Wednesday, 19 July 2017
This summer, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I are taking part in a survey of swifts in Edinburgh. I recently attended a training session (which I blogged about here) and since then Crafty Green Boyfriend and I have made three slow walks round our designated survey area to look for low flying groups of swifts and then nesting sites. We've both been keeping an eye out too for swifts wherever we go in town (more so than usual I mean, we're both always watching out for swifts at this time of year!)
Swifts only visit Scotland for just over three months in the year (May to August) and spend the rest of the year flying down to Africa and then round and round Africa before coming back to the same nest site. They only land when they're nesting, when the young leave the nest they remain airborne for three or four years before they make their first nest! Swifts are declining in the UK for a number of reasons but one is the lack of nest sites - they nest in holes in walls and under roofs and these days these holes are often blocked up when buildings are renovated. The City of Edinburgh Council (and some other councils in the UK) advise that swift bricks be used in new buildings over a certain height (a swift brick is a brick that is hollow inside and includes an entrance hole so that the swifts can enter the nest) but they can't enforce this.
Our first two survey walks weren't very successful, despite the fact that on most days we see swifts flying round our street (which is part of our survey area). Our last walk on Monday evening was more successful and we ewre able in fact to identify a nest site!
Today I spent some time wandering round the Meadows area of town and saw more swifts than I've seen for a long time! There were two groups of about 30 swifts in two different areas of the Meadows (though, given how quickly swifts can fly these may have been the same 30 birds). Then I also saw ten swifts above Fountainbridge Library. I'm going to add these sightings to my overall survey report.
If you're in Edinburgh and you know where swifts are nesting, please feel free to add your sightings to the comments (I'm only at this stage interested in probably nest sites, not if you see high flying groups of swifts). If you're taking part in the survey yourself then of course you don't need to let me know where you've seen nest sites, though there's nothing to stop you commenting about them anyway!