What a year for the Swifts of Whitby, and in particular those on "The Railway", otherwise known as Fishburn Park
The year started bang on time, with the first single lone Swift arriving May 7th, exactly the same as last year. It's always such a special moment, witnessing their arrival. After more than 8 months on the wing, they are now back at their place of birth, and their behavior seems to suggest an excitement of having returned home. The very next day 2 more arrived. Having watched them for more years than I care to remember, it's obvious to me that this is the pair who have nested two doors down, for well over 10 years. Except with the addition of another member.
As we had fine weather, they wasted no time in seeking out their usual nesting space - a small nook in the brickwork where 2 terraced house join. However, after a few days of watching them, it became apparent the hole had been blocked. What a disaster. This is one of the main reasons why the are numbers are dropping. Employing my best neighborly, diplomatic, heart felt protestations to no avail, I quickly got a basic nest box up.
Then double disaster - we were struck with over two week's of miserable, dank, onshore mizzle and low cloud drizzle. A major sea fret had taken hold, meaning terrible conditions for any early nesting birds. There were not seen or heard for two and a half weeks. When the weather finally broke in late May, early June ( this was the start of the heat wave that's still with us ), the disc calling CD went on. This had immediate results with several birds investigating, but not finding / entering the nest box. All was not lost, as they found a nest space just a bit further along another terrace, which in the past has been used by non breeders. However this year, no other birds nested close by.
Usually there are anything between 8-12 birds who regularly nested around Fishburn Park. This year, only 3. Sadly, I've watched the houses where they've nested, sell, get done from top to bottom ( usually as holiday lets I might add ) and the nest space is lost. This is despite my one man campaign to save them. On a more positive note, I did hear that the numbers of Swifts around the Stakesby area was very positive. Also the population in Staithes and RHB/Fylingthorpe are doing well it seems.
As the brief season wore on, they appeared to be doing well, with at least one chick on the way in the terrace below, but still no takers for the box. After much thought (with inspiration from http://www.bristolswifts.co.uk/ ) I made a new box, trying to replicate where they'd nested for all these years previous.
This new box had a lot of interest, but again no takes. meanwhile, just eary last week, I noticed 4 birds, rather than the 3. It was too early for it to be a chick from this year, so I think it was a pair newly wedded, ready to nest next year. This has been backed up the last few days, as we now have 5 birds bombing around. It'll be interesting to see how long they hang atround for.
As a final thought, it's positive to note that there are now more and more people willing to put up boxes for next year, including the local school. I'm even hoping to start a local Swift Group. Helping to keep the summer skies alive !!
.UPDATE 7th August 2018.
The Swifts have not been seen since early Sunday morning, so I'm pretty sure they have now gone.