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Chance to become a 'Swiftie' thanks to new project

Date: Monday 5 June

Chance to become a 'Swiftie' thanks to new project

A new initiative that aims to raise awareness of swifts in Blairgowrie and Rattray and the important role they play in an area’s biodiversity has been launched thanks to support from Blairgowrie and Rattray Development Trust’s (BRDT) Biodiversity Blair project and Tayside Biodiversity Partnership.

The Blairgowrie and Rattray Swift Conservation Project has been granted £4,960 to run the project for two years, with Tayside Biodiversity Partnership contributing an additional £3,610 to go towards working with local developers and setting up a new Swift School Twinning Project.

As part of efforts to raise awareness of local swifts with the community in Blairgowrie and Rattray, there will be information events and guided walks to encourage recording swift sightings and a survey of swifts mapping existing swift nest sites and screaming party locations using Swiftmapper.

Those involved in the project will also work with local businesses and householders to find good locations for swift nest boxes and erect them, and share information across Tayside, Scotland, the UK and the international swift community.

The first information event took place in Blairgowrie Library recently and organisers were pleased with the turnout, with a number of people going along specifically to talk about swifts and several streets in the town adopted for surveys. Locations for new nest boxes were also identified.

The second event was a guided walk and survey training session for local volunteers keen to support the project. Participants were able to find out how to identify swifts, swallows and martins, spot a swift nest site and learn how to carry out a simple survey.

Catherine Lloyd is the biodiversity co-ordinator for Tayside Biodiversity Partnership and one of the co-leaders of the Tayside Swifts group.

She said: “Tayside Swifts is a species interest group set up by the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership.

“We have rolled out similar programmes to this initiative over the past few years whenever we have been able to secure funding, with projects taking place in Forfar, Kirriemuir, Carse of Gowrie, Pitlochry and Crieff, among others.

“We are thrilled to now be working in Blairgowrie and Rattray - Scotland’s First Biodiversity Town – and would like to thank BRDT for its support.

“Although Blairgowrie and Rattray is currently a good area for sifts, that creates its own urgency in that we need to keep it that way - and hopefully improve it - as population numbers are declining elsewhere.

“Awareness-raising is just as vital as the practical task of installing the specialist nest boxes that are needed and we are looking forward to making a real and lasting difference through this project.”

Danièle Muir from locally-based Perthshire Wildlife is also a co-leader of Tayside Swifts.

She said: “Swift numbers in Scotland have dropped by over 60% in the past 25 years or so, largely due to how we manage buildings.

“As we renovate or demolish older buildings, the small gaps where swifts like to nest are destroyed, so if they can't find a new location to nest then they can't breed.

“The huge drop in insect numbers also affects them - rather than being able to raise three chicks per year on lots of insect prey, they are probably lucky to raise one or two chicks these days.

“However, the good news is that Blairgowrie and Rattray still have good numbers of swifts and that we can help them in our homes and gardens by putting up specialised swift nest boxes and by gardening for wildlife to encourage invertebrate life.

“On a personal level, I have wanted to help the population grow for many years as there are many buildings in the town that are suitable for nest boxes so it's great that the funding has finally become available to be able to do this.”

Lesley McDonald is responsible for project development for BRDT and is part of the Biodiversity Blair group.

She commented: “BRDT’s work is led by the community for the community and we support community groups, individuals, and volunteers to deliver projects to enhance the town for the benefit of all.

“Blairgowrie and Rattray has an exceptional local environment and, along with others, BRDT is keen to promote and protect that and support improvements to the environmental sustainability of the town.

“Thanks to work done by local groups involved in BRDT’s Open Spaces initiative around developing a biodiversity action plan for the town which sees local volunteers working towards enhancing the local environment and becoming more nature friendly in a way that fits in with local preferences, Blairgowrie and Rattray is now Scotland’s first biodiversity town.

“One aspect of that is working to safeguard our local swifts, which play an important part in the overall biodiversity picture, and we were therefore delighted to be able to support Tayside Swifts to deliver this valuable project.

“Everyone can get involved and we would love to hear from anyone who would like to be part of this initiative.”

For further information, email Lesley McDonald on

Sponsors or donations are also required to purchase and install additional nest boxes for the project. Contact Catherine Lloyd by emailing for more details.