Saturday, 17 February 2018

Cambridge System in a timber frame gable

In 2017 we were alerted to a situation in Isleham where a garage was about to be demolished while there was still a pair of Swifts feeding a chick in the roof. Confronted with a large steel ball, we took the pragmatic (though possibly illegal) approach, of removing the chick for fostering, which was successfully accomplished by Judith Wakelam.

The garage was demolished to make way for a new development of 4 houses, providing 5 suitable gables for Swift boxes. The company hired to assess the environmental impact detected 1 bat leaving the garage, but did not detect the Swifts.

However, the enlightened developer was more than willing to install 10 Swift boxes, 2 in each gable.

The building is timber frame, similar to the Fulbourn internal nest box design. but different from anything that we have previously tackled.

The structure of the walls behind the gables in the roof-space is: brick 102.5mm, empty cavity 50mm, silver-coated plywood 9mm, studs (4" x 2”) 100mm. There is no insulation.

It may have been possible to embed a suitably chosen Swift brick in the outer wall (provided it was less than 152.5mm from front to back, but we chose to recommend a version of the Cambridge System. This is a low cost simple way of accommodating Swifts by securing a nest box inside the roof space between the studs, flush with the plywood.

It comprises:
A half-brick entrance piece: the bricks either side of the entrance piece need to be trimmed by 56mm to leave a space122mm wide.
A piece of nominal 4” pipe, ~115mm long, trimmed to fit in the outer leaf
A simple plywood box, with no front, outside dimensions w350 x d162 x h150mm
A concave nest platform, glued to the floor of the box.
A nominal 4 inch hole is required in the plywood

The box is secured with battens across the studs..

Model of the outside

Model of the inside


System components
2 installed Swift boxes and 1 bat box. Photo Judith Wakelam

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Please support a worthwhile project

Yusuph Emmanuel (© Martine Wauters)

Action for Swifts is supporting a project to enable a talented young Tanzanian, Yusuph Emmanuel, to travel to the International Swift Conference in Tel Aviv in March.

AfS has agreed to enable UK people to make contributions via its Paypal link and bank account.
[Update - this appeal is now closed - we raised £575 - so Yusuph goes to Tel Aviv - THANK YOU!]

All monies received by AfS will be forwarded to the project.

Other methods of making payments (cheques and bank transfer) to AfS are described herePlease provide a clear reference to "Project Yusuph" with any payment.

For payments outside the UK, please contact Martine

Martine Wauters, whose initiative this is, describes the rationale behind this idea:

I'm contacting you with a call for financial support for an amazing Swift supporter from the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in Tanzania, to whom I would like to give the opportunity of participating in the next International Swift Conference in Tel Aviv.

As some of you may know, Dr Jane Goodall has been supporting my transcontinental Swift projects for years. In 2017, she asked her Tanzanian director to contact me in order to support my “Swifts Without Frontiers” initiative. Last July, I had the honour of making an "inspirational talk" to international "youth leaders" of her Roots & Shoots (R&S) network (a very successful worldwide youth programme), during a yearly summit in Windsor.

One of those 10 delegates, selected out of over 100,000 R&S groups, was Yusuph Emanuel, a 33 year-old Tanzanian from Kigoma. Yusuph had been a very dedicated R&S volunteer since 2000. Since his graduation from the Shinyanga Teachers College in 2013, he has been volunteering for the JGI in Kigoma, in various projects such as planting trees in schools, providing environmental education, raising awareness and love of animals and pursuing other community development activities.

After my presentation, Yusuph was immediately eager to support Swift conservation. Since his return to Tanzania last August, he has been leading an impressive awareness-raising campaign, talking with passion to over 2,500 students, and leading field study expeditions.

Swifts killed by villagers in the region of Kigoma
© Yusuph Emmanuel (R&S Tanzania)
During that field work, he's been finding out about regular cases of massive killing of various species of Swifts and Swallows, that have been traditionally eaten by the local population. He has not only been documenting and reporting this to me, but he's also been fighting with diplomacy and dedication to try and find a sustainable solution.

By helping him to go to Tel Aviv, you would not only allow him to learn a lot during the conference, but also to meet potential partners for future Swift and Swallow conservation in Tanzania. He could also participate with me in some school activities near Tel Aviv, and to be JGI's ambassador at the Swift Welcoming Ceremony, where he would represent R&S partner groups from Belgium, Spain, Scotland and South Africa (a.o.) who have all been participating in my Swifts without Frontiers projects.

He would be the first ever representative from sub Saharan Africa to participate in such a conference, which could open promising perspectives for Swift conservation in the area where those birds spend 9 months of the year, with no or very little conservation measures.

The aim of Swifts Without Frontiers is to help to support such initiatives and transcontinental partnerships in order to know and protect Swifts better throughout their range. As an active member of a world-wide programme dedicated to animal and environment protection, as well as to education and peace promotion, I’m convinced that Yusuph deserves massive support from the “Northern Swift Community”.

You can help by donating funds to cover his accommodation and travel expenses (or « frequent flier miles » if you have some from Air France).  We are still working out costs, but they are likely to be of the order of £1000.

Should there be any funds left over after paying for Yusuph’s trip to Tel Aviv they will be reserved for projects to support Swift and Swallow protection in Tanzania. A nation-wide campaign is being prepared by JGI Tanzania, with the help of Swifts Without Frontiers and the Dar Es Salam University.

You can find more pictures of Yusuph and his activities on my blog:
Anyone willing to help can contact Martine in private for practical details.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

2018 UK Swift Awareness Week, 16-23 June

16th - 23rd June 2018

One for your summer diary: the new national ‘2018 UK Swift Awareness Week’, 16 - 23 June 2018 As we count the days until our wonderful Swifts are back in our skies again, we’re delighted to let you know about an exciting development for 2018.

This summer, Britain will become the first country in the world to dedicate a national week in support of Swifts.

Swift Awareness Week will run from 16 - 23 June. There will be events and publicity all around the country, organised by dozens of local Swift groups. These events aim to raise awareness of Swifts and bring a focus to their plight, and of course provide information about how to help them. The Swift is one of the few endangered species that individuals really can help in their own property and there are many groups across the country working hard to try to halt their dramatic decline of 50% in just 20 years.

Some of the events that you might find happening near you are:

1. An evening walk to show people Swifts, led by a local expert.
2. A talk about swifts in a local hall.
3. An evening informal gathering at a house that has Swifts nesting.
4. An ‘open garden’ event with displays about Swifts and ideally Swifts nesting within sight.
5. A parade down a street with Swift flags and more.
6. A celebration of the Swifts and the long journeys they will be making in May and July/August at a local school.
7. A Swift stall/display at a local event or in the local library or community centre.
8. A Swift stall set up in the local church/community centre/school.
9. A combination of two or more of the above – or something completely different.

As we become aware of planned events we will publish them in the AfS Swift events diary

Of course if there is nothing near you, why not plan your own Swift event to join our busy calendar of events? Please send details to where you can also request further information.