11 May, 2020
An endangered bird species will hopefully be making a comeback in Blaenavon, thanks to a Town Council project to try to increase their habitats.
The number of swifts in the UK has more than halved since 1995, due to a number of factors, including house renovation work meaning they have lost nesting sites.
Blaenavon Town Council is hoping to reverse the trend by installing a dozen nest boxes in and around the town centre to replace sites that have disappeared over the years.
Businesses including the Lion Hotel, Forge Side Rugby Club and Jadeni hair salon have embraced the plan and agreed to have nest boxes put up under the eaves of their roofs. The Council Offices next to the Workmen’s Hall is also hosting a box, as are a number of local residents.
Swifts are summer visitors to the UK, arriving from their wintering grounds in Africa in May and remaining here for three months until August.
Project Lead Cllr Jackie Huybs said: “I always thought Blaenavon had a healthy swifts population, but lots of residents have told me that they remember there being many more when they were younger.
“The main reason for the 57% fall in numbers since 1995 is that they prefer to nest in urban areas, using holes in walls and under the eaves of buildings. Demolition and renovation of buildings means the loss of many places suitable for nesting.”
If successful, the Council will extend the provision of boxes to more residents across the town, as part of an ongoing campaign to encourage and improve the conservation of swifts in the community.
Jackie added: “Swifts are the sight and sound of summer – on a fine day, you’ll hear them before you see them, swooping through the air in groups at breakneck speeds. They live their lives on the wing and land only to lay and incubate eggs.
“It’s fantastic that local businesses and residents have taken this project to their hearts."
Welsh Parliament Swift Species Champion in the Senedd Jenny Rathbone MS said: “Thank you to Blaenavon Town Council and the people of Blaenavon for providing a warm welcome to migrating swifts by installing nesting boxes where they can breed.
“Swifts are such an amazing species; they spend most of the year in the air and only land on buildings in order to build nests and raise their young. Their iconic cries are integral to our enjoyment of summer evenings.
“There has been a disturbing decline in the number of swifts nesting in Wales because new buildings often lack the nooks and crannies that swifts use to nest in. So your action is so important to help to prevent the decline of swifts in Wales and across the world. I would like to come and see your nesting boxes myself as soon as we have beaten this Covid-19 pandemic.”
Mayor of Blaenavon Cllr Alan Jones said: “I’m passionate about birds and all wildlife - in fact, the last week or so, it’s been great to hear Cuckoos near my house.
“I’m delighted that Blaenavon is becoming a swift-friendly town. We know there are already a few such towns in England and Scotland, and that there’s a big project in Cardiff Bay, but we believe we’re the first town in Wales to take this kind of action in trying to halt their decline.”
The boxes were made by Richard Lloyd Evans of New Inn, who runs environmental conservation initiative Project Nestbox. Richard makes a range of nest boxes for all birds that nest in holes or crevices - as well as for dormice, bats and hedgehogs - at a small cost to reinvest in the project, details of which can be found here https://bit.ly/2SU3u9G
Due to the coronavirus, a number of Blaenavon businesses that were going to have boxes fitted are closed at the moment, so we’re giving our last four nest boxes to residents. Please message us if you would like one and your home is suitable - the ideal site is under the eaves or on walls facing north, northeast or northwest, out of direct sunlight. They need to be placed five metres above the ground, with clear adjacent airspace so swifts can access them in a high-speed direct flight
• The RSPB are asking people to help by downloading its new Swift Mapper App and telling them about the birds they see. Take part here: https://bit.ly/35Q0Arz