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Swift Conservation

The aim of this section of the site is to focus attention on the need to protect the nesting sites, wherever possible, of Swifts in Sussex. These birds are declining for several reasons, one being due to their nesting areas being destroyed. In conjunction with Edward Mayer and it is hoped that we can continue to highlight the help that can be given to these wonderful birds.


Lewes, Swifts and Michael Blencowe on BBC Countryfile
Tuesday, 07 March 2017

Congratulations to SOS member Michael Blencowe from Sussex Wildlife Trust for being featured on Countryfile on BBC1 on Sunday 5th March 2017, highlighting the Lewes Swift Supporters group. This group have come together to improve the nesting areas for Swifts in Lewes.

Lewes has had a good 10% of the County’s nesting colonies in past years, but numbers have dropped considerably due to roof alterations and fitting of plastic soffits. The fantastic sound of Swifts screaming in groups during their breeding cycle, which echoes through the streets in Lewes during June and July is the real sound of summer.

Through 2016 members of this group recorded existing nesting places so that this year Swift Boxes will be put up as near to the existing colonies as possible. A calling system can also be fitted alongside the box which attracts the attention of these birds when they arrive back at the end of May.

The Tourist Information window beside the Town Hall will be used as an advertisement for all things Swift-related during the last week in April, to inform members of the public about the life of Swifts and to encourage them to put up more boxes.

Audrey Wende: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Message from Edward Mayer at
Saturday, 16 April 2016

 Dear Swift Friends and Colleagues,
The best time of the year approaches! Swifts are on their way back and, if the weather is kind, will be here in just a couple of weeks. It's time to check your Swift calls equipment and ensure it is working well, and then to get it set up again to play the calls that will hopefully attract the birds to check out your nests.
Here attached is some information that should be useful. Don't forget, we supply both CD and MP3 recordings of the calls, available though our web site's Shopping Page, should you need them.
Best wishes, and Good Luck with your Swifts in 2016!
Yours, Edward

Conserving Swift nesting sites
Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Most of us are aware that when Swifts return in April and May they are finding it harder to access traditional sites. Often the holes they have used previously have been destroyed or covered up with netting or scaffolding when buildings are being renovated.

YOUR help is needed to save existing Swift colonies which use Church buildings and Church towers in Sussex. Most birders know where their nearest colonies are, and look forward to the birds’ return. In many villages the Church provides the only available habitat, being both high enough and with suitable tiny entrances in the brick work. However Swifts only use these buildings for three months of the year, so not everyone is aware how important they are.

From time to time Churches need to have external work done, and this starts a process by the Church authorities to inform local people about it.

A Public Notice must be displayed “for a continuous period of not less than 28 days” both inside and outside the Church outlining the work proposed. It must be pinned on these notice boards readily visible to the public. During this time period members of the community and even the passing public have the opportunity to tell the authorities that Swifts use the building during the summer months. However, it is often only by chance that a notice is seen, so if you know of a local colony, NOW is the time to write to the Parochial Church Council pointing out that Swifts use the Church, and let me know so a list can be made for future reference. There have been several instances where Swifts have been forced out by work done at the wrong time, or by work which destroyed their nest sites because no one had flagged up an important colony site.

All too often the first we realise any external work is being done to a Church is when scaffolding is put up, but by then it is too late to help our precious Swifts who bring the sound of summer to our countryside and towns. I have data going back to 1999 when Graham Roberts did a survey of low flying Swifts in 24 towns and villages in early June across both East & West Sussex. Graham realized even then the number of Swifts seen was declining, but now the situation is far worse. In those days a lot more Swifts used Church buildings.

During their time with us Swifts are clearly a great asset as they eat many millions of insects, which are capable of carrying diseases. Cambridgeshire (and other counties) are forging ahead with showing that Swifts can increase their numbers given the right opportunities (see ActionforSwifts website). Special nesting chambers have been made and installed in Church towers behind the wooden louvers. There are many opportunities to help increase the number of Swifts breeding in Sussex, particularly in Church buildings and towers. Please act now! More info at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Swift conservation at Rutland Bird Fair
Wednesday, 12 August 2015

If you are going to the Bird Fair at Rutland on 21-23rd August, Swift Conservation & Action for Swifts will be showcasing Swifts, highlighting the challenges they face, including their spectacular migrations to Africa and back, and providing free information on ideas for action to help end their sad decline.

Attraction call equipment, nest boxes and videos will be on display. Booklets, badges, and attraction call kits will be on sale. Find out all about Swifts and join the newly formed Swifts Local Network! Talk to us about what you can do in your home, church or school to help Swifts!

6th September 2015: BBC One Songs of Praise will include a piece about Swifts in Worlington, including the Swift Festival at the newly established colony of 25 pairs in All Saints church as well as Swift rehabilitation and fostering work by Judith Wakelam.

On the Action for Swifts page you will read an interesting article about Swift boxes being placed on south facing buildings, but that they are made with thicker plywood - 15mm instead of 12mm and then painted white to keep the temperatures within required range.


Susenco Swift Tower
Monday, 27 July 2015

On 4th July 2015 Susenco, the sustainable energy company, erected a Swift Tower in an area just over 30 hectares (of which only 23% is covered with solar panels) near the village of Berwick, and a stone’s throw from Arlington Reservoir.

This is the first Swift Tower for Sussex, although there are several other counties which have already built larger and higher Swift Towers (especially in Exeter through the Devon Wildlife Trust).

The “Susenco” box has 11 chambers and was designed with the expert help of Dick Newall of Action For Swifts. To attract the attention of passing Swifts the box has been fitted with a powerful Swift calling system, and will be played this year for a limited time up to the beginning of August when the birds will have left to return south. Next April the timer will be reset to attract their attention when they return.
This is a long term effort to counteract the huge loss of nesting habitats where houses have been re-roofed, and nesting habitats destroyed. Let’s hope in a few years we can see Swifts taking an interest and using this Sussex Swift Tower. (As can be seen from looking at Dick’s blog, a similar Swift tower was erected in Trumpington (Cambridge) in October 2013 with the first complete season in 2014. This year (2015) breeding by one pair has been witnessed with other birds examining the other holes).

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