Group in Totley aiming to protect 'incredible' endangered bird

A volunteer group is fighting to protect an endangered bird by introducing specially-made bird nests into a Totley estate in time for its migration to the UK in summer.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 12:17 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 4:00 pm

Friends of Gillfield Wood, a voluntary group from the Totley area, has drafted in the help of a Peak District joiner to design and make special nest boxes for some ‘amazing’ summer resident swifts.

Unlike most other birds, the swift, famed for being one of the fastest birds in the world; reaching speeds of over 60 miles per hour in flight, nests in holes in buildings.

However, due to renovations and designs of post-war buildings, it is getting increasingly difficult for the swift to find a place to nest for summer.

"They are an amazing bird," says Totley resident Sally Goldsmith

Following a survey taken by Sally Goldsmith from Friends of Gillfield Wood, it was found that 15 swifts nested in houses in the Laver Estate in Totley – including houses on Laverdene Road and Laverdene Avenue.

Sally Goldsmith, who helped set up the Totley Swift group as part of the Friends group, said: “Unlike other birds, that nest in other trees, swifts nest in buildings, but buildings that they build now they can’t find holes in them and increasingly these houses, people are doing up the rooves, they can’t get in anymore.

"But there are still quit a lot of them that the swifts nest in, and I surveyed last summer, by going out at dusk, and managed to find about 15 nests sites, and there might have even been more.

"They are an endangered species now, because new buildings are not suitable. And also because of the decline in insects, because they only eat insects.

The swift nest box made by Lester Hartmann

"They are an amazing bird because they don’t touch land for three years, they mate in the air. They fly at incredible speeds and fly into nests at 40 miles per hour and stop. ‘just like that’, so they are incredible birds.

"They come up from Africa in May and go again in August.”

Following the findings, the group decided they wanted to do something to protect the ‘amazing’ bird, and decided to contact the council to get a grant to commission specially-made swift nest boxes.

The group posted letters through the doors of the houses that swifts have taken a shine to, and most responded saying they were willing to have a box placed in their house.

The boxes have been designed by Peak District joiner Lester Hartmann and will arrive in Totley in April, just in time for when the swifts arrive at the start of May.

“We are trying to do our bit in Totley to encourage them, so we got a grant from the council to provide some nest boxes and then we financed some ourselves,” said Sally.

"What people are also doing is buying recording equipment so you can play the sound of the swift from your nest box to attract them in – so I am getting one, even though our house is not one of the houses we do back onto the park where they fly over so try to encourage them over.

“Last summer I took my nine-year-old niece with me and she lives in one of the houses so knew the swifts nested there and hadn’t seen them.

"We went out one night and it was rainy, and the swifts don’t like the rain, so I said, ‘oh we won’t have luck’.

"But when we got home and her dad opened the door, one swift dived into a nest just above our heads.

"So they are getting another nest box, and they’re very special and have to be a particular shape.”