Tag Archives: featured

CONSERVATIONISTS CONCERNED BY LATE SWIFT RETURN

This is a story published by the RSPB

Wildlife experts who work to save the UK’s dwindling swift population are concerned at the late arrival of these birds, which nest here after spending the winter in Africa. Many swifts have arrived up to two weeks late, and the RSPB has received numerous calls and emails from people concerned at their absence.

What might have caused this delay? Swifts would normally begin their journeys north from Africa in April. Their epic 6,000 mile journey is often fraught with hazards but weather conditions this year may have made migration especially difficult.

When the birds arrived in Europe, they were faced with serious climatic challenges. This year there have been distressing stories from Italy and Spain showing that swifts, some of which may have been on their way to UK nest sites, have even been killed by storms and cold wet weather. Doomed to die of starvation and hypothermia, they have been trying to survive overnight by clinging to each other on walls to avoid the wind and rain.

Swift expert Edward Mayer, who runs the Swift Conservation website and free advice service, says “There has been some really appalling spring weather this year in Italy, France, Spain and the Balkans. Temperatures should have been in the 30s but were in the low teens, and much lower at night, with prolonged rain storms making things even worse. This suppresses the swifts’ flying insect food, soaks and chills them – and can kill them”.

The unseasonably low temperatures in southern Europe will have made life even harder for these small birds desperately needing to refuel for the final leg of their journey. Then predominantly northerly winds have made flying north even harder.

Although these are extraordinarily resilient birds, swifts that make it to the UK face further challenges. They typically nest under the eaves of houses but in recent years many of these spaces have been blocked up, leaving the birds with the difficult task of finding somewhere new to raise their young during the limited time they spend here. The RSPB ran a campaign between February and April to encourage people to make new homes for them, by buying either a specially made nestbox or making one of their own.

“Swifts have huge public support in the UK” says Jamie Wyver, the RSPB’s Swift Lead. “Our supporters and social media followers are incredibly enthusiastic about them, and earlier this year we sold well over 1,000 new swift nestboxes! As well as our own regional teams working hard to make sure these birds have plenty of places to nest, there are around 75 independent local swift groups.”

The RSPB’s John Day and fellow swift experts Dick Newell and Edward Mayer recently had published a co-authored article providing advice for ecologists in the membership journal of the Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM). The article outlines ways in which new building developments can easily accommodate homes for swifts, neatly built inside wall cavities. These ‘nest bricks’ should be added typically in small clusters of two to four to gables of houses, as swifts prefer to nest close to one another.

Everyone can help swifts this summer by adding sightings of the birds nesting or flying around roofs to the RSPB’s Swift Survey: rspb.org.uk/swiftsurvey. Data gathered in the survey are used to show which sites are most important for swifts.

There’s also an opportunity to get out and enjoy the swifts that have made it back this year and learn how to help boost their numbers during Swift Awareness Week, from Saturday 22 to Sunday 30 June. This will highlight the plight of this iconic bird and show how everyone can help by, for example putting up swift nest boxes and gardening for wildlife. Over 70 local events have been organised during the week so far, from the south coast to the north of Scotland. Further details of each event can be found on the Action for Swifts website: actionforswifts.blogspot.com/p/2019-swift-awareness-week.html .

PHOTO: Swift Apus apus, lone bird flying over rooftop where they are actively encouraged to nest in houses, Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire, by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com).

HERITAGE TRAIL OF NORTH DEVON TO LAUNCH ON D-DAY ANNIVERSARY

75 years on from the D-Day landings a new trail launched this week will commemorate 12 of the most important military and cultural sites of the Second World War in North Devon. The World War II Heritage Trail will be unique in including sites of both strategic magnitude and human significance, and will highlight locations from Great Torrington in the south to Watermouth Cove in the north of the area.

Developed by North Devon’s museums and the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the trail unveiling follows the announcement that one of its sites, the D-Day practice structures at Braunton Burrows, is to be given heritage protection by the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, on the advice of Historic England.

Each location on the North Devon-wide, 12-point trail will be marked with a bronze plaque. An accompanying booklet will feature an area map and grid references, helping local people and visitors to find their way around the key sites while revealing the military and human stories behind them.

Claire Gulliver, project coordinator, said: “The North Devon coast closely resembled that of Normandy. We hope that this trail will bring to life the military strategy that was being developed on North Devon’s beaches, estuaries and sand dunes, in practising for the biggest amphibious assault in military history. But we also hope to evoke the human stories of the British and Allied soldiers who lived and trained here, together with those of the local communities they mixed with.

“Some of the trail sites are well known for the role they played in the D-Day preparations, such as the concrete structures at Braunton Burrows where soldiers practised debarking from their landing craft, or the dunes of Northam Burrows where British personnel experimented with adapted tanks known as ‘Hobart’s Funnies’. Other locations are more surprising, such as Torrington Square where off-duty American GIs used to gather before a night out on the town, or the American Red Cross Centre in Woolacombe, now the Red Barn Pub and popular with surfers today.”

A special booklet, Devon D-Day: A World War II Heritage Trail of the North Devon Coast will be available from museums from the D-Day anniversary, 6 June.

The trail is part of Devon D-Day. Devon D-Day is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, with additional financial support from North Devon Council, North Devon Coast AONB and North Devon Marketing Bureau.

PHOTO: GI soldiers at the American Red Cross Centre, Woolacombe (now the Red Barn pub), 1943 (courtesy of Mortehoe Museum).

 

COULD YOU LOOK AFTER A LIFE-CHANGING PUPPY FOR A YEAR?

Guest post from Guide Dogs

You may well have heard of Guide Dogs, we’re a national charity working to ensure that people with a visual impairment do not lose their independence. There are around two million people in the UK living with sight loss, and all experience a different level of vision and mobility. We offer a range of mobility services to help people keep their independence, and have an amazing number of dedicated staff, volunteers, and of course, dogs who support the Guide Dogs mission.

Guide Dogs needs volunteers who can help look after and support the training of our guide dog puppies! This is a full-time volunteering role as the puppy would live with you, and you would be providing the puppy with a vital foundation for its future role as a guide dog for someone living with sight loss. Training and ongoing support is provided by Guide Dogs and your Puppy Training Supervisor, and all food and vets bills are paid for.

Puppy Training Supervisor, Leah, says, “Puppy walking is a vital role in a guide dog’s development. If you have the time, enthusiasm, love of dogs and a positive outlook, this volunteer role is for you. Puppies are placed at 7 weeks old and will stay with you until approximately 12-16 months of age. In this time, you will expose the puppy to everyday life. You will receive regular visits and be encouraged to attend one of our local puppy classes. We couldn’t deliver our services without our brilliant volunteers!”

Puppy Walking Volunteer, Chris, says, “Every day is different – I could be taking the dog out on a walk, getting it used to trains, buses or the seaside! It’s great to be with a dog knowing you are giving something back… When a guide dog owner gets in touch with me to say thank you for puppy walking their life-changing dog, it really feels so rewarding and it’s lovely to get their feedback.”

To find out more about puppy walking with Guide Dogs or any other volunteering opportunities, visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/volunteer or give the volunteering office a call on 0345 143 0191.