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Swifts Scream In

Swifts early this year…

The sound of Swifts screaming above historic towns is one of the most evocative scenes of summer. The latest results from the BTO/BirdWatch Ireland Migration Watch project shows that more birdwatchers are recording Swifts during their birdwatching visits when compared to the same time last year. Although the earliest date this year (27 March, West Sussex) is similar to last year`s earliest record (23 March, Devon), the bulk of the birds seem to have arrived earlier.Swifts are one of the latest summer migrants to arrive in Britain and Ireland from their wintering grounds in Africa, south of the Sahara. Swifts spend virtually all of the time in the air [on the wing] only landing to nest and raise their young. Swifts almost certainly spend all of the winter on the wing, at a height of 600m or more.As soon as they arrive, Swifts head for traditional breeding grounds, often in the older parts of towns and cities, where the houses still have suitable nesting holes in the roof space. Swifts require a small gap to get through under the tiles to reach their nesting spaces in the roof. Their dependence on buildings for nest sites makes them vulnerable to changes in housing design and improvements. Special nest boxes can be constructed and fixed under the eaves or under windowsills and will provide a successful alternative to traditional nest sites.In poor weather, such as that we have been experiencing over the last few days, Swifts congregate in large numbers (several hundred) over water bodies such as lakes and reservoirs where insects are more plentiful.Migration Watch
Dawn Balmer, of the BTO, who organises Migration Watch is keen to recruit still more volunteers: Last year`s pilot of Migration Watch was really exciting, as we waited for the first birds to arrive. Three thousand birdwatchers sent in their records and we got a tantalising glimpse of how birds move into and through the country. With lots of new volunteers this year we hope to fill in some of the gaps in our coverage.Anyone can get involved. Send in records of the first birds you see ? House Martins in your town or Swallows in your village. Take a regular walk and watch the seasons change, as first Chiffchaffs, then Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Cuckoo and Spotted Flycatcher add their voices to the summer chorus. Note when your first Swallow arrives, then keep records of when the nest is built, the eggs are laid, young start to be fed etc. And there is a huge amount of information to read too.For more information contact: Dawn Balmer 01842 750050, E-mail: dawn.balmer@bto.org during office hours or mobile 07968 600354 or Graham Appleton 01842 750050 or E-mail: graham.appleton@bto.org during office hours Or for information about Migration Watch in the Republic of Ireland contact: Oran O`Sullivan, BirdWatch Ireland, 8 Longford Place, Monkstone, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Tel: +353 12804322 E-mail: info@birdwatchireland.org

4th July 2014