Swift thinking gets birds flocking to Ballyclare

RSPB members Sharman Finlay, Daphne Millar and Brenda Campbell with a nesting box similar to the ones which were erected by Colin Patterson and Gary Millar on the wall of Millar Meats in order to attract swifts back to Ballyclare town centre. INNT 20-019-PSB

RSPB members Sharman Finlay, Daphne Millar and Brenda Campbell with a nesting box similar to the ones which were erected by Colin Patterson and Gary Millar on the wall of Millar Meats in order to attract swifts back to Ballyclare town centre. INNT 20-019-PSB

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A BALLYCLARE butcher has helped local RSPB volunteers attract migrating birds back to the town by providing new nesting sites for swifts on the wall of his premises.

Following the demolition of the former Woodsides store at The Square earlier this year, local RSPB members Sharman Finlay and James Gault were concerned that migrating swifts which traditionally nested in the building would be homeless on their return to Ballyclare in early May.

“James and I belong respectively to the local Larne and Antrim groups of the RSPB and have a particular interest in the migrating birds such as swallows, swifts and martins. We await their return each year with anticipation and enjoy their antics,” Mrs Finlay told the Times.

“Swifts will only nest in the same site year after year; last year’s young return to where they were born and reared, so the destruction of their habitat was a blow. Swift numbers are declining rapidly due to the loss of traditional nesting sites in many places.”

Having discussed the problem with Brenda Campbell, the leader of the Antrim RSPB group, Mrs Finlay and Mr Gault decided to begin ‘Save Our Swifts’, with the aim of finding new nesting sites in the town centre.

“I contacted Gary Millar of Millar Meats, whose premises are close to the demolition site. Gary immediately kindly agreed to allow us to position artificial nesting boxes on the wall of his building, along with a caller which imitates the call of a swift and attracts the birds to investigate the new boxes and, it is hoped, nest inside.

“Gary and his friend Colin Patterson generously offered to do the installation work of the boxes, thus saving us the large expense of paying for the hire of a cherry picker,” Mrs Finlay explained.

Thanking Gary and his wife, Daphne for their help, she added: “The first swifts were spotted last week and we are now hoping to see them investigating the nest boxes which Gary has had installed and deciding that they will compensate for the loss of their old habitat.

“People take for granted the joyous sound and sight of these amazing birds as they pass their brief time here with us; how sad if they were to disappear.”