Swifts at Wigmore church
St James the Apostle Church, Wigmore, Herefordshire
To help the church manage building restoration works without damaging existing swift nests or hampering nesting attempts.
I was contacted by a concerned resident of the village of Wigmore who told me that restoration works were planned for the roof of St James the Apostle and that he knew there were several pairs of swift to be seen nesting somewhere under the eaves. Nesting swifts are protected by law from disturbance or destruction but the nests are not easy to find outside of the breeding season and the timing of building works is critical so that access routes do not get blocked off.
I wondered whether I could help and advise; so that the law would be obeyed and the birds would continue to have their nesting place undisturbed.
I contacted the diocese and offered to survey the church for nesting swifts.
I then visited the church at the end of July with other members of the swift group. We were in position at dusk when the adult swifts tend to return to their nests and could record exactly where they were swooping under the eaves and also if they were nesting elsewhere in the village of Wigmore. It became clear that the swifts were using the south wall of the church and also that there did not appear to be other nests in the village; the church eaves were crucial to this swift colony of at least 16 breeding pairs which are nesting on the top of the wall, under the roof overhang.
In September I visited the church with the architect, church warden and other members of the swift group. We took photos of the site and inspected each section of the wall with binoculars. Although swifts do not leave a mess below their nests there is usually a small amount of white streaking visible. I was then able to produce a report identifying where the swift nests are and giving recommendations as to when works could take place.
The diocese were able to include these recommendations in their faculty and the architect ensured that works would be completed before the swifts returned from migration and started to breed.
There was no cost for the survey or for the time spent by myself or the other members of the Shropshire Swift Group.
Results and Benefits
By collaborating the in this way we were able to work together for the benefit of both the church and diocese and also the nesting swifts.
Issues and Lessons Learnt
It was due to a call from a local resident that we were aware of this swift colony and were able to help. Swift nests are nearly invisible as they use holes and crevices which can be small and narrow, such as below eaves or between tiles. They do not leave a mess of droppings below the nest as swallows and martins do and it would be very difficult for either the architect or else the builder to spot a swift nest. Swifts are, however, very loyal to a particular nest hole and need to have space to swoop in and out. Scaffolding outside of the nest hole can block access completely.
Conclusions and Next Steps
A partnership between Swift Conservation, Action for Swifts, local swift groups or local ornithological societies could be really helpful in the conservation of swift nests within church buildings and it would be great if the dioceses had access to a list of church buildings known to contain swift nests.
For the full Swift Report see the attached: Wigmore swift report
Caring for God’s Acre Action Pack Sheets
Section B Sheet 4 Swifts and Other Birds
Action for Swifts www.actionforswifts.blogspot.com
Swift Conservation www.swift-conservation.org