Swift action is a must for our birds

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HOUSE martins have become a major feature of my life in the summer months.

Whizzing up to the eaves of our house, they’re the first thing I see when I arrive home from work and when I wake up in the morning.

And at night I can hear house martin babies burbling away in a mud cup nest outside my bedroom window.

When I first moved to Caton with my husband Mark (Sparky) I was captivated by these annual summer visitors from Africa.

But it’s not just house martins that we see flying over our home.

Swifts are also regular visitors and their flight displays are just as dramatic.

Sadly, according to the RSPB, swifts are in need of our help. The RSPB says we have lost a third of our swifts since 1995. Modern building design and maintenance of older buildings is resulting in the loss of their traditional nesting sites in our roof spaces. Swifts return to the same nesting site year after year so that little gap in the pointing or space behind the fascia board on your house could well be providing a home for these special birds.

We only have house martins under our eaves but it would be great if swifts started nesting as well.

The RSPB says you can try to make space for swifts by leaving small gaps in pointing, behind fascia boards and soffits and under eaves.

Fully compliant with modern construction methods, swift nesting bricks can be incorporated at minimal cost into new builds and external nesting boxes can be located under eaves.

Swifts only ever land when they come to the nest, as they feed, drink, mate and even sleep on the wing. They can do this by sleeping on half of their brain at a time.

Swifts eat ‘aerial plankton’ – aphids, flies, mosquitoes and other winged insects and spiders. As well as skimming the surface of pools, they will also catch raindrops in flight to drink.

A young swift leaving your roof space this summer could be on the wing for three years non stop as they only breed at three years or older. Swifts live for an average of nine years.

The longest lived bird was just under 18 years old. They are only with us between May and August when they come to breed. For the rest of the year they winter in Africa.They are remarkable creatures so it would be great if more of us could provide a home for them.

On Tuesday morning Sparky looked out of our bedroom window and there was frenzied activity amongst the house martins. He saw an adult bird pluck a baby out of the nest and it landed on the top of our bay window. He thought the baby was hurt but it perked up and flew off. Magical.

FROM the frankly tiny to the absolutely massive – my colleague and friend Michelle Blade and her partner recently saw an eagle sitting on a fence next to the M6 near Penrith. They were on their way to Scotland for a holiday when they spotted the majestic bird surveying the landscape.

Lucky them!