Helping Islington's swifts through nest boxes, awareness and advice.

Swifts boxes update, 27/10/18

After recently installing some more boxes in Barnsbury and Tufnell Park, there are now at least 71 swifts boxes and bricks that we know of in the Borough which is great! Although only a fraction of the number we need for the swifts population to stabilise and get back to previous numbers (BTO figures say there’s been a drop of about 25% in 5 years across the UK). About half of these boxes were co-ordinated by ourselves, and the rest by the Council, planning conditions, and many enterprising residents!

With boxes in Highbury, Holloway, Crouch Hill and Canonbury too, it’s nice to see we are getting good coverage across the Borough.

If you want a box or two on your home (you must have a wall with a clear drop of at least 4m), or have any other query, then drop us a line through the website and we can provide advice and perhaps assist.


Highbury Community News article, 17/10/18

There’s a great article about Islington Swifts Group in the October 2018 edition of Highbury Community News, see page 4 via the link below.

We had an excellent day again at the Gillespie Park Apple Day on Sunday despite the drizzly weather, lots of kids doing the quiz & colouring in and several people signing up for swifts boxes.

And don’t forget there’s still time to send in your summer records to the RSPB Swift Survey website…

Gillespie Park Apple Day, 14/10/18

If you’re free on Sunday 14th October, why not come along and join us at the Gillespie Park Apple Day. Last year was fantastic weather and we lost count after we’d spoken to over 50 people by mid-afternoon! There will be music, refreshments, and activities. It’s from 12-4 at The Ecology Centre, Gillespie Road in Highbury.

Don’t forget there’s still time to enter this year’s swifts sightings at the RSPB swift survey:

Time soon to turn off your swifts calls, 29/08/18

Despite swifts still being seen daily in Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park (reported by @birdman_euston & @piping_point), the end of August is a good cut-off for playing swifts calls if you have such a system for your nestbox. Those few swifts remaining are probably still nesting and are busy getting their swiftlets ready to leave the nest ASAP.
This year’s juveniles won’t hang around a moment longer than necessary in the UK and don’t even seriously look for nesting sites until their second spring.
So there are only a few migrant birds you might catch the ear of, and chances are rapidly diminishing.
Swifts are seen in very small numbers in the UK right until November or even December – these late ones sometimes turn out to be lost “pallid swifts”, a Mediterranean species that looks extremely similar to our common swifts but migrates much later. If you see one this late in the year try to get a photo to identify it later!
Another reminder to report your swifts sightings (roof level birds or known/ ex- nest-sites) for this year to the RSPB swifts survey, it’s valuable information for policy makers, planners and conservationists:

Swifts (mostly!) depart Islington, 23/08/18

Most of our swifts left at the end of July or beginning of August when bad weather arrived, but there were still swifts around the colony at Aubert Court until 8th August and there are still reports of a couple of lingering swifts in Highbury East, as well as some outside the Borough boundary in the Regent’s Park/ Paddington area (reported by @piping_point).

Don’t forgot to list your records from this summer on the RSPB swift survey website, let us know if you have any difficulties using it:

Now things are quietening down we’ll upload a summary of the summer activities and you can also keep up-to-date by checking our Twitter feed.

Blog update, 24/07/18: swifts bricks Islington policy news! Plus nestboxes, swifts walk, & swifts week review.

