According to the latest London Bird report (2014) Swifts have declined by 56% in London between 1995 to 2013. Modern building design and renovations that deny them access to roofs for breeding are thought to be a factor. Few breeding/nesting records were submitted for that year. More work has therefore been done to try and locate further nesting sites in Bexley. This has identified two, possibly three more houses used by the Northall Road/Manor Way birds in Barnehurst, and has found out where the birds around the Stuart Mantle Way area in Erith are nesting.
I went out late on the 12th June to try and find more nesting sites in the Northall Road area, which is difficult as the birds range quite widely and rarely leave the sky – perhaps even less so on an overcast day like this when there may be less food in the air – so you have to be lucky to be in the right place at the right time to see one enter a building. A maximum of 17 or 18 birds were seen together. At 21.10 it started raining quite hard and the birds quickly disappeared.
On 13th June 17 birds were seen here. At 21.19 one went up under the eaves of a two-storey house on Hillingdon Road previously suspected of being used for nesting, though it is up on a bank so there is a 2.5 storey drop, and at 21.29 one, possibly two birds went up under the eaves of a two-storey house 17 buildings further up the road, despite the attached property next door having scaffolding erected up to the roof line. Another bird may have gone into the next building along, but a tree obscured my view at the time. The last bird seen in the air was at just after 21.30.
I had previously seen Swifts in numbers around the flats at Stuart Mantle Way, Erith, some four years ago. On 14th June a maximum of 7 birds were seen at once. However, 5 individuals were seen going to presumed nests, one in each of the five blocks of flats towards the east end of the road, so it may be there were more birds around somewhere. It transpired that they were entering air bricks above the windows. On 3-storey blocks they were using the ones above 2nd storey windows, and on the 4-storey blocks the ones above the 3rd storey windows. One or two Swifts were still flying at 21.18.
The Swift count for these sites in May 2012 (before there would have been any young) was 29 and 13 respectively. I don’t think I have have any more recent counts for Stuart Mantle Way, and my Northall Road area counts for the past few years are still buried in notebooks and not yet spread-sheeted.
Presumed nesting sites this year have also been recorded for the Belvedere village group of Swifts (just off Nuxley Road), in a roof in Birkbeck Road, Sidcup and in Northumberland Heath (Mill Road) where only 2 or 3 Swifts have been seen together.
Other concentrations of Swifts for which no nesting sites have yet been identified are the Danson Park group, and those in the Upper College farm area. Doubtless there are more.