The Chester Swift Conservation Project was set up in 2016 by members of RSPB Chester Local Group to raise awareness of the alarming fall in breeding swift numbers in the UK and to co-ordinate actions to increase the availability of suitable nest sites around Chester. Survey work was done in the city in 2016 and 2017 with help and input from partners such as Chester Zoo Wildlife Connections, Cheshire West and Chester Council, and record, the local recording organisation. The survey confirmed a fall in breeding swifts of 46% since 1995, mirroring the statistics nationally. The reasons for the fall in swift numbers are complex, but part of the problem is the renovation of old buildings and construction of new developments which do not provide suitable sites for nests.
Project members began talking to schools, community groups and local housing associations about the possibility of installing artificial nest sites (boxes and bricks) on suitable buildings. The first success was at the Queens School near the city walls, who put four swift boxes up near existing natural nest sites, and installed a mini-amplifier to play attraction calls. Since then, students at the University of Chester have started making their own boxes to install on halls of residence. Discussions with a local social housing company aimed at building swift bricks into new-build developments have reached an advanced stage. The Project’s campaigning continued with the organisation of swift walks in June 2018 in Hoole and Great Sutton, as part of the first UK Swift Awareness Week.
The Trust funding enabled RSPB Chester to increase the availability of suitable nest sites around Chester by offering subsidised box installations in areas near existing swift colonies. Further information about this work can be found here.