A number of nestboxes have been put up in Helmsley, North Yorkshire

The town makes a concerted effort to boost its breeding Common Swift population, ahead of the species' return from its wintering grounds in Africa

swift nest box and speaker

Four boxes have been attached to the rear of Claridges Book Shop on Church Street. Others are being erected at the North York Moors National Park Authority offices on Bondgate, Porters Coffee Shop and on private homes in Castlegate.

The project is being run by an organisation called Helmsley Swifts, which aims to educate people about Common Swifts and ensure that existing nest sites are retained. Many suitable sites have been lost from towns across Britain in recent years, as roofs have been replaced and improved, with the gaps and holes in eaves, which Common Swifts exploit for nesting, having been blocked up.

The main arrival of Common Swifts in North Yorkshire takes place in early to mid-May, as the birds get ready to breed. The boxes will allow breeding swifts to nest safely, laying their clutch of two to three eggs at the end of May or early June, which they incubate for around 20 days. At the end of the month they will be joined by younger, non-breeding birds, which spend time investigating potential breeding sites for future years – but never land. Swifts only land to nest and they are supremely adapted for life 'on the wing', feeding, drinking, bathing and even sleeping in the air.

Helmsley Swifts is applying for grants to buy more boxes and electronic swift calls to attract the birds to the new boxes. As part of UK Swift Awareness Week, there will also be a Midsummer Swift Eve event on 21 June at All Saints Church in Helmsley. The evening starts at 7.30 pm, with a short presentation followed by a walk around the town to look at the swifts in their new homes, along with swallows and house martins. The event is free and suitable for all ages.

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