As the weather warms up many of us will be spending more time in our
gardens and gardeners are being encouraged to install nest boxes and to
create habitats that boost insect numbers to help swallows, swifts, and
martins as part of a new campaign Wild About Highflyers, which is a joint
initiative by The Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).
This campaign aims to boost numbers of these charismatic migratory birds. I
often hear swifts reeling around Sedgefield and have house martins nesting on
my house. I didn't realise that swifts and house martins were recently added to
the UK Red List, having suffered serious declines in recent decades. It is
estimated that almost 60% of UK swifts have disappeared over the last 25
years. Huge declines of insects, habitat loss, and the impacts of climate
change – with extreme weather
affecting breeding cycles and
migration – are the main challenges
affecting migratory birds.
download a new guide that provides
gardeners with tips on how they can
help swallows, swifts, and martins.
- Creating a ‘bog garden’ with plants
like marsh-bedstraw and purple
loosestrife. Bog gardens provide
valuable habitat for frogs, dragonflies,
and a wealth of insects, as well as
materials that swallows and house
martins can use to build nests.
- Adding a swift box to an existing
house or including a swift brick in any
kind of new build. Ideally, swift boxes
face north/north-east to help regulate
the internal temperature and are at
least five metres above ground.
- Letting a patch of grass grow long,
providing vital habitat and food for
insects and other wildlife.
Every May I take part in the Plantlife campaign "No Mow May" which basically
means the lawnmower stays in the shed for the month of May and I let
wildflowers in my lawn bloom, providing a feast of nectar for hungry
pollinators. At the end of the month, on the Bank Holiday Weekend, I take part
in the “Every Flower Counts” survey, to receive my very own “nectar score” for
my lawn. Plantlife are also working with local councils to encourage them to
not cut the grass so often, leaving parks and road verges to go wild.
encourage farmers to consider creating meadows - a three-acre meadow can
be home to 9 million flowers producing enough nectar to support ½ million
bees every day.
If you are lucky enough to share your homes with nesting swallows, swifts or
house martins you will understand how magical these birds are. But also, how
vulnerable; with the numbers of those returning each summer dropping year on
year. The UK’s 30 million gardeners have an important part to play in helping
revive their populations - from tailoring planting choices to include insect
favourites and embracing bare patches for the benefit of nest building; people
can make small scale changes that will reap big rewards. How sad it would be
if future generations never know the joy of seeing these wonderful birds in our
gardens and green spaces.
You can download your Wild About Highflyers booklet at