Help us with our Swift Survey: If you should be interested in making a record of what you encounter when watching Swifts near to you or around the villages of Totley, Dore and Bradway, please do take the opportunity of filling in one or more of our Survey Forms. Click here for the link. Details of where to submit the form are shown on the form. Please do let us know as soon as possible if you suspect Swifts are nesting in your property or any other property or a nest box.
Should you wish to contact one of the other Swift Groups in Sheffield or look at the Swift information on the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust website please go to our Links page.
Our Display in the Library Our Evening Swift Walk
TOTLEY SWIFT GROUP (July 2022)
Swift Awareness Week ran from 2nd July to 9th July this year and during that week Totley Swift Group had a large eye-catching display at Totley Library, and on Saturday the 2nd they also had a stand outside the Co-op on Baslow Road. Both created a great deal of interest into the plight of Swifts, these beautiful birds that produce the most amazing air displays around our village. We are so very privileged to have Swifts breeding in a few of our Totley houses when they have disappeared from so many parts of the country. Swifts have been subject to a national decline of some sixty percent in the last 25 years, so they are a bird we certainly do need to help.
On Thursday July 7th the group then attended a Swift Seminar at Hallam University with other Swift Groups from around the city. It was organized by the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and we were invited to have a stand and display there which again created a lot of excitement, interest and enquiries.
The week has proved a huge success raising the group’s profile both near and far, and thanks go to Julie Gay and Chris Brewster for all their hard work putting the displays together. And it is really pleasing to know how well the various Sheffield Swift Groups are networking, sharing information and supporting each other with the main aim, to protect Swifts.
But our work in the week did not end there, and on the Tuesday evening over 20 local residents gathered together on Mickley Lane to attend a Swift Walk. It was a perfectly clear evening and Sally Goldsmith led the group around part of the Laverdene estate sharing her knowledge about Swifts and the site she has studied so well over the last few years as she pointed out nest sites and newly erected nest boxes. The Swifts performed well, so all of the group had good views as the evening progressed and the birds came down from feeding on high, to screaming low over roof tops and over our heads. This event was such a success it will certainly be organized again next year.
From these events, articles and social media, more enquiries are being fielded by the group and these enquiries are not only from Totley residents but from residents in Dore, Bradway and further afield. We are now finding ourselves more and more an S17 group and not just a Totley group.
Our next day for fitting more Swift nest boxes is planned for late autumn. Visits to houses are being made now to discuss the best site for a box and the most suitable box to purchase. And if the resident wishes to purchase a nest box through “Peak Boxes” of the Hope Valley then we can help by providing a discount code and we can arrange collection as well as fitting.
In the meantime, a number of members of the group are walking around the village making a note of the number of Swifts present and what activity is observed, which can include high or low flying birds; birds entering cavities in houses or even into boxes that have recently been erected by the group. Activity at some boxes is already occurring which is great news because if Swifts do get used to using these specially designed nest boxes, then we hope this will be the start of seeing the birds increase in numbers in our area over the next few years.
So, if you are interested in having a Swift nest box erected on your property or you want to send in records of your sightings or get involved in surveying these wonderful creatures that zip through our skies, just contact email@example.com and help us try to halt the decline of Swifts.
Please write to that email address if you just want to be added to the Totley Swift Group mailing list for the occasional (and I do mean occasional) newsletter; membership of the group is free. And if you have time, do have a look at the Totley Swift Group page that appears on the Friends of Gillfield Wood website.
Enjoy the last few days of Swifts flying overhead this season as they will be preparing to depart in August for Africa. We can only hope that they will survive their long migration and their time in their winter quarters, and safely return in May next year to provide us with so many exhilarating experiences.
Different styles of Swift boxes being fitted by the group on 3rd March 2022.
TOTLEY SWIFT GROUP
A good number of residents in the village are getting excited as we get nearer to the month of May. They are looking forward to those wonderful birds, the Swifts, returning from their winter quarters in Africa and flying low over our rooftops in aerobatic formations.
Those residents have had Swift nest boxes erected on their properties over the last two years and are eagerly waiting to see if a pair of Swifts takes an interest in their new nest box. Some residents have even had a sound system fitted to play Swift calls that can attract Swifts to the box.
Should you be interested in having a Swift nest box fitted to your property and would like some advice, please do not hesitate to contact Totley Swift Group by email; the contact address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are considering a Swift box, one important point to make is that Swifts do not make a mess on the outside walls below the fitted nest box. You will also be please to know that once the box is fitted it does not need to be cleaned out, unlike boxes that say, Blue Tits and Robins occupy.
