Friday, 16 September 2016

Build It and They Will Come

In June BirdWatch Ireland launched a new online Swift colony mapping tool made possible by funding from the Heritage Council. 

The people of Ireland responded in force to our call for records and over the summer months and the relatively short swift nesting season we received well over 200 individual online submission from all across the country detailing swift nest sites and colonies. In addition, individuals and BirdWatch Ireland branches submitted a number of bulk county records gathered during the same period. For example, In Kildare the BirdWatch Ireland branch members managed to survey a total of 24 towns and villages in the county, an incredible effort.

All these records together with other historic records will be accumulated and combined over the coming weeks and months and we will report back on the final tally later in the year.

Some of the swift records from all over the country

Due to the ongoing challenges swifts face, it is paramount to this species survival on the island of Ireland that we continue to identify their nesting locations in order to protect them. Make sure to go to the online map and submit any records you have from the past season, it’s not too late, so dust off your notebooks and dig out those records and get them into us.

You can find the online mapping tool here:

Lastly a huge thanks to all who have taken the time survey your patch for swifts and submit your records. 

More news from us soon

BirdWatch Ireland Swift Project Team

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Colossal Swift Colony in Clonmel

Swift chasing insects Kevin Collins

Earlier in the month, we teamed up with the Tipperary Heritage Office and Tipperary Branch of BirdWatch Ireland to go looking for Swifts in Clonmel.

Arriving at the venue for the talk, St. Mary’s GAA Centre, groups of Swifts could be heard screaming overhead before even getting out of the car. With the sun splitting the stones and hardly a breath of wind, It was shaping up to be a great evening for Swifts.

Sky full of Swifts Brian Caffrey

A group of keen Swift enthusiasts arrived for a talk on Swifts, including representatives from Clonmel Tidy Towns and Tipperary Tidy Towns. Following the talk we were guided by Kevin Collins of Birdwatch Ireland Tipperary Branch, towards South Tipperary General Hospital, which revealed a truly impressive site – a sky literally filled with screaming Swifts. A quick count (not an easy job, when dealing with Swifts!) estimated 100 Swifts visible in the air over the hospital and GAA Centre in a single count.

Dan Hogan, Kevin Collins & Malcom Turner observing the swifts
Brian Caffrey
Kevin, who has monitored this Swift colony for many years could point out one building in particular, ‘The Community Care Building’ which was the hub of the nesting colony – with up to 50 pairs nesting in this building alone. The unusual design of the ventilation gaps in the soffit of the building have created an ideal home for Swifts to nest.

The colossal Swift colony at South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel
Brian Caffrey
Feeding time, adult Swift with full "bolus" Kevin Collins

This is undoubtedly one of the largest colonies of Swifts in Ireland and a truly wonderful spectacle to watch and hear the aerial antics of the Swifts overhead on a summers evening.

We are still looking for your swift nest sites and if you are aware of any colonies be it of one or fifty breeding pairs we want to hear from you!

You can log your nest sights Here

or email us on 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

A Swift Start to Survey Season

Last year the BirdWatch Ireland Swift Team carried out Swift survey work on behalf of the OPW (Office of Public Works) at a number of their heritage sites around the country.

Swifts in the summer sky Pauline Skoczylas

Swifts are traditionally associated with old and historic buildings as they provide nesting opportunities which the birds exploit. Modern buildings lack the same opportunities, as modern building techniques and materials make these buildings unsuitable for nesting Swifts.

Last season (summer 2015) we completed survey work at Kilkenny Castle, Portumna Castle, Roscrea Castle/Damar House, Clonmacnoise and Kilmainham Gaol. To our delight, with the exception of Kilmainham Gaol all sites had nesting swifts. The size of the colonies varied from one nesting pair at Clonmacnoise right up to twelve nesting pairs confirmed at Kilkenny Castle.

Common Swift on wall close to nest hole Artur Tabor

Not alone did last seasons surveys prove the "historic building" rule but it also discovered one very unusual nest site. One pair of swifts had nested at waist height within the wall of the round tower at Clonmacnoise. I wonder what the monks would think of that having managed to keep the Vikings out of their tower for all those years! Footage of the Swifts visiting their nest within the wall of the round tower can be viewed here.

Swift Nest Location at Clonmacnoise Brian Caffrey

This year we have embarked on another round of Swift site surveys on behalf of the OPW and we took advantage of the good weather in late May to kick things off. This year we are visiting Ennis Friary (Co.Clare), Athenry Castle (Co.Galway), Emo Court (Co.Laois) and Trim Castle (Co. Meath) during the months of May, June and July. Our survey visits will ascertain if these heritage buildings are suitable for nesting swifts and whether or not swifts are currently nesting at the sites.

Swift survey at Ennis Friary (from the garden looking onto the Chancel) Brian Caffrey

The early visits tend to tell us more about the viability of the sites and a suggestion of whether Swifts might be nesting there rather than giving us hard evidence. We are in the middle of visit number two to each of the sites and will report back soon with a new blog post in the coming weeks.

In the meantime if you are familiar with any of these sites, other OPW heritage sites or have any Swift nest records please log them on our new online mapping tool here.

For more information on Swifts see our Swift Project Pages or email the Swift Team at: