Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Swifts in Trim by Terence Cassidy – Meath Branch of BirdWatch Ireland.

Today we welcome a guest blog by Terence Cassidy of the BirdWatch Ireland Meath Branch and he describes a recent branch event through the town looking for Swifts. Over to Terence....

We start our walk on the banks of the Boyne, where Councillor Noel French starts us off, more than fifty of us including many school children. The birds feeding on the wing over the Boyne include Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins, birds often confused with the Swift. Swifts fly high as we head into the town.

Our first stop Castle Street is a row of terraced houses built after the Boer war. Most of these houses retain features which allow swifts to safely nest and have helped to maintain this special bird in Trim.  Screaming Swifts whizz past, and we manage to catch sight of them as they dart under the roofs. Swifts need space between the roof and the wall to enter where they nest on the top of the wall. In Castle Street they have the additional protection of a very ornate fascia board.

A Swift dives for the eaves of this house along Trims Castle Street
Photo Franck Ar Moenner

Next stop Loman Street doesn’t disappoint either and we are treated to a spectacle of returning nesting Swifts. The roof of these houses has a large overhang giving protection to birds nesting on the top of the wall and unlike many other houses in Trim swifts have not been shut out of their nest sites by plastic fascia and soffits which are standard in modern building. The residents too are part of the success of this colony of Swift, many having grown up with the sight and sound of Swifts as a harbinger of summer.  Their love for the bird will ensure that at least in these houses a space will always be left for returning Swift, which they say return like clockwork on the 4th of May every year. They tell stories of finding accidentally grounded Swifts and, aware that the birds never land on the ground, they rescued them by simply throwing them back up in the air.

Brian Caffrey of BirdWatch Ireland chats to the assambled crowd on Loman Street
Photo Franck Ar Moenner

Finally we stop for a welcome cup of tea from Maureen in Brogan's Hotel. Brian from our tidy towns committee and Gerry representing the Men's Shed eagerly take in the technical specifications provided by Brian Caffrey who demonstrates the different types of swift nest boxes. Lars, from outside Trim, explains how he built nest boxes and equipped them with speakers and now has several nesting pairs of young swifts. These are probably young birds from the main colonies in Trim, which were attracted on their return from over wintering in Africa by a suitable nest site and the sound of swifts not far from where they were raised.

Another stop to view the Swifts along Loman Street
Photo Franck Ar Moenner

A love of swifts is not confined to birdwatchers in Trim as not only the Meath Branch of Birdwatch Ireland, but also the Tidy Towns committee, those working on heritage and environmental issues and residents appreciate the special place this bird has in the life of the town. After this experience I feel more confident that the Swift will not disappear from Trim, as has sadly been the case in many towns in Ireland, and look forward to reporting on the combined work we will now undertake to maintain a healthy population of swifts in Trim.  


  1. Really encouraging to see that level of support and participation as well as a solid breeding population to build on (so many towns have lost some/all).

    Top marks to Trim .....and Terence!

    1. Indeed Mícheál its great! Lots of great stuff going on around the country (including your own efforts)! Some towns totally devoid of Swifts which is terrible but a trend we can hopefully reverse.