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Lancaster declared a ‘Swift City’

Image: RSPB

Lancaster has been officially declared a ‘Swift City’, one of just four of its kind in the UK. 

In a ceremony later this month, officials and residents will set out plans committing to improving lives for swifts in the city.

The official designation is the culmination of hard work, led by the residents of Grasmere Road, which was declared the first ‘Swift Street’ in Lancaster in 2022.

A ‘Swift Charter’ has been signed by residents, local politicians and community and conservation organisations highlighting the city’s pledge to protect the future of the birds. 

In 2021, post Covid pandemic the residents of Grasmere Road started a community project to help swifts in the city after hearing about declines in numbers. Research suggests there has been a 60% reduction in numbers in the UK in the last 25 years.

This is largely due to a loss of habitat and nesting sites and a decrease in insect numbers. 

Many of the boxes were constructed and provided by the Lancaster Men’s Hub, a social wellbeing and community charity group.  Grasmere Road alone has 30 nest boxes.

Alasdair McKee, RSPB local groups development officer said: “Swifts mate for life and return to the same nest sites every year. 

‘’They are communal nesters and, putting up so many boxes in areas like these encourages more swifts.  It’s a great way to develop a community of swifts and people all working together for the same outcome.” 

‘’Swifts travel to the UK in the summer to breed, flying over 3000 miles from Africa where they spend the winter. 

‘’In recent decades the availability of nesting sites in the UK’s towns and cities has significantly decreased with more and more nest sites in the eaves of houses having been blocked up or destroyed.’’

Andrew McCafferty, local Lancaster resident said: “I grew up in this area of Lancaster and still remember the sense of wonder I felt at the age of 10 looking up at a group of birds wheeling and screaming through the sky. 

‘’My fascination with swifts hasn’t dwindled to this day.  It invokes a sense of pride to see so many people turn up here on Grasmere Road who care enough to eat Swift shaped biscuits in the street and sign a charter to endorse the future of Swifts in the city all whilst gazing up in awe as the birds swoop by.”

Swift awareness week takes place between 29 June-7 July.

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