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Look up to see how we can help our swifts

Swiflets at All Saint's, Worlington. © Nick Upton (2650112)
Swiflets at All Saint's, Worlington. © Nick Upton (2650112)

Conservationists have been encouraging people to 'look up' in Bury St Edmunds' St John's Street this week.

It has been Swift Action Week and if you look at St John's Church spire you may see the success of an experiment to help the swift,s whose population has declined by 53 per cent in 20 years, by offering them nest sites.

Simon Evans, who volunteers with Action for Swifts, said they first tried three boxes behind the spire's brick lattice in 2009, but the birds did not like them so a design with a tunnel through the brickwork was tried in 2016.

Experimental swift nest boxes at St John''s Church, Bury (2650208)
Experimental swift nest boxes at St John''s Church, Bury (2650208)

It was so successful that last winter the number was brought up to 60 and they will look into the boxes later this month to see how many have been used.

Simon described a similar experiment at Worlington's All Saint's Church as a 'flagship project' where 34 boxes out of 43 have nests and visitors can see into them on CCTV.

But if you want to help, you do not need a tower.

Simon said: "The building doesn't need to be tall. If you drive through a village like Lakenheath, they're two-storey buildings but you see the swifts flying up into the eves.

"The problem is we're too fussy about filling all the holes in our buildings."

Swifts use little nest material – only a few feathers – do not perch on buildings and enter and leave nest holes at speed, so make little mess.

For more information on Action for Swifts, click here.

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