Friday, 26 June 2015

Swifts over Exeter >>> "showcasing the potential for urban green spaces to benefit wildlife"

The city council is making serious efforts to enhance Exeter's green spaces:

Exeter Wild City


What is it?

Exeter Wild City is a partnership between Devon Wildlife Trust and Exeter City Council. We aim to:

    • Make Exeter a national beacon for urban wildlife
    • Enhance and protect the wildlife value of green space in the city
    • Maximise the social and economic benefits of being a “wildlife city”
    • Ensure that the growth of Exeter respects the underlying ecological      systems on which the life of the city and the region depend

      Why do we need it?

      Exeter is striking proof that cities can be the homes to abundant wildlife. But, as everywhere, wildlife is under threat.  The city now has a human population of 120,000 – and 
      it’s growing.  We want to ensure that Exeter‘s future development will protect its wildlife and gives it space to thrive.

      Contact with nature and wildlife is important for people. The project will improve the quality of life for people in Exeter.

      Who else are we working with?

      We have links with a growing list of public, statutory, voluntary and community organisations including Met Office and University of Exeter.  We work with almost every school in the city and are keen to support community associations.  Please contact Devon Wildlife Trust if you are associated with a group who would like advice or support in your environmental ventures.

      Devon Wildlife Trust | Exeter Wild City
      Exeter City Council : Exeter Wild City

      There is one particular project nearing completion:

      Paris Street Roundabout

      As part of the Exeter Wild City project, Devon Wildlife Trust and Exeter City Council have teamed up to turn Paris Street roundabout into a wildlife haven and showcase for wildlife friendly gardening.
      Paris Street Roundabout
      The proposal is to create a high quality landscape design that will transform the roundabout into an attractive landscape feature at the entrance to the city centre which showcases the potential for urban green spaces to benefit wildlife. In tandem Devon Wildlife Trust will provide information on their website, helping people to turn their gardens into beautiful, low maintenance wildlife havens.
      The scheme will be carefully designed using insect attracting plants, stone walls and sculptural log piles to attract beneficial insects and birds. In addition a sculptural tower will provide a nesting site for Swifts - one of Exeter's most distinctive urban species and an important migratory species that relies on buildings for nest sites. The tower will provide 16-24 swift nest boxes, and will initially use recorded swift calls to attract swifts to the site.

      Exeter City Council : Paris Street Roundabout

      The roundabout should be looking something like this:

      May date for arrival of Exeter’s long-awaited roundabout swift tower | Exeter Express and Echo

      And as part of the installation, there will be a 'swift tower':

      This design origniated in Poland:

      The Menthol / STOP Swift Tower visualised on the banks of the Vistula river in Warsaw, just along from the Copernicus Centre. Swifts have been having just as bad a time in Poland as elsewhere in Euroipe, as the old building stock is updated and insulated, and all their old nest places are obliterated. Population losses in parts of Eastern Europe are thought to be as high as 70% in the past few years alone.      

      Swift Conservation News

      The Express and Echo gives the latest update on the tower at the Paris Street site:

      Exeter roundabout £40k Swift Tower: If you build it will they come?

      By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: June 24, 2015

      A tower to home birds has been erected on a busy Exeter city centre roundabout. The 26-foot-high, £40,000 swift tower designed in Poland which aims to provide “bespoke city centre housing” for the fast flying birds. In a bid to attract the feathered friends, “swift calls” will be played through speakers powered by solar cells – which will also provide “ambient lighting”.

      Each May hundreds of the sleek, brown birds arrive in the city after a 7,000 mile flight from sub-Saharan Africa. The birds are credited with keeping a control on the city mosquito numbers by eating up to 20,000 of the biting insects a day.

      Their numbers have dropped in recent years, with experts pointing to a lack of suitable nest sites being a root cause.

      Now a solution is being provided in the shape of the swift tower which has been constructed as a centre piece for the s newly landscaped Paris Street Roundabout. It has been designed by Rafal Pieszko and provides a series of nest holes for use by the birds.

      Devon Wildlife Trust say it is hoped that in coming years the tower will provide bespoke city centre housing, although experience from towers provided elsewhere in Europe suggests that it may take a few years before the birds fully take up residence.

      The swift tower forms part of the Exeter Wild City project an initiative between Exeter City Council and Devon Wildlife Trust which aims to help wildlife thrive in the city and help people connect to nature on their doorstep.

      The tower project has been developed working closely with the RSPB.

      Cllr Rachel Sutton, lead councillor for city development, said: “I’m delighted that this project is now coming to fruition and that the swift tower will soon provide an attractive landmark and suitable homes for swifts in the city centre. The planting on the roundabout, as well supporting the swift colony will enhance the city's biodiversity and support the bee colonies resident on the roof of nearby Princesshay.”

