The Swifts are back in town! There have been photos of swifts over Port Meadow, a joyful sight indeed. Here’s a message from Oxford Swift City about what we can do to help them at this time:
They will probably need to feed up for a couple of weeks following their long migration from southern Africa before they start looking for nest sites.
These are just the vanguard. There were reports a few days ago of a large movement of swifts across the Straits of Gibraltar. Let’s hope they find their way to Oxford.
Unfortunately, we cannot conduct our annual survey while the current restrictions on movement are in place. We remain hopeful that restrictions may be eased before the end of the swift nesting season in July but we will have to wait and see.
Of course, we would still encourage people to watch out for swifts from your homes and when taking your daily exercise locally. Below we outline some guidelines helpfully provided by the RSPB.
As ever, any sightings of nest sites or low-flying swifts can still be recorded on the website https://swiftsurvey.org/Rspb/Home/SubmitRecord
Swift survey training
As we are unable to hold a meeting for survey training, we are creating a video presentation which we can share by email. That should be ready before the end of the month. We will share the link with all of our circulation list in the hope that some of you who have not yet volunteered may be encouraged to do so when you see how easy and fun it is.
Swift nest boxes
If you have swift nest boxes, please keep a particularly close eye out for their use – by any species. Apparently, one of the five nestboxes at St Frideswide’s Church has been occupied by blue tits! Let us know if you see any swifts investigating the boxes or flying close by.
Watching for swifts under the lockdown
If the current lockdown extends into the survey season (mid-May to end July) the advice to members of the swift group is:
- If group members want to record swifts as an incidental part of their daily exercise in their own neighbourhood, that’s okay as long as the social distancing guidelines are observed.
- They should not pair up with another volunteer who is not from the same household, or extend their time outdoors beyond what is consistent with the Government’s guidance to “minimise” that time.
- They must not travel away from their home neighbourhood by car or public transport for the purpose of swift surveys – this is clearly “unnecessary travel” by the Government’s guidance. Travel by bicycle in Oxford is a marginal call but I think common sense tells us that if a group member needs a bicycle to reach their survey area then they should not be doing so – this is rather different to getting on a bike for their normal daily exercise, which I am sure some will do.
- If instead they want to record swifts in their own immediate neighbourhood, consistent with following the Government’s guidance as part of their daily exercise, that’s okay and will still contribute valuable data.
- People who should be self-isolating or “shielding” themselves should only observe purely from their own property.
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