Part of the service our Swift Group provides is to visit properties and discuss with the owner, the type of boxes available and where best to site a box. We can also explain the use of a sound system, should that be of interest. Some of the nest boxes also have a facility behind the box, that provides a place for bats to roost.
Nearly all the boxes we have erected have been made by Peak Boxes, a business that operates out of the Hope Valley. We have a great working relationship with the owners; their website is well worth a look. If the nest box is purchased from them, we can collect it, to avoid postage, and we may even be able to arrange a discount, depending on when the box is purchased. In addition, we are always hopeful that we can arrange for a fitter to erect a number of boxes around the village on one agreed day.
On one Thursday in March, we managed to get 11 more boxes erected around the village. That means that nearly 70 boxes have been erected since our Swift Group was formed two years ago, and as most of the boxes have dual nest chambers, we are now providing Swifts with over 120 new nest sites to choose from.
There is real concern as to the speed at which Swift numbers have declined nationally; this has been put down in the main to the birds losing natural nest sites in buildings where property improvements have been carried out. With all these new nest sites we are providing, we are hoping that we can, not only halt the decline of Swift numbers in our village, but we can also help them increase their numbers over the coming years.
Our Totley Swifts Facebook account continues to attract more followers. This inevitably brings in more enquiries from in and outside the village, so we have found that we are providing advice to people not only in Totley but in Dore, Bradway, Millhouses and Ecclesall as well. We are also in close contact with other Swift Groups in Sheffield and as such, are able to pass people on, where appropriate, to a group covering the area in which they live; groups such as S6, S7 and S11.
Some residents are very keen to have a nest box so that it provides an education tool for their children, which is great. Other residents have specifically asked us to fit their nest box on the back of their house so they can watch the Swifts coming and going on a warm summer evening whilst they sit outside with a glass of wine. Now, if that is not an incentive to have a box fitted……
We look forward to hearing from you.
Erecting a specially designed Apex Swift nest box on Totley All Saints School. Totley Swift Group with on the right Lester and Lynden Hartmann of Peak Boxes.
Mick Warwick and Chris Brewster helping Lester erect one of the boxes.
David Steward, Chris, Lester and Mick with one of the ten boxes bought with the funds kindly donated by Birds on the Brink, as engraved on the bottom of the box.
TOTLEY SWIFT GROUP, THE STORY SO FAR
Friends of Gillfield Wood has been running now for over 10 years. Some of our committee members were keen to set up a Swift Group in Totley so a couple of us went over to Bradwell in November 2019 to hear a talk on Swifts and to find out a little more about a Swift Group that was being set up in that village.
In early 2020 we had organized a sub-committee, part of Friends of Gillfield Wood, to work on ideas for a Totley Swift Group. We invited Chet Cunago to join us as she had by chance just set up a Facebook page and created interest in Swifts in the village, to the point that a number of residents had purchased Swift nest boxes from Lester Hartmann’s “Peak Boxes”.
Two of the main aims of the group have been to survey and try to establish the current status of Swifts in the village and to try to protect the existing nest sites; this is ongoing. And to provide additional nest sites by erecting nest boxes.
We initially advertised our group through articles in the Totley Independent and by putting up posters around the village. We were due to have a Swift talk in April last year to kick start our group but Covid restrictions meant we had to cancel. We pressed on nevertheless and were successful with a £500 grant application to the Council Ward Pot. With this money we were able to purchase 10 dual chambered nest boxes from “Peak Boxes”.
At the same time, we had created sufficient interest through word of mouth etc., for 10 local residents to purchase boxes privately from Lester. All 20 boxes were erected in March of this year.
Our survey work between May and August 2020 had provided us with a good idea as to where Swifts were nesting in the village. We had found natural sites in holes in brickwork and under gutters. This helped us make decisions as to where to site the nest boxes we had purchased with the grant money. Since then, a second season of survey work has enabled us to establish that we have at least 25 natural nest sites in Totley. A reasonable base from which to work and we hope to find more next year.
We also made another successful grant application, this time from “Birds on the Brink”. As this is an internationally known charity in the bird world, we feel very privileged to have gained their support. This has enabled us to purchase another 10 nest boxes and these were erected last month.
