Thursday, 17 May 2018

OPW Heritage Sites Swift Survey Continues

Over the past four summers BirdWatch Ireland has been commissioned to survey Office of Public Works (OPW) Heritage Sites throughout Ireland for nesting Swifts. This work continues this summer with four new sites selected for the 2018 survey season. 

The 2018 sites monitored by the BirdWatch Ireland Swift Survey Team are; Jerpoint Abbey and St Mary’s Church (Gowran) in Co. Kilkenny, Maynooth Castle Co. Kildare and Old Mellifont Abbey Co. Louth. 

Swift Survey Work at OPW Jerpoint Abbey Ricky Whelan

With the weather on our side this week, the 2018 fieldwork kicked off at the two Kilkenny sites and we couldn’t have got off to a better start with Swift nests located at both Jerpoint Abbey and St Mary’s Church. To pinpoint nest sites on the first visit in May can be tricky so we were thrilled when we observed adult birds popping in and out of multiple nests at Jerpoint Abbey and a single nest site at St Mary’s. 

OPW St Mary's Church, Gowran Ricky Whelan

Survey work will take place in the months of May, June and July with all nest sites logged and mapped to allow OPW site managers and conservation staff to protect these historic structures whilst also retaining the Swift nest locations. 

The OPW has a highly proactive approach to Swift conservation at their heritage sites with their commitment to the survey demonstrating that. But they haven’t stopped there, and they continue to implement practical conservation measures at suitable sites with known Swift activity. An example of this can be seen at Portumna Castle and Gardens, Co. Galway where the new tea rooms have just opened in the courtyard building, which is equipped with its very own specialised Swift nest boxes and caller system. 

Schwegler Triple Cavity Boxes at OPW Portumna Castle Michele O'Dea

OPW National Monuments undertook the work at Portumna Castle under the direction of Frank Geraghty, District Works Manager. Towards the end of the works phase two new Schwegler Triple Cavity Nestboxes were installed together with a caller system to alert passing Swifts to the newly available nest opportunities. Michele O’Dea, Conservation Architect and Ken Curley, Architectural Assistant were involved throughout ensuring the project was in keeping with the nature and aesthetics of the building whilst Walden Electrical made short work of wiring up the electric caller system. 

New Tea Rooms at OPW Portumna Castle Michele O'Dea

We were delighted to advise on the project and it’s a great result for Swifts. Fingers crossed the boxes will be occupied by nesting Swifts soon.

The boxes were sourced and supplied by BirdWatch Ireland through our shop and Swift Conservation Ireland supplied the caller system equipment. Swift Conservation Ireland have played a leading role in the design of Swift caller systems here in Ireland and work tirelessly for Swifts. You can find more information on the SCI caller systems and projects here.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Upcoming Events

Its that time of year and the first Swifts are being reported throughout the country, a quick search on Irish Birding revealed Swift sightings in 14 counties already. We have just had a few wonderful days of sunshine and high pressure, no doubt facilitating further influxes of Swifts into the country. Its time too to start logging onto Swift Conservation Ireland's (SCI) live Swift Nest Cams, at GMIT Castlebar, as the birds are soon to be actively preparing nests and laying clutches.

SCI - Swift Nest Camera captures an
adult Swift incubating during July 2017
Photo SCI

Following on from a successful whole-county Swift Survey of Offaly during summer 2017 we have three new counties to survey during summer 2018. This work is made possible with support of the Heritage Council and respective local authorities .We will spend the summer surveying in counties, Laois, Westmeath and Tipperary in an effort to find as many existing Swift nest colonies as possible.

BirdWatch Ireland's Anton Krastev with a group of enthusiastic volunteers
 taken whilst out Swift Surveying in Birr, county Offaly
 during the 2017 Offaly Swift Survey
Photo BWI

To effectively carryout these surveys we need your help and the help of community groups and individuals in these counties. To promote the surveys and recruit volunteer Citizen Scientists we have lots of Swift events planned throughout the three counties. See the table below for details.

Upcoming Swift related events (click to see larger image) Photo BWI

All events include a short indoor session followed by an easygoing outdoor walk to try spot some Swifts as they dash around the locality.

For more info on our Swift Projects you can see our Swift Web Pages or email

Monday, 9 April 2018

Clare Community Groups Take Swift Action

Last week eight communities in County Clare took delivery of 10 new Genesis Triple Cavity Swift Nestboxes. The project funded by Clare County Council through Heritage Officer Congella McGuire aims to establish new, safe and permanent nest sites for Swifts around the county. 

Noel Enright and Pete Beaumont from O'Briens Bridge  Ricky Whelan
These projects were initiated as early as November 2017 when BirdWatch Ireland was invited to speak to Clare Tidy Towns Groups about biodiversity projects and Swift conservation measures that could be adopted locally. Following the talk the enthusiasm for Swift nestbox projects was very high and groups were invited to register their interest in establishing a project in their respective areas. 

In December we visited 12 towns and villages in Clare to assess buildings for their suitability for Swift nestboxes. Potential locations were selected in all communities visited and a report circulated to the groups. 

Clare Swift Recce Report Ricky Whelan
 With groups on-board, suitable sites selected and permissions gained to erect the boxes we ordered a batch of new specially designed triple-cavity Swift nestboxes from Stephan De Beer of Genesis Nestboxes in Killarney. 

A boot  full of Genesis Swift Nestboxes Ricky Whelan
After a day spent in the car delivering boxes and giving final advice we are looking forward to seeing all the boxes up around Clare which hopefully will become home to Swifts in the coming seasons. 

Christy Leyden and Eric Shaw of ClareCastle Tidy Towns Group Ricky Whelan
To increase the probability of attracting Swifts to breed successfully, much thought is needed when selecting sites for nestboxes. In addition, specially designed nestboxes are required both to suit Swifts own needs but also to exclude would-be home invaders such as Starlings and House Sparrows which are well known to hi-jack Swift nestboxes. Lastly an audio lure can be played close to the nestbox entrances to attract the birds in. Swifts are colonial so are more likely to establish where they find their own kind, an audio lure mimics other Swifts thus attracting birds to the new nest sites. 

Well done to all the communities involved for all their efforts and enthusiasm so far. A big thanks to Congella McGuire for driving the effort and making the projects possible. Thanks to Stephan De Beer at Genesis Nestboxes for supplying the boxes and Lynda Huxley of Swift Conservation Ireland who has supplied the audio equipment for many of the groups and given lots of additional advice. 

For more info on Swifts and BirdWatch Irelands work see our Swift Project Pages HERE.

Keep following our Swift - Life On The Wing Blog for more projects, events, survey updates and Swift related news.