Saving Bassingbourn Swifts

The swift population has declined by a staggering 58% since 1995. This project aims to support the falling swift population by providing artificial nest sites.

We face significant biodiversity loss. As a result, many of our bird species are in trouble. The Birds of Conservation Concern Red List now includes 70 species of bird. These are the species which are in most urgent need of our help and includes summer migrants such as swifts and house martins. Both species have suffered significant population decline in the last 30 years.

A major cause of the population decline is the loss of natural nest sites. Fortunately, both species will take to artificial nest sites which provides a convenient means for us to support these birds.

In Bassingbourn, we are lucky to have small established colonies of swifts and house martins. However, both species need our help to allow them to flourish.

Swifts (Apus Apus) have been selected as a “flagship species” for conservation efforts within the village.

You have probably seen, and heard, these birds as they form summer “screaming parties” in the skies over the village on bright summer days. Swifts pair for life and are nest site faithful, returning from overwintering in Africa to the same site each summer (a swift tagged in Fowlmere helped uncover their step-by-step migration journey – see Swifts start to share their secrets). They are only with us for 3 months each year, typically arriving early May and leaving during August.

This project began with a single nest box on a single house. Last year we had 6 nest boxes on 4 houses with a 50% occupancy rate. The aim is to increase the number of nesting sites within the village and boost our swift colony.

We are looking for potential sites for nest boxes. Nest boxes are being made available at a subsidised cost. We will provide advice regarding the siting of nest boxes. A north or north-easterly aspect is preferred, about 5m high and with a clear flying area in front. When you see swifts entering a nest box you will appreciate these requirements!

We can help with installation but are also looking for additional help. If you have long ladders and a head for heights, please let us know!

The project will monitor the use of the nest boxes and aims to record additional natural nest sites within the village.

There are many swift support groups around the country pursuing the same goals. Thus, we have a chance to make an individual and collective contribution to stop and reverse the decline of this species.

“Boosting Bassingbourn’s Biodiversity”