Category: Surveys

25 May
8:36 am

Devon Birds Swift Box Project

Devon Birds Swift Box Project

It is common knowledge that Swifts (Apus apus) are declining across Britain at an alarming rate, about 50 % in 25 years, and Devon is no different (see the Devon Bird Atlas).  Whilst the causes undoubtedly include loss of insects and problems in their winter range, the increasing shortage of nest sites is one that we can remedy.  To that end, in July 2023 Devon Birds Council agreed to put £6,000 towards this work, and have also received a grant from the Devon Environment Foundation of over £7K towards the project, which includes some public talks to engage the wider community.

Based on the success of this initial tranche of boxes, in April 2024 Devon Birds committed a further £75,000 over five years to this project.  Excitingly, Exeter Cathedral has agreed to a major installation in one of its towers, with a potential of 180 nest chambers (the biggest artificial colony in the UK?  Europe?).  Although this has the backing and approval of Devon Birds, we are not funding this ourselves.  At least a further dozen churches have indicated serious interest – can we keep up??

The accompanying table shows the boxes currently installed, which we will keep updated.  It all sounds simple but is much more complex than that!  We are asking churches for their assistance, as many have towers which give height, lack of disturbance, and some permanence (so many house are “tidied up” by owners, thus removing access for swifts).  Each church needs its Church Council to approve, and then the Diocese to agree.  Luckily, that second stage, which used to be laborious, is now much simpler.

Once approved, our constructor, Jerry Horn, then has to measure up, construct the boxes (or, rather, cabinets holding a number of boxes), and somehow manoeuvre the parts up narrow winding stairs, before installing them.  At the same time, he has to negotiate any bells, and ensure the tower is proofed against Jackdaws and squirrels.  An electrically-powered audio lure is also installed, without which Swifts are unlikely to prospect the site, let alone use them.  Even then, it can be several years before Swifts breed, but once in place the colony has a good chance of growing.

Churches should note that Swifts create no mess at all (unlike bats), and the boxes do not impact on the bells at all – nor the bells on the Swifts!

For further information, see

Below is a table of how the project has progressed so far



Approved Installed Funding
St Thomas Becket, Bridford Yes Aug 2023 DB
St. Michael The Archangel Church, Trusham Yes Aug 2023 DB
St John the Baptist, Ashton Yes Dec 2023 DB/DEF
St James’, Christow Yes Jan 2024 DB/DEF
St Michael’s, Doddiscombsleigh. Yes Jan 2024 DB/DEF
St Michael and all Angels, Dunchideock Yes Jan 2024 DB/DEF
St. Mary’s, Totnes Yes Feb 2024 DB/DEF
St. Michael’s, Exminster Yes Mar 2024 DB/DEF
St Mary’s Wolborough Yes Elsewhere
St Gregory’s, Dawlish Yes Elsewhere
St. Mary’s, Dunsford Yes Mar 2024 DB/DEF
Holy Trinity, Drewsteignton Yes Mar 2024 DB/DEF
St John’s, Totnes. Yes Feb 2024 DB/DEF
St. Clement’s, Powderham Yes
St Paul de Leon, Staverton Yes April 2024 DB/DEF
Tiverton St George (town centre) Yes April 2024 DB/DEF
Tiverton St Paul’s. Yes April 2024 DB/DEF
All Saints Holbeton Yes April 2024 DB/DEF
Exeter Cathedral Yes Independent
High Bickington, St Mary’s Yes

5 Dec
11:18 am

Avian Flu – warning and guidance

Some of you may be aware that there have now been confirmed cases of Avian Flu in England, Wales and Scotland.

Guidance has been published by the RSPB regarding what to do if you see a dead bird and this is available via the link below.


5 Dec
11:18 am

Avian Flu – warning and guidance

Some of you may be aware that there have now been confirmed cases of Avian Flu in England, Wales and Scotland.

Guidance has been published by the RSPB regarding what to do if you see a dead bird and this is available via the link below.

Avian Flu Guidance

5 Oct
11:20 am

Volunteer WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) counters needed

One or two WeBS Counters are needed to assist with counts on the river Dart.

The immediate need is for someone to cover Stoke Gabriel Millpond and the main estuary from Duncannon to Sandridge. These could be covered by one or two people.

