News of Our Group, and Relevant News for Our Members

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Swifts Saved? - Can You Help?


Demolition sign with hotel behind

The Walton Cottage Hotel was due to be demolished and its resident swifts made homeless...

Swift on the wingUpdate Wednesday 4th August

Action is going to be needed before the 2016 swift season, by local residents living reasonably close to the Walton Cottage Hotel. This is because the delay to the demolition has inevitably put back the building schedule, so there will still be scaffolding up when the swifts come back. That could stop the colony from reaching the new nesting boxes.

Jan Stannard is working with developers McCarthy and Stone about mitigation. They are being extremely helpful and are to be commended. They can’t do anything though, other than put in the new swift boxes during the 2015/16 build.  

This situation means that most, if not all, of the swifts in that large colony could be temporarily homeless or put off by the scaffolding and activity. If we don’t do something, few if any of them will be able to have young. As they mate on the wing, they often arrive needing to lay eggs urgently, so can become desperate. They will search frantically in the locality for alternative nesting sites when they come back in late April and early May.

Householders and organisations wanting to help them will need several months to sort out the location for a box, how to put it up and the playing of attraction calls.

The newly formed Maidenhead, Marlow & Cookham Swift Group has created this PDF of advice about putting up swift boxes. The PDF also includes details of other sources of information and contact information for the group.

Original News item 9th June

The Walton Cottage Hotel has been scheduled for demolition for some time, but unfortunately the work was scheduled for the nesting season.

The old hotel is a regular nesting site for swifts and they had started nesting there again this year. 

Jan Stannard saw the swifts' plight and contacted the developers, the police, Brian Clews, the Maidenhead Advertiser and the RBWM ecology officer. 

On Monday morning the Thames Valley Police Wildlife Officer, Kris Lovell, went to the site with a colleague officer, Rebecca Anderson (RBWM Ecologist) and Brian Clews (RSPB-EB member). They observed the birds entering nests under the eaves of one of the buildings awaiting demolition. They saw up to five pairs carrying out their traditional ‘screaming dives’ around the roof, a sure sign of territoriality, and also saw pairs mating on the wing.

The police informed the developers that they must arrange for an ecologist to study the situation, and have asked Rebecca Anderson to check the ecology forms that were submitted, to see if any reference was made to the swifts.

In the meantime the developers, McCarthy and Stone, have agreed to halt work pending the review.  McCarthy and Stone have said that  the new building will provide purpose-built facilities for the swifts.

This afternoon, Tuesday, the swifts were still nesting and the demolition site was quiet.

Update Wednesday 10th June, PM

GreenLink Ecology Ltd have located the swifts' nesting locations. That part of the development site will now be protected and monitored until the swifts have finished breeding for the year.  GreenLink confirm that the new development will have built-in swift boxes to ensure that the colony has a long-term future at the site.

Notes

The number of swifts in Berkshire has halved in the last 25 years so they need all the help that they can get.

Thw RSPB is running a swift survey and has advice on practical help rspb.org.uk/swiftsurvey

It is a criminal offence to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird, including moving a nest, under the 1981 Wildlife Act.