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South West Water start year with a flyer - Swift boxes are installed at Exeter Site

Added: 25th January 2012

A sound system has been fixed high on the walls of a Devon sewage treatment works this month. Not to provide nearby workers with a disco soundtrack – but to attract swifts.

The South West Water facility at Countess Wear, Exeter, is part of a conservation initiative aimed at giving swifts more places to breed.

Twelve double nest boxes have been erected on one of the buildings at the works alongside the sound system which will play swift calls to attract the birds to the boxes.

The site is ideally positioned being close to the River Exe, which is a key landmark for swifts as they arrive each May after their long migration from Africa. The river also provides plenty of the birds’ favourite food – flying insects.

The sound system will be activated in the breeding season, in May, and if it works well, the site could be the summer home to up to 48 birds plus their offspring.

The initiative is part of Exeter Wild City’s Exeter Swift Project, a partnership between Devon Wildlife Trust, Exeter City Council and the RSPB with funding from the Alcoa Foundation. The project has installed over 100 new nests around the city in an aim to boost the number of nesting locations for this urban fast flyer.

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Emily Stallworthy, who has been coordinating the project, said: “Swifts are small black birds with scythe like wings that migrate to the UK from Africa every summer. These amazing birds have declined in the South West by 45% in the past two decades as a result of a reduction nesting opportunities. They prefer to nest in the eaves of buildings and as older houses are restored these spaces are disappearing. These new boxes are a major boost for the project and for the future of Exeter’s swift population.”

Paul McNie, South West Water’s Environment Manager, said “South West Water is really pleased to be partners of this exciting project as we are committed to enhancing the environment in our work.  The location of the boxes on our Countess Wear Sewage Treatment Works site will provide ideal, secure nesting conditions for many years to come. ”
For more information about the project and how to get involved visit

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