Pleasingly we have now been able to get both Totley schools involved. As a start, one box has been fitted on each school with the intention of introducing more boxes, sound systems plus cameras inside the boxes in due course.
A dozen more residents showed interest in purchasing their own boxes which, we have managed to erect this month. So, with nearly all these boxes having dual nest chambers we will have introduced around the village over 90 new nest sites for Swifts so far. Our thanks extend to Lester who has erected the boxes and helped us so much over the last 18 months.
Chet’s Facebook page, Totley Swifts, continues to generate great interest with at least 70 followers. We also set up an Outlook Account for email purposes. Membership is free and we have 50 people on the mailing list so far. This is used for sending out occasional updates and a survey form should any members wish to send in data of their Swift sightings.
We also have a WhatsApp group just for the Swift Group committee to keep in touch. We have even had outdoor committee meetings in Green Oak Park whilst watching the Swifts overhead.
We hope to have an evening of Swifts for members next season with a planned walk around the village. And we hope to encourage the Council to make Sheffield a City of Swifts, getting developers to use Swift Bricks and nest boxes around the city wherever possible.
Our group’s profile has been raised through articles in the Star, the Sheffield Telegraph and a piece on Radio Sheffield. Sally Goldsmith, another of our committee members, was also kindly invited by the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust to say a few words about our group at the end of a recent Zoom meeting on Swifts.
We are in touch with other Swift Groups and share information and advice and we hope to help and work alongside Dore Swift Group going forward.
We now eagerly await next May in the hope that Swifts will show more than just a passing interest in our nest boxes but will actually start to occupy one or two. Exciting times.
Chris Measures, Chair of Totley Swift Group
Committee: Mick Warwick, Chris Brewster, Sally Goldsmith, Chet Cunago, Julie Gay
TOTLEY SWIFT GROUP 2021
The Friends of Gillfield Wood have been spreading their wings and have set up a Swift Group in Totley.
Swift Groups have and are being set up all over the country; in cities, towns and
villages. Our Swift Group had a very successful year surveying the village for nesting sites
during the breeding season of 2020. Swifts choose to nest in gaps in brickwork in
properties, near or under gutters, or in holes in roofs. They return to the same nest site in May, and leave again for Africa in July/August.
One of the aims of the Totley Swift Group is to try to protect these existing nesting sites
because so many sites have been lost to house, roof and guttering improvements, when
residents were not aware that they had Swifts nesting in their property. There has been a massive decline in the Swift population nationally in recent years, a 57% decline in 21 years. Although we have noticed a decline in numbers in Totley over recent years, we are
fortunate to still have about 20 pairs of Swifts breeding in the village.
One of our other aims is to introduce Swift nest boxes to certain suitable properties throughout the village to try and give Swifts alternative nesting sites. Just after setting up the Group, we were successful in securing a grant from the council to enable us to purchase 10 Swift boxes with a dual nest chamber. In addition, 12 such boxes were purchased by
individuals and sponsors; thus the 22 boxes have provided the Swifts with 44 new nest sites to choose from around our village!
The nest boxes are professionally made by Lester Hartmann of Peak Boxes at his workshop in the Hope Valley. He is known nationally for his nest boxes and he has provided great
support to our group during our first year. His website is certainly worth a look:
Those 22 boxes were erected last March by Lester and two members of the Swift Group. Swifts, in their first and second years of life, are known to investigate new nesting sites so hopefully we will see them nesting in our boxes over the coming years.
We hope to erect another 10 dual chambered boxes this Autumn following a second
successful grant application, this time from “Birds on the Brink”. And more local residents have purchased their own boxes in anticipation of having their boxes erected at the same time.
In addition, we are currently liaising with and sharing knowledge with other Swift groups around Sheffield. A common interest will also be to try and encourage Sheffield City Council to introduce the installing of Swift bricks in any future building works. These bricks are made with a nest hole within the brick, and can be retro fitted.
Regarding Swift boxes
It takes just a few minutes to erect a box on the outside wall of a house. A flat wooden bracket is attached to the side of the house initially, and then the Swift box is hooked onto the bracket. Unlike most other nest boxes, where it is recommended you clean them out before the start of the breeding season, Swift nest boxes do not need to be cleaned out each year, so the boxes can be left undisturbed.
It is also pleasing to note that Swifts do not make a mess on the sides of houses as some species of bird are known to do. The Swift box is not large, it is elongated and fits under or as near to the gutter as is suitable.
