Sligo Swift Survey 2019 to take place this summer

Sligo Swift Survey 2019 to take place this summer

Perhaps the most iconic and intriguing of our urban bird species, Swifts are a small migratory bird that visit Ireland each year to nest.

Sligo Swift Survey Underway – Can you help us find them?

Perhaps the most iconic and intriguing of our urban bird species, Swifts are a small migratory bird that visit Ireland each year to nest.

Swifts are amazing! Once you see them in flight and hear their call, you immediately fall in love with them – they are summer personified and it’s hard to believe that they weigh less than a crème egg! Perhaps the most iconic and intriguing of our urban bird species, Swifts are a small migratory bird that visit Ireland each year to nest. They travel from southern Africa where they have spent nine months of the year. Their future is seriously threatened in Ireland due to loss of nesting sites and suitable feeding habitats. From May to August each year, you will usually hear swifts before you see them, their distinctive piercing ‘screaming’ call is uttered on the wing as they fly superbly over roof tops at high speed.

Since May of this year, BirdWatch Ireland (BWI) has been undertaking a swift survey of County Sligo. The survey is being undertaken so that we can take action to halt the decline in Sligo’s swift population. The key focus of the survey is to know how many swifts there are in the county and where they nest in our towns and villages. To date, Swifts have been found in about a third of the county’s towns and villages, including; Ballymote, Ballysadare, Carney, Castlebaldwin, Collooney, Culfadda, Dromore West, Keash, Mullaghmore, Sligo, Sooey and Tubbercurry. As part of the survey, Birdwatch Ireland are also reaching out to local communities. The support and active engagement of local communities is critical to building greater awareness of this unique bird species and in undertaking conservation action where it is needed. If your community or Tidy Towns Group would like to get more information or get involved in swift conservation in Sligo, please contact Ricky Whelan (BWI Project Officer on 087 -783 2545). 

The Sligo Swift Survey continues from May to the end of August 2019, however July will be a critical survey period as the swifts continue to feed their young in the nests and it is still possible to identify nest sites in buildings. By August, the swifts will be leaving and returning south, so it will be increasingly difficult to survey for swift nest sites in buildings. If you have a sighting of swifts or if you are aware of swifts nesting in your local town or village, please let the BWI survey team know by emailing swifts@birdwatchireland.ie, all Swift records and information will be greatly appreciated. 

While the survey focuses its efforts on urban and rural settlements where traditionally most nesting Swifts will be found, Swifts are also known to nest in natural cliff faces along the Sligo coast and are likely to nest in suitable quarry sites and potentially on mountain cliff faces. The survey efforts will fail to capture these nest sites but it is important that we record them where these are known. BWI are asking hill walkers, hikers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts such as surfers and kayakers to inform us by emailing: swifts@birdwatchireland.ie if you know of or encounter Swifts nesting in the situations described above. We need; the date recorded, a precise location (using a grid reference or detailed description), an estimate of how many Swifts were seen, an estimate of how many nest sites there may be and a short description of the activity observed. BirdWatch Ireland and Sligo Heritage Office would be most grateful to anyone who can make us aware of the location of any new swift nest colonies that have previously been unrecorded. 

The ‘County Sligo Swift Survey 2019’ is an initiative of Sligo Heritage Forum and is an action of the County Sligo Heritage Plan 2016 – 2020. The project is funded by Sligo County Council and is being delivered by BirdWatch Ireland on behalf of the Heritage Office, Sligo County Council.

If you would like more information please email or call Ricky Whelan (BirdWatch Ireland Project Officer) at rwhelan@birdwatchireland.ie or on 085 783 2545.

Also, you can listen back to Ricky Whelan, of BirdWatch Ireland, as he talks to Harry Keaney on Ocean FMs Arts House about a survey taking place in County Sligo; it concerns little birds knows as Swifts, one of the fastest flyers on the planet. (25.34.00) - https://www.oceanfm.ie/2019/04/28/arts-house-with-harry-keaney-april-28th-2019/