Penns Road and Station Road - 11 months later! 

 

The first Swift Streets in Petersfield have led to a community collaboration and forged new friendships between neighbours, young and old. 

 

There is palpable excitement in Penns Road as we near the arrival of swifts from Africa, in the last week of April. Across Penns Road and Station Road there are now 25 swift boxes; a perfect swift village. 30 more swift boxes have been installed across Petersfield with 19 due to be added, and 30 placed in surrounding villages with 12 more due to be installed. Thats 85 installed and 31 due to go in!

This signifies a fantastic start to the Swift Streets project, and Sophie Swift tells us how proud she is of the renewed sense of community generated by the initiative in this pocket of Petersfield.  

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Our Friends, The Sparrows of Penns Road 

Since the swift boxes were installed, some were very quickly being used by sparrows. Initially, neighbours worried that this would put the swifts off from adopting the boxes. After some research we all learnt that, in actual fact, if sparrows have used a box it actually signals to swifts that they are safe spaces for their babies. The sparrows will have finished breeding by the time the swifts are ready to nest so it is a great relationship between the two species.

We are all crossing our fingers that some boxes will be taken up this year. It can take several years for this to happen but we are in it for the long-haul! 

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A PeCAN Project 

In Penns Road and Station Road we feel thrilled that we have inspired PeCAN to take this up this project across the town. The intention is to create Swifts Streets across Petersfield. The initial project in Penns and Station Road has forged an important link with Hampshire Swifts, the charity who build and install swift boxes. Petersfield has benefitted from two talks led by Hampshire Swifts and arranged by PeCAN so far, with another planned for April 12th, and there is a positive relationship between the two organisations.  

This project has shone a light on what individuals can do to make changes that prioritise the future of our planet. It is a great model to help the swift population, and with enough boxes going up across Petersfield we could create a Swift Trail, similar to one mapped in Lymington. This could extend to nearby villages such as Buriton and South Harting, where similar efforts are being made.  

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My Boxes 

My three boxes went in later than everyone else's last year. I needed a niche Swift Boutique Hotel due to the shape of my roof. Hampshire Swifts were very helpful with advice on positioning and they can survey your house on Google Maps to ensure it is a suitable site for a box.

I also have a call box which was easily installed by Roger from Hampshire Swifts, and includes a timer so it is not on 24 hours a day. This costs extra, but it does seem to encourage the swifts to feel they are in a safe place. I cannot wait to see what happens this year. Fingers crossed...  

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The Garden 

Even if swifts do not nest in my boxes this year I know I will love to sit outside and listen to the sound of the them screaming as they circle around the street and over the gardens. They are amazing birds and so captivating. It does slow down progress in the garden at times! Gardeners in the street are embracing changes we need to make due to climate change. There are numerous conversations about planting, introducing native plants into the garden and adding ponds for our native amphibians. We have a string of small garden ponds or sinks in the street providing environments for amphibians, dragonflies and other insects, as well as contributing to a wildlife corridor for other wildlife. My neighbours are now sharing plants too.  

In addition, via its Fruit Tree in Every Garden project, PeCAN has enabled people to plant subsidised fruit trees and native hedges in their gardens this year. We are also lucky in Petersfield to benefit from the Community Garden and the allotments at Adhurst and Tilmore. These elements are important to the swifts, who depend on green spaces for their food sources. It is noticable that gardeners are changing their practices and embracing the importance of retaining our native plants.  

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The Impact of Humans on Nature  

This project gives the people of Petersfield the opportunity to help save a unique and ancient species that retains a great deal of mystique amongst various cultures across the world. This stems from their migratory lives. The swifts arriving in Petersfield will have travelled at least 3,400 miles from Equatorial and Southern Africa, where they go for the winter and then return, making a round tour of between 7,000 - 14,000 miles. What could be more thrilling than welcoming a visitor to your home after such an incredible journey!  

I am lucky enough to have a garden and I will be looking to the sky in late April awaiting the wonder of the first swifts arriving here in Petersfield.  

If you think you could accommodate these intrepid travellers with a nest box on your house, please make an enquiry here. Single boxes cost £45, double boxes £75.

Some Interesting Swift Facts 

 

  • The Latin name is “Apus apus”. In Latin this means “footless”
  • Swifts are the fastest birds in level flight, with an impressive top speed of 69mph
  • Our famous local naturalist Gilbert White believed that swifts hibernated in the mud during winter
  • Baby swifts can go into a state of torpor if there is insufficient food
  • Swifts never land and spend their entire lives on the wing after leaving the nest 
  • Swifts are incredibly long-lived. They can live up to 21 years, with an average lifespan of 5.5 years

 

Look to the East in the last week of April to be amazed by these amazing creatures.

 

Eyes to the Skies Guys! 

Sophie Swift