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Cameras keep an eye on swifts

Unite Union Press Call at the JMH(Photo John Bugeja) 23.03.17 Gibraltar Tony Woodhouse, a member of the Unite executive council in the UK, campaign relating to Ian McClusky. In pix Michael Netto

The second phase of the Gibraltar Nature Cameras Project has seen the installation of two live-feed cameras showing the nests of the Pallid Swift, one of Gibraltar’s most well-known visiting birds.
Dr John Cortes, the Minister for Environment made the announcement yesterday in the presence of Stephen Warr Senior Environmental Officer and Karl Netto an assistant environmental officer.
At present there are cameras on two nests, with a further two nests due to go live in the coming weeks.
Both nests have two swifts – male and female- with Lois and Clark cohabitating in one and Lola and Rico in the other.
The pairs are both incubating three eggs, which is the usual number of eggs to be laid by swifts. The eggs are due to hatch in a few weeks and when they do so it will be live and available for the whole world to see. Dr Cortes is eager to get children involved in this so give them a bird’s eye view of the process of birth for birds.
“These cameras will bring our urban wildlife right into our homes. We will be able to follow the development of these swifts from eggs to fledging,” said Dr Cortes.
“In Gibraltar, we love our swifts. We do a great deal to protect them and their nests, so it’s only right that we should get to know them better,” he added.
Pallid swifts have two clutches a year, while the Common swift only has one. As a result, the camera may show the laying and hatching of baby swifts twice a year.
Three different species of swifts visit Gibraltar, the rare and larger Alpine Swift, the Common Swift and the Pallid Swift. The Common Swift is dark, almost black colour and the Pallid swift is paler brown.
“These fast moving, sickle-shaped birds, signal the start of the spring and are a characteristic feature of the Spring and Summer skies of Gibraltar,” said Dr Cortes.
The aim of the Swift live feed cameras is to raise awareness on “the fascinating lives of these birds, as well encourage the wider public to protect them and their nest sites.”
Swifts return to their ‘family’ nest every year in Spring and later in the year fly back to Africa, some flying as far away as South Africa. Once they leave the nest as youngsters they are known to spend several years continuously on the wing, even mating on the wing.
Swifts are very important to Gibraltar – and globally- because they eat millions and millions of flying insects like mosquitos every summer they spend on the Rock and with the decline in bats population their presence is vital.
It is because of their importance – on many levels- that they are protects on the Rock, including anyone or any company wishing to carry out new constructions or extensive renovations are required to install swift nests. In the past swifts used to build their own nests in the gaps under the eaves and gables of houses, because of modern building methods these gaps are no longer present.
The nests required by the Development and Planning Commission are in addition to the number of nests the Gibraltar Government has placed around the Rock.
The department for Environment and Climate Change will later this Spring launch further cameras showcasing Gibraltar’s rich wildlife, such as birds of prey,
The Swift cameras can be viewed online from the DEHCC’s Thinking Green website

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