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How part of Pontardawe is to become a safe haven for swifts

They’ve screamed us into summer for thousands of years but now the ancient swift is in danger of disappearing from our skies.

The iconic birds have recently been placed on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern as populations across the UK have declined by 58% since 1995 with an alarming 75% drop in Wales.

As a result, Neath Port Talbot Council, together with Glantawe Outdoor Education Academy will soon by erecting a ‘Swift Tower’ at Glantawe Riverside Park in Pontardawe.

This initiative will:
•    Provide a prominent, 7m high piece of art to inform residents and visitors to Glantawe Riverside Park of this much loved, declining urban bird and to inspire people to take action to help swifts and other urban nature,
•    Provide additional nesting spaces for swifts and other urban wildlife to help address the long-term loss of traditional nest sites in buildings.

Each year, swifts make incredible flights of more than 6,000 miles from southern Africa. They arrive here in May and stay just long enough to nest, lay eggs and rear their chicks, before making their return flights in August.

Many birds don’t survive the hazardous journey from Africa, and when they do arrive they struggle to find suitable places to nest. Modern and renovated buildings no longer contain the holes, nooks and crannies that the birds need.

To help these birds, nesting sites can be provided artificially in the form of swift boxes or in the form of a Swift Tower. Neath Port Talbot Council’s Countryside and Wildlife Team have now been awarded Welsh Government Green Recovery Fund grant aid for the installation of a tower at Glantawe Riverside Park.

Recording by members of the NPT Local Nature Partnership have revealed that Pontardawe is a hot spot for sightings of swift in the county borough. Providing additional nest sites in this location could provide a vital opportunity to boost the population.

To make swifts more aware of the tower it will be fitted with a ‘swift caller’ audio system which will play the evocative call of the swift at certain times in order to attract the swifts to investigate . Visitors to Glantawe Riverside Park will hear the swift caller playing in the mornings and evenings over the summer months.

Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Nature, Tourism and Wellbeing, Cllr Cen Phillips, said: “This is a thoroughly worthwhile project as swift numbers have declined so dramatically in recent years.

“It seems this area is popular with the birds and the new swift tower will provide them with a nesting area after their exhausting journeys from Africa and place to build up their strength for the flight back.”

Swift fast facts:

• Swifts are speedy fliers reaching up to 70mph
• Swifts can fly up to 500 miles in a single day
• Swifts spend nearly all their lives in the air – this includes eating and mating!
• Before they take their first flight young swifts do ‘’press ups’ to strengthen their wings.