Birds could make a Swift exit

By Maurice Garvey

A BIRD enthusiast has warned of a Swift exit in Clondalkin Village, should proposed plans for a 155-bed nursing home at Presentation Convent go ahead.

A colony of Swifts are located in the cloisters of the convent building, a site earmarked for development, pending an appeal to An Bord Pleanála by residents.

Swift Bird 1

The Swift Bird

One of the fastest flying birds in Ireland, Swifts spend virtually all their life airborne, only nesting to breed, but they will be wiped out unless precautions are put in place to protect their colony, according to Daithí De Brún, founder of Swift Conservation Clondalkin and a member of Birdwatch Ireland.

“South Dublin County Council have shown zero to no interest in preserving the Swift population,” said De Brún, who attributes their decline to the loss or renovation of the many 1970/80s style buildings they use for breeding.

He says the colony are the only remaining Swifts in Clondalkin.

However, SDCC say they have identified an active colony in “one of the council’s properties in the Clondalkin area.”

The Swift population in Ireland has declined by over 40 per cent in the last 15 years, and they are on the amber list of birds of conservation concern.

De Brún continued: “Dublin City Council, Kildare, Dún-Laoghaire-Rathdown, Belfast, are all conscious of breeding sites, and have built nest boxes, but Swifts are just not on the agenda for SDCC. They talk about bio-diversity, but only started to do something on their 2015-2020 bio-diversity plan last year.”

De Brún has monitored the Clondalkin colony for ten years, and says the numbers have decreased from 20 to seven in that time.

He made a submission during the planning process for the nursing home, citing “great concerns” for their future, as they are “faithful to their nest sites.”

On Monday, De Brún gave a Clondalkin Tidy Towns talk to residents at the convent grounds, pointing out the distinctive scythe shaped wings of Swifts, who he says, sleep and eat on the wing and travel as far away as southern Africa and the China Royal Palace.

“They are an interesting bird, they don’t really have feet so you never see them on telephone wires. They are in Ireland from the start of May to the end of August. If this colony is lost during the proposed works, it will certainly eliminate the Swift from Clondalkin Village.

De Brún has called on SDCC to provide nest box projects for the Swift colony.

“They nest boxes have 24 hour calling systems if located around the village, but ideally they would be located in the convent,” he said.

A spokesperson for SDCC said the issue of the swift colony was addressed during the planning application process, noting an Ecological Impact Statement submitted by the applicant.

SDCC said a condition in the final grant of permission requires an ecologist to ensure the implementation of the ecological mitigation measures.

The local authority said their Heritage Officer is in the process of rolling out a Swift Protection project across SDCC’s outdoor depots, using guidelines prepared in consultation with BirdWatch Ireland, part-funded under the County Heritage Plan.

“An active nesting colony has already been identified in one of the council’s properties in the Clondalkin area. Protection guidelines are being drawn up to ensure the continued success of this colony also,” said SDCC.

Mr De Brún said he would be delighted if the council could inform him where the other active colony is located.

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