This afternoon I attended an interesting training session, run by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) on surveying for breeding swifts. As some readers of this blog will be aware, swifts are one of my favourite birds! They only visit Scotland for just over three months in the year (May to August) and spend the rest of the year flying down to Africa and then round and round Africa before coming back to the same nest site. They only land when they're nesting, when the young leave the nest they remain airborne for three or four years before they make their first nest! Swifts are declining in the UK for a number of reasons but one is the lack of nest sites - they next in holes in walls and under roofs and these days these holes are often blocked up when buildings are renovated. The City of Edinburgh Council (and some other councils in the UK) advise that swift bricks be used in new buildings over a certain height (a swift brick is a brick that is hollow inside and includes an entrance hole so that the swifts can enter the nest).
Today's event was intended to train up volunteers to be able to survey swifts in the city. We're going to survey for 'screaming parties' of swifts - the relatively low flying noisy groups of swifts that are searching for next sites in the early summer then later in the season we'll survey for active nest sites.
We'll be sent information in the next few days on where we need to do our survey - ideally it will be close to home, but there may be areas of Edinburgh that are under-served by volunteers so some of us may need to travel further afield! Hopefully wherever we survey we will find screaming parties of swifts, though we all know that this is actually unlikely as some areas of Edinburgh are without swifts.