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This has been another good year for Swifts in Woodbridge.

Nest sites

Nick Marshall has been monitoring the nest sites.The season began as usual in the final days of April with a few early sightings of returning birds.

The pairs which returned early got on with breeding despite persistent northerly winds and cool temperatures during the first half of May which held back the majority of returning birds for many days.

By the end of May/early June the weather had improved and our breeding swifts had returned in numbers at least as good as last year.

The continuous hot, sunny weather of June enabled the birds to find plenty of insects, and many nest boxes with cameras were able to report good, steady development of chicks.

The total number of known occupied sites was 57, compared with 48 last year, a heartening increase. The remarkable finding is that 30 of these are in boxes compared with 27 in roofs. This is a welcome result of our efforts over the past 8 years. We suspect there are more natural nest sites still to be found as it is not so easy to spot a swift flying into a gap under the soffits or the roof tiles as into a nest box.

We are asking several questions. Are those nesting in boxes doing so because their nests in roofs have been blocked by roof or gutter repairs? Are swifts now identifying nest boxes as a natural nest site?If you have any sightings that you have not yet told us about please contact us.

The number of birds visible in the sky over the town increased dramatically in July, as usual – partly as a result of this year’s young already on the wing but mainly because of the arrival of the final wave of one to two year old birds returning from Africa to prospect for nest sites for next year. I personally saw over 60 birds above the town in glorious weather on 8 July, but despite an excellent turn-out of some 40 people for our swift walk the following day the weather by then was wet and cool so numbers of swifts seen were not great.

By the end of July most of our swifts had left, though with perhaps slightly more than usual staying well into August to finish breeding – maybe as a result of the delayed arrival of many birds because of the cool weather in May.

Nest box sales

Laurence Potter has continued our nest box sales, selling nearly 40 boxes to Woodbridge residents.

He has much enjoyed visiting the proposed sites and giving advice about swifts and their amazing life cycle. He has been making nest boxes for other birds such as barn owl, tawny owl and spotted flycatcher.

He also helped on the SOS Swifts stand at the Suffolk Show, with activities for school children. The nest boxes have a white PVC roof which reduces the temperature inside the box by reflecting the heat, thus making the suitable for south and west facing aspects. Thanks to a new arrangement for making these boxes we are now able to sell them at the original price of £25.

Our next Project – A Swift Display Board in The Market Square

Look out for our new display board out side the Shire Hall and opposite our new nest boxes on St Mary’s House. It should be ready in the next few months. Thanks to the generosity of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, we have been awarded a grant to cover the costs. This will be our third grant from this organisation and we are most grateful to them for their support.

Swift Walks in 2024

As this year’s walk was so well attended, we may well run two walks next summer. One of these could involve a survey to search for more nests in roofs in different parts of the town. If you would be interested in participating in a survey, please contact Nick now so that we can judge the response.

News from SOSSwifts

It is good to hear of an increase in swifts using nest boxes across the county. SOSSwifts’ belief is that the primary reason for the decline in swifts’ population in Suffolk is the loss of their natural nest sites in the nooks and crannies of older buildings during renovation works.

It is still worrying that we don’t know the full extent of the number of natural nest sites are being blocked up but there is hope. We now know we can both create new swift colonies and expand existing ones by fitting nest boxes, and we are always happy to help with mitigation advice and boxes when we know that their natural nest sites are threatened.

Through generous donations SOSSwifts are able to offer free Swift Community Sets for suitable prominent elevations of public buildings, the host must be happy to both install and play the calls, please do contact us if you have any thoughts.

Contact Nick about nest sites: woodswiftsites@gmail.com

Contact Laurence for nest box sales: woodswiftbox@hotmail.com

Contact Jenny for general enquiries: woodbridge.swifts@gmail.com

Contact Eddie about swifts around the county: swifts@suffolkbirdgroup.org

Jenny James