Saving Swifts at St. Patrick’s Wicklow Town

The final pieces of a project by St. Patricks Parish, Wicklow Town to support natural biodiversity in the Abbey Grounds and at St. Patrick’s Church swung into place on Wednesday 19th May in beautiful spring sunshine. Joe Hanlon of St. Patrick’s Parish took to the air on the platform of the cherry picker along with Jim Creamer from Birdwatch Ireland, who kindly volunteered his expertise as a cherry picker operator. 

Oran O’Sullivan from Irish Garden Birds provided invaluable advice throughout the project and was on hand to see the final parts installed, as were Fr. Donal Roche Adm. and parishioner Susanna Braswell who coordinated the project

St. Patrick’s Parish was awarded a Community Environment Action Fund grant from Wicklow County Council and the Department of the Environment. Covid-19 restrictions then delayed the project. Among the project components supported by the grant was the installation of swift boxes and a sound system with recorded calls to attract swifts. The parochial house in the Abbey Grounds is a tall building, an ideal environment for swifts.

Swifts migrate to Wicklow Town each year, making it highly likely that the nest boxes will be adopted in future years. As the next boxes were installed in at a height not easily accessible, a particularly durable Irish product made by Genesis Nest Boxes was used. Swifts are site-faithful, meaning they will return to the same nest site, and their nest sites will be inherited by future generations. This makes durable boxes an excellent, long-lasting conservation investment.

Additional nest boxes have been installed for non-migratory native birds. Blue Tits, House Sparrows, House Martins, Swallows, Robin, Grey and Pied Wagtails have all been observed in the Abbey Grounds. 

Bat Roosting boxes are also being installed. Bee Boxes for solitary bees, and Insect Hotels have been put into the sunny spots at St. Patrick’s Church grounds and at the De La Salle Pastoral Centre. The bees will be supported by pollinator planting and the growth of native Irish wildflowers. An area of native wildflowers has been planted at the Abbey Grounds.

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