The Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership, part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, are endeavouring to reduce the decline of the Swift population in the Ring of Gullion by providing a Swift nest tower at Derrymore Estate. Swifts are listed as Amber on the Irish & UK Birds of Conservation Concern list due to a decline of over 25% in their numbers over the last 25 years.
Swifts (Apus apus) are one of our gregarious African visitors, migrating here to take advantage of our summer insects, which they use to raise their young. Swifts spend their whole lives in flight, flying over 800km a day; they are even able to sleep while flying! The only time they land is to build their nests and raise their young.
Brian Cahalane from Swift Conservation said: “Swifts are with us for only three months of the year and when we see them in the sky we know that summer has arrived. This magnificent tower will provide a new home for twenty pairs of swifts for many years to come and visitors to the estate will be able to enjoy the spectacle of swifts wheeling over the grounds. As a founding member of the Northern Ireland Swift Group and designer of the tower, I wish to thank all those who made this home for Swifts possible. Swift numbers have been falling and towers such as this will help to address the balance.”
To celebrate the building of the swift tower, the pupils of St. Peter’s Primary School, Bessbrook were treated to a talk about Swifts by Brian. The school’s Eco-Group then visited the nest site to observe the last stages of construction and hear the swift caller activated. The Swift caller will play briefly around dawn and dusk each day to attract swifts to the new nest site.
Chairperson of Newry, Mourne & Down District Council, Naomi Bailie said: “It is vital that we do all we can to support our local environment. I am delighted to see our young people inspired by these fascinating birds.”
It is hoped that swifts will start using the site over the next few weeks as they arrive from Africa. The best time to see swifts is in the evening, when they are returning to their nests and form ‘screaming parties’, throughout the months of May, June and July.