Category: Swifts & Hirundines

The aim of this section of the site is (1) to focus attention on the need to protect, wherever possible, the nesting sites 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; and (2) to focus similar attention on hirundines, notably the red-listed House Martin but also Swallows and Sand Martins.

Lewes Swift Group – Request

Swifts are about to arrive and there are a good number of identified Swift breeding areas in Lewes.

Sadly the past group of supporters fell by the wayside. I would like to see new local enthusiasts come together to carry forward conservation of this important work.

Please let us know at if you can help this summer.

Audrey Wende & Ray Jones

Swifts – The Sound of Summer

Many people across Sussex are enjoying the brilliant “sound of summer” with the screaming parties of Swifts flying around villages and towns. After a very difficult migration in May it looks as if breeding has been good for many birds in Sussex. Now is the time to count how many Swifts can be seen flying low around the buildings they have been using to breed. The juveniles are now on the wing learning where they live and improving their muscles for their long journey back to Africa. This is also a time when the juveniles look around for nesting places for when they return in 3/4/5 years’ time when they are old enough to breed. The lovely hot weather of late June early July has enabled the parents to feed a plentiful supply of insects and flies. Please make a note of the addresses where you are seeing these birds. This information will be useful if later in the year you see scaffolding going up to “improve and renovate” these places. When houses/flats/buildings change hands after September not many people will ever know how valuable a nesting site it was for Swifts.

Please put your sightings in Birdtrack, giving place, date and grid reference.

Audrey Wende and Ray Jones – Swift Champions

Late arrival of Swifts back to the UK

It would appear that the bad weather conditions in the Mediterranean area are the main cause of Swifts being held up at present – 18th May.  Wet and windy conditions are being reported through the Swifts Local Network  and causing members from all over the British Isles to be concerned that many of their local Swifts have still not arrived back to their nesting colonies in the UK to breed.  This of course will have a knock on effect with regard to the lateness of their breeding attempts in time to head back to Africa during August.

Edward Mayer reported that during his holiday in Capri last week Swifts and other European species were still coming north from Africa when conditions were good, but migration has been badly affected by torrential rain and adverse winds.

RSPB Brighton Swift Survey 2018

Following our successful first city-wide survey last year, which helped identify 76 nest sites for Brighton Swifts, we are now planning our 2018 survey, which aims to build on the data gathered last year and to work to protect and expand existing colonies.

We’ll be looking to do deeper work in our ‘hot-spot’ areas as well as cover some areas not included last year. We need new volunteers to join our group of experienced surveyors from last year to help us survey swifts in Brighton during May-July to help reverse the significant decline in populations.

If you live in the Brighton & Hove area and would like to help protect these fantastic birds please check out our volunteer swift surveyor role here or contact for details.

Swifts need your help in 2018

Swifts are now Amber listed as Birds of Conservation Concern and their decline is principally due to changes humans have made to their nesting sites in man-made buildings. Many changes have taken place since I took over the paperwork 10 years ago.

SOS member Graham Roberts was very active during the 1980s and 1990s in helping to conserve Swifts and carried out surveys which showed many towns and villages in Sussex held strong numbers of Swift colonies. Towns like Petworth, Horsham and Lewes held really high numbers of breeding Swifts, many in Church towers.

During the last 20 years many houses and buildings have been re-roofed and plastic soffits have replaced wooden ones so that Swifts have been unable to return to their former sites.

Now in the age where news can be exchanged quickly through computers and social media many organisations, including the RSPB are highlighting the need to stop this decline and encourage local people to take care of their local breeding Swift population. The RSPB are setting up Swift cities and in 2017 Brighton did their first Swift survey to ascertain which buildings Swifts were using and where.

I am now handing over this job as Swift Champion to Ray Jones whose passion for Swifts will continue to enthuse and guide everyone to put up boxes and investigate planning applications to see if Swift Bricks can be incorporated into houses, industrial buildings, and office blocks (Developers like to feel they are being eco friendly).

If you have Swifts breeding in your local village or town please see if you can set up a local group of fellow Swift enthusiasts. Speak to neighbours and friends and find where the birds have nested in 2017. Putting nest boxes around existing Swift colonies is the first step to helping these birds find nesting places when they return in 2018.

More help and advice can be obtained by contacting Ray and myself at

Audrey Wende

We have a problem with our Swift Records

Swifts nest in buildings in our towns and villages. They are urban birds and we want to help them by conserving existing nest sites as well as creating new ones. Each year we have scores of Swift records telling us how many, where and when, but this does not give us exact details of which buildings they are using. These records have either one-km or tetrad grid references which is too large an area for us to take action to ensure their nest sites are conserved. If possible please –

If you find a party of Swifts screaming around your town or village please create a record of this and include in the Notes section of your record (BirdTrack, Record Capture or whatever recording system you are using) the address where you have seen them using. Thus a note could read “about 12 birds chasing each other and screaming round the High Street in the evening. Such a record will then give us a chance to narrow down where to look for their nests. If you can find out which property they are nesting in you could add a note to your record such as “nesting under the eaves at the front of 36 High Street, (town name)”.

We are in the process of beefing up our activities to conserve Swifts in Sussex. A really big push by everyone over these summer months to include in the Notes section of your Record the addresses where you see parties of Swifts screaming around at roof top height which will denote that they are nesting nearby. This will provide us with a really good foundation for future Swift Conservation efforts.

RSPB Summer Issue of Magazine

A wonderful close up photograph of a Swift is on the front cover of the RSPB Summer issue of Nature’s Home. Swift supporters all over the country are coming together to redress the loss of these birds often described as the “sound of summer” as Swifts scream around streets during June and July.

Here in Sussex a group of Swift enthusiasts are working in Lewes to highlight the need for more nest boxes to be put up which these birds can use if they cannot get into their old nesting places. All over the County these birds need your help, so please read this magazine and see if anything more can be done in Sussex. Our sightings page shows these birds are coming in now. Let’s hope many will stay and breed in Sussex. Your thoughts on this article would be most welcome.

Edward Mayer coming to Lewes – 10th May

Edward Mayer, the Swift Expert, is coming to Lewes to enthuse residents to put up Swift boxes to encourage more Swifts to take up residence in future years.

His talk will take place in the Lecture Room of the Town Hall in Fisher Street. Doors open at 7pm, talk will start at 7.30pm. Admission: A donation to Swift conservation in Lewes. A donation of £5 or more gets a Lewes Swift Supporters enamel badge. Tea and coffees available.

This meeting is being organized by the Lewes Swift Supporters Group @lewesswifts


Swifts Have Arrived

On 28th April – 5th May the Lewes Swift Supporters group will be having an interesting display of leaflets, Swift Bricks and Swift Boxes in the window of the Lewes Tourist Office on the High Street (by the traffic lights). This is to encourage the good people of Lewes to think about Swifts needing more homes in Lewes this year and to help put up more Swift Bricks or boxes.

Lewes, Swifts and Michael Blencowe on BBC Countryfile

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:

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