-4 pairs by 2020. This year, however, we believe it is occupied by 6 pairs.

The Trumpington Community Orchard Tower, 11 nest chambers, was erected in 2013. The first occupation again occurred in 2014, which grew to 3 pairs in 2020 and this year, birds have been seen entering a 4th nest chamber. Most of the other chambers were occupied by House Sparrows this year.

Brian Callahane in Northern Ireland reported that 3 towers there were fully occupied.

In addition these towers provide a visual spectacle through the summer, regularly attracting large screaming parties and they certainly are useful in public awareness raising of the plight of our Swifts. If you wait long enough, they can work.

In late July we were contacted by several folk who had found grounded Swifts. These are likely to have been young birds on their first foray out of the nest. Once on the ground they find it very difficult to take off. If you ever find one, the advice is to calm the bird down by putting it in a cardboard box. Don’t attempt to feed it, they are of course insectivorous (feeding is best done by a Swift carer). The bird might take some water from a cotton bud. After a period (possibly overnight) and if the bird has perked up you should then try a controlled release. Take the bird to an open area and place it on the palm of your hand with your arm outstretched. With luck the Swift should take off from there. Don’t be tempted to throw the bird in the air. We know of at least four local birds that were helped in this way in Cowbridge and in Aberdare.

 Another snippet from the Local Swift Network forum illustrated that we are not alone in our concern for the plight of Swifts. Prince Charles stated his love of Swifts in a recent interview, referencing watching the Swifts that nest in Windsor Castle. He has had Swift boxes and a call system installed on his Welsh property and the Duchy of Cornwall has undertaken sterling work by erecting over 8,000 nest boxes and bricks in their developments - at a rate of one per dwelling. Wish that our local authorities would follow suit.



Swift call players

On all our Swift projects, we have installed a call player to try and attract Swifts. This is quite an expensive bit of kit and we have had problems getting hold of components in the past. Whilst trawling through the Action for Swifts web pages recently, we came across a “new” low cost piece of equipment developed by Graham Fell of Cumbrian Swifts. He estimates that the cost of the whole of his set up would probably be around £10. Try googling "TF card U disk MP3 Format decoder". It comes as a printed circuit board. There is no housing, you’d need to supply your own.  GBC are hoping to try it out. If you can turn your hand to basic electronics, why not take a look at the Action for Swifts web page for full details.


We are in need of a qualified electrician to help with our Swift projects. Are there any GBC members out there who could help out? As can be seen from the article on the previous page we aim to try and add call players to all our box schemes. If you can help, please contact Alan Rosney.


RSPB Swift Mapper app


Many of you will now be familiar with the smartphone/computer app whereby you can log your Swift nest site and screaming party data. A quick analysis has shown 27 occupied nests in our area in 2021. Have you added your data yet?  If not, please do and remember to add an address to the comments box.


Areas where Swifts were reported nesting in 2021 (from Swift mapper)








































Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Fonmon Castle

Today we visited Fonmon Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan. They would like some Swift boxes put up on the castle. We saw plenty of House Martin activity in the window recesses of the 11C century castle. One wonders how long House Martins have been using the site for nesting? 

Swifts are known to use the river valley below the castle for feeding and there is scope for some boxes at the site. A complication is that the building is grade 1 listed and we would be unable to drill in to the fabric. We identified a niche on the north wall of the castle that might be suitable for a bank of boxes, which might possibly be braced in to the gap, without disturbing the fabric of the building. There is also an electricity supply nearby, so a call player might be feasible. 

It's early days yet but we are hopeful of getting something started at the site. 

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

 Check out Dick Newell's latest blog about Swift bricks

 Had a few reports of juvenile swifts that have been grounded. There's plenty of advice on-line on how to care for them. e.g.

So far three folk have got back to us and reported that "their" swift had now flown off - result.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

The Cardiff swift survey is in its third year. We've got 26 keen volunteers going out surveying their local areas. We await the results of their findings with interest.

Mary Gallagher  has found nesting Swifts in Porthcawl and a group from the RCL Nature Partnership found a nest in Ferndale. Keep searching folks.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Swift call players

 Coincidentally Edward Mayer, founder of Swift Conservation, posted this today. If you are using an attraction call player there is some good advice: 

 Some swifts are already back in their nests and they will
hopefully be back in numbers during the first couple of weeks of May,
then more, juveniles, will be arriving in June. The two best times to
attract Swifts are in May, when returning breeders may find their old
nest gone, and have to make a new one, and in July, when young Swifts,
yet to breed, try and find a nest place for the next breeding season, in
the next year. 

Call player in Trinity church, Penarth

Today we made running repairs to the call player that is used to try and attract Swifts to the church tower in Trinity Church, Penarth. 4 nest boxes have been installed inside the tower. Upon inspection, the old player was completely clogged up with Pigeon droppings. Howard came up with a clever ploy to place the new system downstairs and to run a speaker cable up to the boxes. Here is a photo of the new unit.

Swifts have already been seen over Cardiff Bay. Fingers crossed, we'll see them using some of our nesting boxes.