Saturday, June 24, 2006

Swifts in a (Church) Tower

Betjeman's Guide to Parish Churches is a beautiful book, but it's a pity he wasn't a member of Action for Swifts, or he would have realised that parish churches are, in essence, nothing more than gigantic nestboxes (I said that recently to a vicar, who paused for a moment and then said "You know, I think that's a really profound remark". I don't understand vicars).
To keep nasty things out of the belfry, either wire mesh or hardboard is put up behind the louvres. What we have done is to replace sections of the wiremesh or hardboard in part with a form of nestbox (as illlustrated above) which provides up to eight nest cavities on each louvre window. So, accommodation for swifts, without compromising the belfry (One parisioner asked me, in all seriousness, if the swifts would damage the bells. We have a long way to go).
So far we have erected boxes in St Marys Ely, Holy Trinity Haddenham, and in the parish churches in Landbeach and Chippenham. We are negotiating to put up more boxes in other parishes in the area and further afield in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.
What we don't know is if these louvre nestboxes will work. We had good occupancy in St Marys Ely, but that is probably because there was already an existing colony that would have been lost when the tower was restored if we hadn't provided alternative accommodation.
So far, despite the use of a CD lure and fervent prayer, we have not yet had success in the other churches. But we all know how unpredictable swifts can be.
For further information, visit Action for Swifts.

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