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Nesting tower to keep sky alive with swifts

PUBLISHED: 13:17 12 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:48 12 May 2017

It is hoped a new swift tower at Whitlingham Country Park will halt the rapid decline in numbers of the vulnerable species Picture: Broads Authority

It is hoped a new swift tower at Whitlingham Country Park will halt the rapid decline in numbers of the vulnerable species Picture: Broads Authority

Broads Authority

Conservationists are hoping the construction of a special nesting tower in the Broads will go some way to arresting a steep decline in the number of swifts in the UK.

Andrea Kelly, senior ecologist at the Broads Authority. Picture: SuppliedAndrea Kelly, senior ecologist at the Broads Authority. Picture: Supplied

The Broads Authority, supported by visitor giving scheme Love the Broads, recently constructed a tower with 20 nest chambers at Whitlingham Country Park.

The number of breeding swifts in the UK has almost halved between 1995 and 2015, placing the bird on the amber list of Birds of Conservation Concern.

Conservation organisations believe that the decline is partly due to popular nesting sites in buildings being lost during renovations, as well as a halving in the number of insects – the staple food of the swift – since 1975.

Andrea Kelly, Broads Authority senior ecologist, said: “At Whitlingham we are lucky to have plenty of insects in the meadows and woodland and near the water, so it’s a great place for birds such as swifts to feed and breed.

A swift in flight Picture: Oscar DewhurstA swift in flight Picture: Oscar Dewhurst

“As global travellers they also return from their wintering grounds in Africa to the same spot each year to breed, usually in buildings in gaps under roof tiles and eaves.”

She said if buildings are sealed up or renovated, swifts may return to discover that their nest site has gone.

They were also cautious about entering new spaces for fear of predators.

Peter Howe from the Broads Trust, the charity that runs the Love the Broads fundraising scheme, said the charity was delighted to support the initiative.

“We supported this project with a grant because the decline in numbers of this truly remarkable bird and the effect on the biodiversity of the Broads is worrying. Something to directly help boost those numbers is an important project.

“The new swift tower also provides an opportunity for the public to see wildlife up close and learn about its importance which is even better.”

Members of the public are being asked to send sightings of ‘screaming parties’ of low-flying swifts or nesting sites. You can send details of sightings to www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/conservation-projects/swifts

Have you been involved in an important environmental project? Let us know by emailing tourism correspondent, Andrew Stone, on andrew.stone@archant.co.uk

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