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Aberdeenshire wildlife group urged to help swifts, swallows and house martins

By Kirsty Brown

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“To know a swift is to love a swift” was Cally Smith’s introduction to her talk on these birds that breed in north east Scotland in the summer.

She was speaking at a Zoom meeting of the Bailies of Bennachie wildlife group and after her fascinating guide to swifts most of them would agree with her.

Huntly And District Swift Group colleagues Cally Smith and Karin de Rijck spoke to the Bailies group on March 10 about swifts, swallows and house martins.

All these groups of birds migrate in the autumn across Europe and the Sahara, winter in Africa from the Congo to South Africa and return to northern Europe to breed over the summer months.

All three species are found here in the north east of Scotland, all three types of birds build their nests on buildings; finding places under eves and in barns to rear their young.

Swifts mate for life, but house martins are less faithful with nest hopping being common.


Sadly the numbers of these birds is in decline.

Various factors are causing this including climate change, a decline in insect numbers and a loss of nesting sites.

New builds do not provide suitable sites and building work in older buildings over the summer can prevent the birds returning to their nests.

In the meeting Cally and Karin gave tips on how people can help - from going out to survey the birds on a summer evening, to providing nest boxes and leaving existing nests in place.

A lively discussion heard of efforts to restore swifts to Monymusk Church and other stories of swallows and house martins in barns and homes.

Bailies of Bennachie wildlife group's Jill Mathews said: “Cally and Karin are passionate about these birds.

"It was wonderful of them to share their knowledge and expertise with the group.

"Swifts, swallows and house martins are on their way back here now and I hope people will start to think about what they can do to help these birds.”

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