Swifts at St Martin’s Church
St Martin’s Church, Church Street, Bladon, Oxfordshire, OX20 1RW
By Robert Courts, local resident
I live in Bladon, Oxfordshire. I am a keen birdwatcher and know that Swifts nest under the eaves of neighbouring houses. I have put up nest boxes in the hope of attracting them to our house.
St Martin’s Church, Bladon is close by. I had read on the Action for Swifts website that nest boxes have been successfully installed in the louvred windows of church towers. I made enquiries and was referred to Chris Mason who coordinates Swift Conservation activities in north Oxfordshire.
Chris visited the church with me and we agreed that the church was a suitable site for Swift nest boxes.
I am a member of the Parochial Church Council and I raised the issue at a council meeting, pointing out that the cost was minimal, the disruption to the Church non-existent, and the benefits would include a contribution both to the local community and to wildlife. The PCC were keen to support this project, and authorised me to carry out the project.
I reported this decision to Chris and he arranged for two local volunteers to visit the church and take measurements. The boxes have to be made to measure each particular site. Louvres vary greatly and it is vital that there are no gaps around the box through which Swifts or other birds could enter into the church tower.
A couple of months later the volunteers returned to fit the boxes.
Subsequently I also installed an amplifier with a recording of Swift calls which should help to attract Swifts to the new nest site. I included a timer so that the calls only played for a few hours each day.
All those involved are volunteers so the only costs were the purchase of the plywood used to make nest boxes, and the equipment to play the Swift calls. Approximately £75 in all.
In this case there is no income, but in other churches, where the louvres are in need of repair or where pigeons are getting through damaged louvres into church towers, installing swift boxes can save a maintenance cost.
Results and Benefits
Swift numbers have declined, partly as a result of loss of nest sites, so providing new nest places is important.
This is a good news story for local media and if successful could become the focus of a visit by local people and local schools and increase awareness of Swifts and their decline and more generally of the part that churches and churchyards can play in wildlife conservation.
None really; costs were very low, and works did not cause any disruption.
Conclusions and Next Steps
I will keep a close eye on the boxes when swifts are in the UK breeding in the summer. Should they use the nest boxes then I will inform the RSPB and others who collect data about nesting Swifts.
Caring for God’s Acre Action Plan Sheet:
Section B Sheet 4 Swifts and Other Birds
Download a copy of the Swift Information sheet: Swift Information Sheet
Action for Swifts www.actionforswifts.blogspot.com
Swift Conservation www.swift-conservation.org