Pakenham is very active for local wildlife – with initiatives to help species including barn owls and more recently swifts. Not to mention its very own Suffolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve, Mickle Mere. Resident, Paul Haines who overlooks Mickle Mere has also created his own website with regular updates on the wildlife he sees from and in his garden. Sandy Jackson who also lives near Mickle Mere in Grimstone End has been a volunteer with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust for many years and she, along with Paul are now Volunteer Barn Owl Advisors with the Trust. Sandy also manages the wildlife area at Pakenham Watermill…
Swift Tower at Mickle Mere
In July 2013 the local community and businesses raised £400 to install a swift nesting tower on Micklemere nature reserve. The swift tower is now in place and awaiting installation of the sound system.
This was an article published in the local parish magazine in March 2013:
Swifts in Suffolk
Following on from the amazingly successful Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project and our similar project in Pakenham over the last five or six years, we would now like to focus on the plight of our Swifts. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust in conjunction with Action for Swifts are offering advice and help through their websites and blogs to anyone who is interested as unfortunately the swifts are in serious decline and need our help.
Here is a bit of information on Swifts taken from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust website:
“Swifts are brilliantly adapted to life on the wing, -they feed on insects or airborne spiders, and drink by swallowing rain drops or skimming the surface of waterways. Swifts even mate and sleep in the air, they achieve this by only sleeping with one half of their brain at a time. Their scientific name, Apus apus, originates from Greek and means ‘without a foot’. Indeed these birds have very poorly developed legs which are only really suitable for perching. In fact swifts only ever land to nest, often spending up to 4 years airborne!
Unfortunately these fascinating birds are in trouble. Swift numbers in the South East of England have dropped by over half in the last 15 years, and they are now Amber listed as a species of Conservation Concern. This drop in numbers is thought to be a direct result of habitat loss, as old buildings swifts nest in have been either demolished or refurbished to prevent nesting birds.
Luckily conservationists have a solution for swifts. Throughout the county we have been fitting swift boxes. For instance; we now have swift boxes at our Lackford Lakes visitor centre, where we have also been playing swift calls to encourage the birds to set up nest. Swifts are trouble free tenants, making little noise or mess at the nest site, and they do not enter buildings when inhabiting the eaves.”
Paul Haines (who lives overlooking Micklemere) and I erected swift accommodation on our houses early last year but we did not get any takers unfortunately. Sadly, it was another bad year for them with the extreme and fluctuating weather conditions. We are hoping, fingers crossed, that they will take up residence this year and the weather conditions will be better for them.
We have been discussing the idea of erecting a Swift Tower on Micklemere with Will Cranstoun the Reserve Manager based at Lackford and Dick Newell from Action for Swifts – who has been busy designing a suitable one for Micklemere. To attract the swifts to any new box/housing you need to play the ‘swift call’ on and off during the day so we will need to set this facility up next to the tower with the help of a car battery and speakers. The whole kit, including the tower and erecting it, will cost around £300. We are hoping that after the generosity of residents, friends and visitors to the hide with the start of the barn owl project, we can raise enough funds for this but I know it’s a very big ask. We realise the swift is not such an appealing bird as the barn owl but like the house martins and swallows, it is a beautiful and amazing little visitor to our shores and I’m sure you’ll agree the sounds and sight of them ‘screaming’ and soaring high above us is all part of our English summer and just wouldn’t be the same without them.
If you feel you could donate something however large or small, it would be fantastic. It would be so rewarding, as with the barn owls, to see them raising young successfully in our village and perhaps surrounding areas of Norton and Tostock. Please let me know if you would like to make a donation and I can either collect from you (cheque or cash) or you can send it direct to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. We would like to get the Swift Tower made and erected in time for this year’s breeding season if possible.
If you are interested in fitting a swift box on your property they are available at Lackford Lakes telephone 01284 728706. Also, If you go onto the Suffolk Wildlife Trust website: www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org and search Swifts in Suffolk, this page has lots of information on swifts and interesting links including Action for Swifts and Swift Conservation. Also, if you have seen a swift nesting site they would be very pleased to hear from you and there is a form on the page where you can record your sighting and send to them.
Sandy Jackson | SWT Volunteer | Grimstone End | Pakenham | PakenhamSandy@aol.com