      Emily Stallworthy of Devon Wildlife Trust said: “Swifts are amazing birds. One of the biggest problems they face is that modern buildings in our towns and cities don’t offer the numbers of nooks and crannies that older building once did. That’s why we’re delighted that the swift tower is here, open and ready to receive its first guests.”

      Swift towers are relatively new phenomena in the UK with others found in Cambridge and Belfast.

      The Exeter swift tower was designed and built in Poland and is based on the same design as one found in Warsaw, where the tower attracted nesting swifts and other birds soon after being built.

      The tower has been funded by the construction of the nearby Jury’s Inn hotel and from housing development. No money was spent from Exeter City Council’s budget. Devon Wildlife Trust has also contributed to the scheme.

      While providing a purpose designed nest tower for swifts the sculptural form meets a requirement of the funding for an artwork in this locality.

      Emily added: “Swifts returning to Exeter will soon spot the tower but we’re hoping to go a step further in advertising its presence. We’re playing recorded swift calls from the tower throughout the summer months. In time this should attract these beautiful birds, making sure they swoop down to take a closer look.”

      In addition to the tower, the roundabout has also been planted so that it will provide people and wildlife with a summer display of wildflowers. Flowers including poppies and cornflowers will give a splash of colour to the roundabout and help to feed important pollinating insects such as bumblebees and butterflies.

      Exeter roundabout £40k Swift Tower: If you build it will they come? | Exeter Express and Echo

      The Devon Wildlife Trust has been very active:

      Exeter Swift Project

      In 2010 Devon Wildlife Trust in partnership with Exeter City Council and the Swift_Amir_Ben_DovRSPB launched a new project to highlight the plight of swifts in Exeter.  We asked Devon Wildlife Trust members to listen out for swifts and send their sightings to us.  This information is being used to map the presence of swifts in Exeter.  The map will help us to identify parts of the city where the introduction of new nesting sites will help maintain, and we hope increase, the numbers of swifts.

      In 2011 the swift project received £27,000 from the Alcoa Foundation to help progress the project.  This helped us to work with more people, create new nesting sites around the city and get more people involved in the 2011 swift survey. 

      Swift_isca2011 survey

      Almost 400 records were received from members of the public over the summer, nearly 100 of these were nest sightings around the city.  This is a great response with exciting results.  We now know more about where swifts prefer to nest in Exeter which will help us to concentrate nest creation sites in the future.

      Swift boxes

      120 boxes were installed or had been committed by the end of October 2011 with many more expected in new buildings as they're built.  Boxes have been placed on 11 schools, the University of Exeter, private homes and several Exeter businesses.

      Swift_sundaySwift Sunday event
      DWT held an event at Cricklepit Mill on Sunday 15 May 2011.  Staff and volunteers made dozens of swifts boxes during the day and many people attended and found out more about how to help swifts. There are now a limited number of swift boxes available to anyone around the city that might have space for a box. If you would like a box please contact Emily Stallworthy on 01392 279244.

      Supporting wildlife conference
      A conference was held at the University of Exeter on 19 October that highlighted the importance of supporting wildlife in the urban environment.  Broadcaster Nick Baker and Swift Conservation's Edward Mayer were guest speakers at the event.  About 300 students, academics and professionals (planners, architects and consultants) attended or watched the conference via video link. To view the presentations please click here.
      Swifts at school
      Schools around Exeter have been helping swifts by putting up nest boxes around their grounds.  Students have also helped to design posters and develop their own research projects all about swifts.  Ladysmith Juniors ran a competition to see who could come up with the best swift facts and stories.  They came up with some great ideas!

      Swift Academy Game

      Swift_gameJoin the Swift Academy to learn the essential skills to becoming a successful swift!  From flying thousands of miles, finding a mate and building a nest, here you'll earn your wings to become a fully fledged swift.
      Start playing now!


      Over the coming year the project will continue to provide advice on helping swifts in Exeter.  We will be working with those who installed boxes to monitor their use and help attract swifts to them by playing swift calls (swifts nest communally and so are attracted to new nest boxes through the use of swift calls).  The project will also look to work closely with community groups to help survey and monitor nest sites and screaming parties around the city.

      More information
      For more information on swifts and find out how to differentiate between swifts, swallows and house martins: http://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/species/Swift/

      Devon Wildlife Trust | Swifts

      Other action has taken place in the city recently:
      Action for Swifts: Swift and Positive Change at Premier Inn Exeter

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