You can find out more by downloading this document: Request for WeBS counters on the River Dart

If you want to get involved, please contact Peter Reay, (WeBS Local Organiser for Devon (except Taw and Torridge Tamar Estuaries).

17 Sep
12:10 pm

Help needed with South Tawton Bird Survey

If you think you might be able to help with a bird survey in South Tawton during 2022, please click the link to download a file with more information.

South Tawton Bird Survey 2022

19 Aug
3:33 pm

Bird Citizen Science Project

Devon Birds has been notified about a Citizen Science Project that has been launched, where volunteers can submit observations of birds foraging in either human or natural resources.

The first aim of the project is to study how commonly different species in different areas of the UK eat human foods and litter instead of “natural” food like worms and insects. The second aim is to engage more people in birdwatching: a common barrier is that most citizen science projects require bird ID skills, so this study has been designed in a way that no previous knowledge on birds is required. The hope is that this will help to engage more people with nature and birds, especially young people.

Go to:

The study will be open until 26th August and volunteers can participate as many times as they like.

29 Jul
12:33 pm

Tawny Owl Surveys

The BTO is running another complementary pair of Tawny Owl surveys over 2018/2019 and would welcome the help of volunteers.

Firstly, from mid-August to mid-October they will be running a structured survey based on those carried out in 1989 and 2005 called the Tawny Owl Point Survey (TOPS). For this you choose a tetrad from those available and once signed up just listen two or three times for 20 minutes at or near the centre of the tetrad during the 2 hours after sunset. Full details at

Secondly, from 30 September 2018 to 31 March 2019 for the Tawny Owl Calling Survey (TOCS), they are asking you to listen for Tawny Owls for 20 minutes one evening a week from your own garden or other place that you choose. The more weeks the better but one is better than none! Full details at This survey repeats one carried out in 2005/6.

And always remember a zero result is as valuable as a positive!

Our BTO rep – Stella Beavan – is happy to answer any queries and she can be contacted at

29 May
8:02 pm

Seabird Survey

Seabirds Count is the 4th breeding seabird census to be conducted in Britain and Ireland. Although data has been collected since 2015, there are still many sites needing to be surveyed. In Devon there are 29 non-urban seabird breeding sites that will need to be surveyed either this season or the 2019 season as set out in the spreadsheet here.

The timing for this season is getting tight but if you think you could take on one or two, either this year or next, please get in touch via email:

9 May
2:43 pm

Summary of Membership Survey Responses

Below we have summarised the results of the survey sent out to all the members of Devon Birds on behalf of the Council at the beginning of this year.  The results of this survey were presented to this year’s AGM, and it was thought that it might be useful to share a summary of the responses.  Overall there was around a fourteen per cent response rate which we are informed is not untypical.

Figures shown below are percentages.

How satisfied are you with Devon Birds?

Extremely satisfied – 47%;  Satisfied – 46%;  Neutral – 3%;  Dissatisfied – 1%;  Extremely dissatisfied – 3%

Which events have you attended in the past 12 months?

AGM – 24%;  Field meetings –  38%;  Indoor meetings – 38%

Have you participated in bird surveys in the past 12 months?

Yes – 20%;  No – 80%

Do you feel that surveys are important for DB?

Yes – 98.5%;  No – 1.5%

Have you visited a DB reserve in the past 12 months?

Yes – 39%; No – 61%

Have you carried out any voluntary activities?

Yes – 12%;  No – 88%

Are you willing to participate in voluntary activities?

Yes – 28%;  No – 72%

Do you feel that DB should support conservation activities?

98.5%;  1.5%

Are you satisfied with the information you receive?

Yes – 91%;  No – 9%

Are you satisfied with the DBR?

Yes – 95%;  No – 5%

Are you satisfied with The Harrier?

Yes – 90%;  No – 10%

Are you aware that The Harrier is now a blog?

Yes – 52%;  No – 48%

Have you subscribed to The Harrier blog?

Yes – 29%;  No – 71%

Are you a member of one of the Branches?

Yes – 37%;  No – 63%

How do you keep informed about DB activities?  (Shown as percentage of overall responses)

Website – 74%;  The Harrier – 81%;  Other – 13%