Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Swifts Season Close to Completion

With the first laid broods fledged and the remaining active nests containing large chicks we are reaching the final few weeks of Swift nesting activity.

Large chicks in Box 11 at the GMIT Castlebar Campus -
GMIT/Swift Conservation Ireland

With the end of the season imminent these next two weeks are a vital time to get out and survey your local patch for active Swift nest locations. 

A good way to get an estimate of what point the season is at in your area (nesting stage ie. eggs, young chicks, near fledgling etc) is to log on to the Swift Conservation Ireland/GMIT Swift Box Cameras webpage. The cameras provide a live feed to a number of Swift nest boxes erected some years ago in a partnership between Swift Conservation Ireland and GMIT to help provide safe nesting locations for the local Swift population. 

Box 1 chicks, not long before fledgling (est 7-10 days) -
GMIT/Swift Conservation Ireland

Once chicks have fledged, adult birds will not return to nest sites and the opportunity to locate their exact location is lost for another year.

Newly logged Swift nest locations 2017 Season - BirdWatch Ireland

So with some good weather around and the adults visiting big, hungry chicks, why not make a final stab at finding your local Swift colonies. If you do make the time to get out and about we would love to receive your records. All records of Swift nesting locations allow us to help protect them and without this info we remain helpless to protect these sites!

Log your nest locations HERE

For more info on Swifts and survey tips try our BirdWatch Ireland Swift Project pages.

Good luck

Friday, 7 July 2017

2017 County Offaly Swift Survey

With funding from Offaly County Council, BirdWatch Ireland is undertaking a whole county Swift nest site survey. The objective of the survey is to establish detailed results on the presents of Swifts in the county and the location of nesting colonies. 

The engagement of Tidy Towns and residents as part of this survey is fundamental to this project for many reasons including the principal that, increased awareness leads to increased consideration (protection) and we are already seeing the results in Offaly! 

With our enthusiastic and dedicated Fieldworker “Anton” on the case we had no fear that county Offaly would be forensically searched for Swifts.

Distribution of County Offaly Swift colony records  ArcGIS Online

(AK) Тhe first week of Swift surveying was over at blink of an eye, the focus was to survey the smaller towns and villages of the county. The county it seems is a mixed bag for Swift distribution, unfortunately, empty skies and silent streets greeted us at many of survey areas. Thankfully it wasn’t to be all doom and good strong colonies were also observed dispersed throughout the county boundaries. 

Tim MacMathon of Clara Tidy Towns and Anton Krastev
out surveying the local RC chruch at Clara
BirdWatch Ireland

The second week of Swift surveying began with a concentrated effort on priority areas (Large towns with known Swift abundance) like Birr, Edenderry, Clara, Shinrone, and others. We got together in the evenings to survey these locations with active local groups who were interested in surveying their own localities for Swifts and we were delighted to introduce them to the species and survey methods whilst drawing on the rich local knowledge held by the groups members.

During week two of surveying we happened across Edenderry Tidy Towns whom were carrying their duties around the town. Their interest towards wildlife ensured a good link for future cooperation. One of the evenings during that week we surveyed the whole town for Swifts. Special thanks to Frank Hardy and Willie McCreanor for availing their time to carryout survey work.

Members of Shinrone Tidy Towns Group
with BirdWatch Ireland's Anton Krastev
BirdWatch Ireland

Shinrone Tidy Towns have enthusiastically accommodated a meeting and their interest promises secure future for the Swifts inhabiting their area. During the visit in Shinrone we went for quick cup of tea, until a shower of rain passed. This gave us an opportunity to get to talk on different themes and spontaneously one of the members of Tidy Towns mentioned that he has a painting and a poem about Swifts in Shinrone. This immediately settled us down for another cup of tea and a pint of Guinness for Henry, who began reading the poem. It was fascinating to find out the buildings present in his painting are the same buildings which hold the largest part of the population of Swifts in Shinrone.

In Clara it was found that Swifts rely on two buildings for nesting. However, the likelihood is that these building will change or be modified makes the local population vulnerable. We needed to see if there may be more Swifts present somewhere else that we were unaware of. We got in contact with Clara Tidy Towns and since meeting up, Tim and the gang are on the case combing the town for new colonies yet to be recorded.

A great turn out in Birr to survey Swiftsaround the town BirdWatch Ireland

Week three of surveying came and went and we met with Birr and Clonbullogue Tidy Towns groups and have robust monitoring schedules in place and lots of new enthusiastic Citizen Scientists. Heavy rainfall dampened survey efforts at the end of week 3 and with week 4 and 5 now behind us there are colonies being logged all over the county. 

More details on how to take part in the County Offaly Swift Survey here:

You can review our results to date and add new sites here:

Standby for a 2017 County Offaly Swift Survey update soon!

Thanks to all the local Tidy Towns groups, residents and volunteers who have made the survey such a success to date. Thanks to Amanda Pedlow Offaly Heritage Officer for her help and enthusiasm in getting this project up and running. It’s very heartening to see local communities come together to protect their rich natural heritage. We will continue our work and liaison with local groups over the coming weeks. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A Swift Return To Clonmacnoise

Part of the OPW Clonmacnoise heritage site Ricky Whelan

Swifts are birds of impeccable taste, often selecting the oldest and most beautiful buildings and locations to nest. During our 2015 fieldwork season BirdWatch Ireland carried out Swift surveys at a number of OPW heritage sites. Of these we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Clonmacnoise, the ancient monastic site set in the beautiful natural surroundings of the Shannon Callows of County Offaly. 

The site proved not only to be a pleasant stop in the fieldwork schedule but it also turned up one of the most interesting Swift nest locations we know of! 

Kate at the "waist-high" nest hole
 at Clonmacnoise
Brian Caffrey
A single pair of Swifts were detected near the main round tower. The tower had been subject to a number of renovations over the years but one suitable gap in the masonry, very close to the base of the the tower remained. Initially the hole was overlooked as a potential nest site as it falls well below the average height range that Swifts nests are more commonly found!

Nest location in the "Round-tower" Ricky Whelan
Swifts are "site-faithful" meaning they will return year on year to the same nest hole (if it has survived), lay and raise young within. Last week we took the opportunity to swing by Clonmacnoise to see if the 2015 find was indeed a fluke or if the site was an established site being used by the resident pair. 

Yep thats a nest site! Ricky Whelan

It was fantastic to find a sitting Swift incubating an unconfirmed number of eggs inside the cavity. A quick peak confirmed occupancy and incubation behaviour and also detected one "rolled" egg. On occasion eggs will get dislodged from the nest cup and birds fail to get them back into the nest to incubate, the eggs will fail to develop and remain at the nest or be disregarded whilst the parents concentrate on the viable eggs.

The beautiful location and novelty of this nest site make Clonmacnoise well worth the visit for any Swift fanatic or natural history fan. One only knows how many bus loads of people from all over the world have passed the nest each summer, totally unaware of what a special creature lays within, silently rearing its young before embarking south to the Congo for the winter.

For more info on the OPW and the sites they manage click here:

And

We are always looking for records of Swift nest sites. Do you know of any? Enter your known sites here: