Trek for Swift tracking

Those of you who have been following my blog since it first began will be aware of how it’s changed. Not the fact that blogs are becoming less frequent (sorry about that, I promise to do more soon!) but they’re now about a wider range of topics. Some of my very early blogs were mainly focused on the wildlife I saw and recorded, along with my outings. On multiple occasions I blogged about my experiences from the walks I’d been on. I still love going on long distance walks, whether that’s locally or further afield. It’s a fantastic way of delving deep into the countryside.

Below are a few examples of some of my first blogs about my walking adventures. You can view them by clicking on the titles:

Some of you may also be interested in the piece I recently wrote for A Focus on Nature’s (AFON) Christmas advent series. In the blog I explore where my enthusiasm for long distance walking began – http://www.afocusonnature.org/advent-calendar/my-grandad/

Later this year I plan to put all of this into action by taking on a long distance route. The North West Way. A 191 mile trek across the North of England. Starting in Preston: it follows parts of the Ribble Way, the Penine Way, through the rugged dales of Yorkshire via the thundering waterfalls of Teesdale and High Cup Nick and follows a section of Hadrain’s Wall before finishing in Carlisle.

It will be 11 days of back to back walking and although this may sound slightly mad, I’m really looking forward to it! Even better, in doing so, I have decided to raise funds for the BTO to help support their Swift tracking project.

Swifts are remarkable birds. Watching them dazzling in the sky above me on a summer’s day never fails to put a smile on my face. They are very iconic and for some, a sign of summer. The sight of their dark, sooty brown streamline, forked tail silhouette and shrieking overhead is a memorising sight and a real spectacle!

Unfortunately, their breeding numbers have declined by 47% between 1995-2014 here in the UK. This is an alarming decline and making matters worse is the fact that no one is quite sure why. Although the loss of nest sites through modernisation of buildings is implicated, it is very likely that this is only part of the story.

During the breeding season, Swifts depend on large bursts of insects to collect enough food for themselves and their young. It’s likely that the decline in the abundance of invertebrates that has occurred in Britain due to climate change has reduced the amount of food available for breeding Swifts. However, little is known about their foraging behaviour during breeding due to the difficulty of following them over relatively large distances that they are thought to travel to feed.

Swifts are only present in the UK for 3 months a year, therefore it is possible that they are being affected by processes occurring elsewhere in the world, in the areas that they use outside of the breeding season. To find out more about this, the BTO plans to track Swifts on their migration.

By deploying miniature GPS tags on swifts at breeding colonies in England, the BTO will be able to track swifts both on their foraging flights during the breeding season and over their annual migrations. As each tag will be able to record around 300 locations per deployment, this will allow the BTO to quantify the amount of time spent over different habitats and the distances travelled from the colony through short-term deployments during the breeding season. Through longer-term deployments with different tag programmes, it will allow scientists to look in much finer detail at the use of the stopover points in West Africa on spring migration.

The money that I raise will go towards supporting the BTO to ensure that these tags are safe enough to be deployed on Swifts during the summer and winter so that scientists at the BTO can gather and store data on long term deployments to help them learn more about the challenges they face on migration. This is key, as if scientists can understand what’s going wrong, we know what we can do to reverse this.

To donate please click here.  All donations are greatly appreciated!

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