The boxes we used in this first year are dual combination Swift boxes with two nest
chambers. The bracket behind the box can also be made for bats to use for roosting.
If you are interested in buying your own box, then please write to the email address: email@example.com. If you buy your own box from Peak Boxes, then we hope to be able to arrange fitting in the Autumn.
Chris Measures, Mick Warwick and Chris Brewster
Totley Swift Group September 2021
SWIFT CALL SYSTEMS
A review by Chet Cunago of Totley Swift Group
After a little research I've discovered the following 3 'affordable' callers.
(My preferred choice. Can change the pre-loaded call. Can alter volume. Can plug in more microphones in future)
Each unit is supplied with a waterproof speaker and 10 metres of cable plus a USB stick with one pre-recorded swift call. Additional speakers, cable , and USB call for House Martins are also available. Other calls may be available on request. If you require more than 3 additional speakers, please get in touch.
(Made by Andrew Porter.
Downside - not fully waterproof, can't change the repetitive call which comes pre-loaded and can be loud & repetitive for neighbours).
The unit comes with the calls pre-installed so it’s good to just plug and play.
I use PayPal Friends & Family for payment.
I can give no guarantees as to the longevity of parts. I have made and sold almost 700 of them without issue.
The boxes are weatherproof but not waterproof. They will stand some adverse weather but will need protection from extreme inclement weather. I used a very simple & practical solution for mine, I put it in a sandwich bag before I hung it outside. Worked a treat for me!
I supply the boxes with a 3m long standard USB cable but not the plug, most people have a spare knocking about.
The best way to Power the unit is to use a 24hr timer plug, that way you can control on & off times.
The unit can also be powered by a phone charging power bank.
SWIFT MICRO CALLERS.. EBay
I don't understand these. But that's my lack of understanding. Not necessarily an issue with the item.
Consists of a miniature MP3 player powered from a phone charger with calling sounds stored on a microSD card and it has a small speaker with 5 metres of cable so the calling system can be mounted inside a building. We include the speaker mount and screw. The speaker is soldered to the extension cable and the joint is double insulated.
It is set up assembled and ready for you to attach the speaker cable to the amplifier box and comes with three swift calling sounds ready installed on the card - a total of 5.1/2 mins of sounds and automatic repeat setting.
What we don't include is the 24 hour mains programmer (£3.50 in ASDA) nor the actual mains plug top with USB socket as people will often have these already.
It comes in a box
The other option which many people recommended is putting a CD player/portable speaker next to an open window as close to the box as possible on a timer.
CD or mp3 of Swift call available at
I also have a 'mix tape ' of Swift calls and silences which are less repetitive. It's a large file but I can email it.
Cheers Chet (Totley Swifts)
When to play Swift Calls
Calls can be played using various methods
Mark Glanville of Bristol Swifts has built a highly successful Swift Colony around his home. Following his advice quoted below re using Swift Calls can be highly effective provided the calls are played in a consistent manner.
“Swift calls can be played in the mornings and evenings on calm, dry days from May to July to good effect. However as there are normally three waves of swift arrivals these are the most effective times that I found to play the calls.
THE FIRST WAVE. These normally arrive in the last week in April – early May and consist mainly of breeding adults returning to their traditional nest sites. It is difficult to attract these to a new site (box) as they are extremely site faithful, however displaced breeding adults will take up residency in new homes but it’s rare. You can play your CD/mp3 anytime from now but the chances of attracting any are slim.
THE SECOND WAVE. These start to arrive from the end of May and into the first half of June. These are the ones you are after. These are 2-3 year old birds looking for a nest site. They are definitely attracted by the CD/mp3 calls and will fly up to and investigate wherever the sound is coming from. Try and place your speakers as near as you can to your box and play it as loud as you can (with neighbours agreement). Play whenever the weather is calm. Avoid wet and windy days as swifts don’t prospect for new nest sites in bad weather. Best times to play your CD/mp3 is between 6 -11am and again between 8-10pm. If you’re lucky enough to attract a pair they will spend the rest of the summer building a new nest ready for next year.
THE THIRD WAVE. These arrive in the middle of July. They are yearlings returning for the first time. They are interested in joining a colony and will visit several in the local area to suss out the best ones. They might even enter one of your boxes, roosting in it until they leave in August, but they won’t start nest building until the following year. They are also attracted by the CD/mp3, so play as described above.”
Copyright © 2021 Mark Glanville. All Rights Reserved.