Hi follower of Islington Swifts

Hope you’ve been enjoying a summer of swifts – we’ve got news from a recent swifts walk, and some exciting news from Islington Council on their swifts bricks policy.
Despite some reports from around the UK of numbers being down, all reports so far from Islington & N1 have been positive with the same or more swifts than last year. Which reflects the good breeding season last year, and it’s been another hot dry summer so far which means swifts will be staying local to find food. Many of you will know that swifts don’t nest generally until four years old, so it’s mostly the 2-3 year old birds that whizz round the rooftops all summer, checking out potential future homes.
And there’s been an increase in prime accommodation for the juvenile birds to investigate, with now 49 known swifts nestboxes or bricks in Islington and 29 in adjacent De Beauvoir, and 5 and 4 call systems operating in these areas respectively.
Lots of interest from the swifts so far, with one known nesting attempt already in one of our boxes and at least a couple of occupied nestboxes in Mildmay that weren’t actually installed by us – we just happened to see a swift flying in!
After the success of our De Beauvoir walk with Hackney Swifts and Lisa Shell Architects on 20th June, we held another swifts walk which was advertised in the Islington Tribune on 29th June, with a short feature about some new nestboxes on Avenell Road. It took place on Friday 6th July at 8pm from Arsenal tube station, finishing about 9:30pm at Avenell Road where there were many swifts to see due to the colony in the 1950s block at Aubert Court (where they nest in ventilation bricks). We also discovered a new nesting site on Highbury Hill.
It’s well worth a visit to Aubert Court, early evening about 8-9pm is one of the best times to watch the swifts swirling around the building.
We assisted Hackney Swifts at Daubeney Fields on 14th July (the Bio Blitz event), and at Stoke Newington Common Fair on the 15th with plenty of swifts sightings and interest in nest boxes (despite the sporting clashes).
We’ll hopefully be at Woodberry Wetlands on 15th September. We need to organise some events in Islington!
Some good news hot off the press is that Islington have strengthened their commitment to providing measures for swifts, with nestboxes on all suitable Council developments now, and the Local Plan update to require swifts bricks in ALL suitable developments across the Borough – very welcome news!
Here is the link to the Islington Life article released earlier in July:
The first ever Swift Awareness Week was a great success, where we assisted with guided walks in De Beauvoir and Clapton (both fully booked with about 30 people attending each), a swifts stand at Walthamstow Wetlands and Woodberry Wetlands (the latter attracting over 100 people during the course of the day), and a birds identification walk with Bee Urban in Kennington Park.
There is plenty of demand for nestboxes at the moment so there is a waiting list but if you would like one then let us know and if your home is suitable we will try to arrange installation for you. If you know of any tall buildings with scaffolding where you might be able to arrange access, then that would be great to know about… particularly schools! They are many schools that would be ideal for boxes but we never hear back…
Best wishes, and enjoy the last month or so of swifts (most left early August in 2017 but hopefully they might stay a little longer this year if the weather stays like this!)
Islington Swifts Group
Twitter @islingt_swifts

Dovercourt Estate swifts brick “success”

The integrated nesting bricks at Dovercourt Estate N1, installed by Lovell for Islington Council, are being scouted by swifts after only four months in place – a group of four birds made repeated fly-pasts this week, pausing at the bricks momentarily to peek inside.
As swifts usually like to investigate a nest site the year before nesting in it, remembering its location for the return next spring, this is a successful result. These birds are probably juveniles as swifts don’t typically nest until they are four years old, although they might have a trial run or two if they can find a suitable site.
These bricks are here because local residents suggested them after the ecology survey missed the presence of swifts nesting nearby. In consultation with the Islington Council planning department and nature conservation manager the requirement for standard external birdboxes was changed to integrated swifts bricks – a change the builder was happy to make as these are easier for them to install than boxes on trees.
The bricks are by Schwegler and are the traditional “block” type where the nest cavity is contained within the block in the outer leaf of the external wall. They are on the top (fourth) storey of an apartment block facing north. There are also bat bricks in the same building, and sparrow terraces elsewhere on the estate.
Here is a link to our Tweet about it:

Swifts walk in Highbury, 06/07/18

We’ll be looking out for swifts on Friday 6th July, starting at 8pm at Arsenal tube station and finishing 9:15-9:30pm at Avenell Road N5 where we’ll hopefully be watching the often spectacular flocks of swifts that nest in this area. It will be free of charge. If you’d like to come, then please drop us a line through the website Contact page. Maybe see you there!

Swift Awareness Week, 16-23/06/18

16-23rd June is the first ever Swift Awareness Week (#SwiftAwarenessWeek), a link to the Action for Swifts events map is below. There are no events in Islington as we’re busy assisting with a swifts information stand at Walthamstow Wetlands (@E17Wetlands, Tuesday to Friday 10am-2pm, two evening walks in Hackney (De Beauvoir on Wednesday – now fully booked, and Hackney Downs to Stoke Newington on Thursday), Bee Swift birds identification evening at Kennington Park on Friday (@BeeUrbanLondon,, and a stand at Woodberry Wetlands (@WildWoodberry, Saturday 23rd June 10am-3pm, but we’re planning a swifts walk in Highbury N5 on Friday 6th July, look out for details here soon!

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