Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Buncrana Tidy Towns and The Wild Inishowen Club Teaming Up for Swifts

Recently Brian Caffrey travelled to Buncrana in Donegal to catch up with the local groups who are championing Swift conservation in their area. Brian’s talk and walk came as part of efforts that Buncrana Tidy Towns together with the Wild Inishowen Club have been doing for Swifts in recent years.

Karl King explains “In 2010, Martin Moloney, asked the Tidy Towns to put up Swift boxes. We did, at the courthouse in Buncrana. Martin said the reason for this was that Swift populations were in decline. We continued on with our other Tidy Towns projects and never passed any more remarks on the Swift boxes until 2015.”

Brian Caffrey with one of Buncrana's younger Swift fans Karl King

Flatout with the their tidy towns work the Buncrana group hadn’t put anymore focus into Swift projects since the initial work in 2010.  Dermott McLaughlin the then Chairman of the Wild Inishowen Club mentioned that a Swift talk was being held in Letterkenny by BirdWatch Ireland and a gang from Buncrana Tidy Towns group traveled down to check it out.

Karl said “Dermott, George and myself attended the talk, it was in 2015, July time, and we were very impressed with the talk about the life of the Swift and how it came to Ireland to breed. The thing that stood out to me the most was that it lived on the wing and how one half of the brain can close down and the other half can stay awake.”

Looking for Swifts in Buncrana town centre Karl King

The group was inspired to do more and they did exactly that as Karl describes “From that point on we started looking for Swift nests. The club decided to take on how we could help the Swifts and how we could identify their nesting sites. Dermott and Martin, who both have a lot of experience with birds, started doing walks around the town along with the rest of the Wild Inishowen group. After a few nights, we identified our first Swift site at the back of Mac's bookshop, which we were delighted with. As it was towards the end of the season, we said we would try and make a better effort the next year.

In 2016, we put up a couple of new Swift boxes beside the first site and we started to do some more walks during June and July. The weather was quite cold and we never seemed to see more than seven Swifts at any one time. That year we identified a further three Swift sites along with the original. The other three sites were at the back of the courthouse, Naylor’s Row and at Cockhill Church. We were looking for more guidance and what we could do to help the Swifts by either identifying sites or erecting more Swift boxes in the proper locations. This is why we made contact with Brian in BirdWatch Ireland, to come and give a walk and talk.”

A "swift" talk in the car park
before heading down town to see the Swift boxes
Karl King

All was going well in Buncrana with their Swift survey knowledge and experience growing so to did the number of nests sites the group were finding. “In 2017, we made nine Swift boxes from recycled PVC and erected them at the Cockhill Church where we had found one nest the previous year. On the 3rd of May, when we were erecting the boxes in Cockhill, we discovered that we had another two Swift nests at the Chapel, as the Swifts flew in while we were erecting the boxes. The clubs ambition this year was to find as many Swift sites as possible. The group put in a huge effort and in May, June and July we found an additional ten sites to add to the four previous nests that were found in 2015/2016. On some of the walks in the evening we counted up to sixteen Swifts in flight, this year seeming to be a better year, maybe it's because it was warmer? One of the group, George Mc Dermott, erected a Swift box at his own home and put on the Swift caller, playing morning and night. It managed to attract two Swifts to the box. It goes without saying that it was a fantastic result. Then on the 25th of July, we had a great information night with a walk and talk. This gave us a boost and will help us monitor the Swifts and hopefully will lead to more success next year. Our intention is to get all the nests recorded on the BirdWatch Ireland online mapping system and try and keep a good record of their behaviour.

In summary, the group is delighted to be doing this work to help increase and maintain the Swift population in Buncrana.”

At BirdWatch Ireland we are delighted to see such a great effort being made in Buncrana over multiple years with both groups committing significant time and resources to Swift conservation in the area.

For more info on Buncrana Tidy Towns Group see here:

And the Wild Inishowen Club see here:

Thanks to all involved in the work in Buncrana and a big thank you to Karl for providing the summary and photos of activities for this blog post.