Alfriston School & Berwick Church
SWIFT CONSERVATION
PROJECT 2017


The project is a response to the decline in swift numbers in the U.K. thought to be a result in the decline in suitable nesting places. This is a result of improvements to old buildings and new building design. Swifts nest in gaps in the roof of a building or crevices in a wall. The population was estimated at 80,000 in 1990 and is thought to have declined by 50% since then.

Swift boxes

4 swift nest boxes have been made by children from Alfriston Primary School using marine plywood. They were installed behind the louvres in the upper part of the flint tower of the church on 2nd May, around the time that Swifts arrive back in the U.K. from their winter migration to sub-Saharan Africa.

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Swift call player

A recording of the swift call, a screeching sound, is played in the early in the morning to try and attract swifts to these new boxes. It may be a couple of years before the birds establish their territory and use the nest boxes.

115 coloured swifts

About 115 coloured swifts were made by children from Alfriston Primary School to celebrate the project. Some are decorated with colours to represent the countries which the swifts fly over in their migration France, Spain, Morroco, Mali, Nigeria, DR Congo…….- some are decorated with spots to represent bead-making in Africa, and others with stained-glass pattern.

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Inspiration for the project

The project was inspired by a someone who was attending a funeral in 2016. The church was too full to accommodate everyone and the person was standing outside on the ancient mound behind the church –
3 or 4 swifts came early in the service, during the second verse of the first hymn.  They did not fly past fast, screeching as swifts so often do.  Rather they came slowly and quietly.  When they were directly over the church, they hung there fluttering gently.  It seemed they had come to listen.  Then, suddenly, they soared away high into the sky.  I had an overwhelming sense that they had come to show their respect and they conveyed that sense that they had come almost to take her to be happy and safe in the heavens above.

Acknowledgments

My thanks to Chris Mason for his support and advice, to Chris Powles for donating the bird song player, to Robert Coleman for helping with the workshops and making of the nest boxes.

Peter Blee