Swift Sightings at the Cultúrlann

So Saturday evening last I found myself standing in the protestant graveyard, camera in hand, waiting to screech at some swifts.  It did cross my mind that this was one of the more random situations I had found myself in of late, but these things happen.  The graveyard is a beautiful, tranquil spot on a sunny May evening – a dusk chorus was just building and a blackbird was singing tunefully at the top of the giant lime tree beside the cultúrlann.  The charming Brin McDonnell of Birdwatch Ireland talked to us about swifts and how they had been using the old building for nesting.  The team at the Cultúrlann have been extremely helpful in  accommodating these rare birds who live on the wing and only nest every four years.  A number of nesting holes have been cut out under the eaves of the roof and our task this evening was to verify if the Swifts had returned.

Within a few minutes Brin and Joan Ann Brosnan had us schooled in the differences between Swifts, Swallows and House Martins, as Brin set up sound equipment to draw the birds towards the building.  He explained that Swifts are communal nesters i.e. they will nest where other Swifts are nesting.  The idea was to play Swift Screeches and attract the birds to the building.  With a flick of a switch the loud Swift Screech recordings were echoing around the graveyard (and most likely Church Street and Main street too).  I will admit that I was skeptical that this would work but within minutes there they were in the sky, circling high above, black silhouettes with curved shaped wings.  They came closer and closer as time passed and came as close as circling over the building but we didn’t see any enter a nest.  Brin was not deterred, in fact he was quite happy with the results and will continue to attempt to draw the birds to the building.  If the birds don’t nest this year there will be more back next year and the scaffolding will be down which will make it more appealing.

I would highly recommend a trip into the graveyard in the Summer evenings to get a sight of these beautiful birds or even just for a little piece and quiet.  We finished up after an hour and paid a visit to Sarah Curran’s grave where Raymond was clipping the beautiful pink rose planted on it – there’s another story there but we’ll leave that for another day.