The belfry in the tower of the twin chapels at Ely Cemetery is now home to fifty swift nesting boxes.
The cabinets are installed on five louvred sides, with the three remaining sides left ope to allow entry to the belfry and its single bell (which is not currently operational). With the City of Ely Council's endorsement, Richard Delahaye, the cemetery manager, and his staff embraced the swift project, carrying out nearly all of the installation work themselves. They have included a "tweeter" which will play attraction calls, hopefully encouraging young and mature swifts to pair and increase the colony by nesting in the belfry.
Swifts are migratory birds that travel from their wintering grounds in Africa, arriving in Britain at the end of April and leaving again at the end of July. These aerobatic birds can go months and even years entirely airborne, eating, sleeping and mating in flight. They pair for life, landing only to nest at the same site each year. The common swift will raise one family of two or three eggs during their three-month stay in the UK. Swifts are the fastest bird in level flight, reaching 69.3mph. The only bird to beat them is the peregrine falcon when it performs its famous diving 'stoop'. We hope to be seeing lots more of them at the cemetery in the coming months!