Lifetime fowl watcher and over 60 years an RSPB member, Dick Newell, retired from the software program trade, now devotes time to devising methods to assist Swifts, which led lately to the BTO giving a Marsh Award for Revolutionary Ornithology to Motion for Swifts. paperwork a lot of case research, designs and concepts.

Swift chicks in a Swift Brick. picture: Dick Newell

Swift Bricks – the ‘common’ nest brick

The federal government needs to construct 300,000 houses per 12 months over the following few years. On the identical time, authorities planning tips say that any new residential growth ought to attain a “10% internet achieve in biodiversity” (Ref 1).

The metric for biodiversity internet achieve is concentrated on inexperienced habitats and there’s no technique of accounting for the supply of nest containers on dwellings as a part of this course of.  There’s a blind religion that these new inexperienced habitats might be maintained for wildlife in the long run, whereas doubling up as amenity areas in shut proximity to housing, and that biodiversity will probably be enhanced.

Undoubtedly some birds could transfer in – Robins could discover a nest place in a inexperienced wall and Blackbirds in among the shrubs. Though Blue Tits could use the odd nest field put up by a number of conservation-minded residents, what about provision for cavity nesting species?

Properly, The Nationwide Planning Coverage Pointers (NPPG  issued 21/07/2019) below paragraph 23 headed “How can biodiversity internet achieve be achieved?” say:

“Comparatively small options can usually obtain vital advantages for wildlife, equivalent to incorporating swift bricks and bat containers in developments and offering protected routes for hedgehogs between totally different areas of habitat” (Ref 2)

There’s a vary of cavity-nesting creatures that will profit from integral nesting or roosting websites together with a number of species of fowl, bats and bugs.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) of their guide “Designing for Biodiversity – second version” recommends:

“As a tenet, the variety of constructed-in provisions of nest or roost websites per growth ought to be roughly the identical because the variety of residential items “ (Ref 3)

Various planning authorities have adopted this guideline, which is predicated on the usual set by Exeter Metropolis Council of their award-profitable Design Information, in both Supplementary Planning Paperwork or Technical Recommendation Notes – for instance Cornwall, Oxford, Brighton and Plymouth and South West Devon.  Additionally, The Duchy of Cornwall is implementing this commonplace on numerous massive developments in South West England and is supporting a undertaking to watch the species that take up these new nest websites.

Nevertheless, many planning authorities mandate a lot lower than this, usually between 10% and 20% of dwellings and in lots of instances none. Few authorities have the sources to watch implementation leading to lack of enforcement when builders don’t comply.

Except for this, many planning circumstances specify inappropriate or an unbalanced provision of nest or roosting websites such because the absurd e.g. nest containers for Tune Thrushes!

Continuously massive numbers of ‘sparrow terraces’ are specified. A sparrow terrace accommodates three nest chambers for sparrows. One may even see circumstances like “10 Swift bricks and 20 sparrow terraces” in a 200-house growth – that’s 60 nest locations for sparrows vs 10 for swifts. There are ~100 pairs of Home Sparrows to each single pair of Swifts within the nation. The Home Sparrow inhabitants has been steady for the final 25 years, whereas the Swift continues to say no at about ~5% every year. In any case, the sparrows will transfer into the swift containers.

The Swifts Native Community (SLN) Swifts & Planning Group has produced a paper advocating the supply of Swift bricks as a most well-liked answer for a spread of small cavity-nesting species. It comes from a realisation that this can have higher outcomes for these species than making an attempt to fulfill all species independently.

The paper makes the factors that integral or inside nest containers are:

  • extra aesthetically pleasing
  • upkeep free
  • lengthy lasting
  • much less susceptible to predation
  • much less susceptible to temperature variations

The paper doesn’t deal with species that favor open-fronted nest containers or nest containers appropriate for mounting externally.

A Home Sparrow in a Swift brick.
Picture: Hugh Hastings and the Duchy of Cornwall

The principle thrust of the paper is to counter the present tendency to provision massive numbers of sparrow terraces. There may be mounting anecdotal proof that they’ve very low occupancy charges and that Home Sparrows favor Swift containers.

A chief instance is Fulbourn Cambs the place 276 Swift containers are house to ~100 pairs of Swifts in addition to numbers of Home Sparrows, Starlings, Nice Tits and even Home Martins. 50 sparrow terraces (150 nest locations) in the identical growth include no sparrows, simply the occasional pair of Nice Tits or Blue Tits.

A Home Martin in a Swift brick.
Picture: Hugh Hastings and the Duchy of Cornwall

A one-dimension-matches-all coverage will not be solely simpler, it simplifies issues for ecologists, planners and builders. Additional, whereas Swift containers can accommodate Home Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, Blue Tits, Nice Tits, sometimes Home Martins and, with a bigger entrance, Starlings, sparrow terraces can not accommodate Swifts.

You possibly can obtain the paper, written by Camilla Barlow, Mike Priaulx, and SLN Swifts & Planning Group, right here: PDF



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