By Suzanne Pender
A FASCINATING little bird fighting for survival has found a warm welcome and protection in Tullow.
This week, Tullow Tidy Towns and Climate Action Committee outlined the results of their swift survey, the result of a year’s research by ornithologist Padraig Webb into the habit and habitats in Tullow of this migratory bird.
Swifts are on the red list of Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland (2020-2026) and have suffered a 57% decline in their breeding population in the past 18 years. They are small (40 gram) migratory birds which come from middle Africa to nest in Ireland in the summer months, while an estimated breeding population of 51,728 swifts remain in Ireland.
The group commissioned Padraig to count the number of nesting swifts in Tullow and the results made for fascinating reading at the survey’s launch last week in the local library.
The Tullow Swift Survey revealed there are a total of 26 nesting pairs in the Tullow town core area, which is a surprisingly good number. Padraig found eight nesting sites in Tullow, principally in old buildings, which had open spaces to allow air into the attics. The most important nesting site, with a total of nine nests, is Scoil Padraig Naofa (the boys national school), followed by the former Monastery Merchants building, which has four nesting sites.
These tiny birds have a 21-year lifespan and have curved wings shaped like a scythe, which allow the birds to remain in the air.
During some of the survey evenings, Padraig was accompanied by volunteers from Tullow Tidy Towns and the highest number of swifts observed was 60 birds over the Pairc Mhuire residential area.
Swifts tend to be easier to notice at evening time from 7.30pm to 9pm, when they return to the nests to feed the chicks.
In his report, Padraig made a number of key recommendations, including the publication of the results of the report; organising swift-themed walks; engagement with local schools; the incorporation of swift nest bricks into new buildings; the erection of swift nesting boxes at key locations and a complete re-survey of the core town area in 2025, to check the effect of the nesting boxes on the swift population.
Cllr Will Paton, chairman of Tullow Tidy Towns committee, thanked Padraig for all his work on conducting the survey. After the presentation of the report’s findings, there was a short question and answer session.
Tullow Tidy Towns committee wishes to acknowledge financial assistance from Carlow County Council and POBAL Tidy Towns Branch (Department of Community Development) towards the cost of the survey.
Two hard copies of the Tullow Swift Survey 2022 are available at Tullow Library. Alternatively, the report is available by emailing [email protected].