BIRD-loving residents hope their efforts will encourage swifts to make a speedy return to Harbury.
Swifts were once very common in Harbury – for decades faithfully returning each year to nest under the eaves of many properties. Several pairs nested at the Old New Inn and the birds used to be seen flying in very large parties through the village.
But as in the rest of the UK, there has been a massive decline in their numbers. One of the causes of this decline is the loss of their traditional nest sites, due to renovation or demolition of older buildings, while new buildings typically do not provide nesting opportunities for swifts.
Renovation work at the Old New Inn was the inspiration for a project to make Harbury one of only a very few Swift Villages in the UK. A Swift Village is a community made up of several groups of neighbouring houses, all with swift boxes, with the shared goal of supporting swift colonies.
In 2022, Harbury Parish Council agreed to give practical aid for Swift conservation through funding to provide and install nest boxes throughout the village.
Initially, the parish council contacted Bishop’s Itchington Men’s Shed, and in September last year the members of this organisation presented Harbury with ten swift nest boxes.
Swifts are gregarious and live in colonies rather than as individual pairs, so it was important to provide groups of boxes, either on a single property, or on several adjacent properties. As a result, Harbury Parish Council decided to fund a further 30 boxes, to be made and inscribed by local carpenter Craig Knowles of Phoenix Craft Creations.
This community initiative has really captured the imagination of people throughout the village.
Amanda Randall, who initiated the Harbury swift project, said: “It has been wonderful that so many have offered their properties to give swifts a home, as well as purchasing additional boxes to help build a colony in their neighbourhood.
“We have now installed over fifty swift nestboxes and where a choice of sites had to be made, data from the RSPB’s Swiftmapper website, and local knowledge of past swift nest sites, helped inform the best place for the boxes.
“This is a long-term project for Harbury. We very much hope that over the next few years, swifts will select some of these boxes to nest in.”
Swifts visit the UK for just three months of the spring and summer, from May to July, so it was crucial to get the boxes up and ready for their arrival in 2023.
Harbury Parish Council Clerk Alison Biddle added: “The parish council has funded the boxes and the installation work and provided some logistical support but it is really the residents of Harbury to whom we are most grateful for embracing Amanda’s initiative and volunteering to host the boxes on their properties. We are looking forward to seeing the results.”