Towering Southwold landmark provides height of luxury for declining bird species

Clad in scaffolding, Southwold Water Tower is being refurbished - and is a potential new home for sw

Clad in scaffolding, Southwold Water Tower is being refurbished - and is a potential new home for swifts. Picture Essex & Suffolk Water. - Credit: Archant

A major landmark on the Suffolk coast has become a beacon of hope for a much-loved bird species that is in steep decline.

A common swift captured in its dashing flight. Picture: David Moreton.

A common swift captured in its dashing flight. Picture: David Moreton. - Credit: Archant

Southwold's striking 1937-built Art Deco water tower will hopefully double up as a 'des res' for swifts with the 85ft structure offering the birds lofty homes at what could be said to be the higher end of the town's housing market.

Conservationists are trying to tempt the swifts to settle in the tower on the western edge of the seaside community - which is renowned for its sky-high house prices - with a combination of specially designed nestboxes and recordings of the species' screaming calls to lure the birds in.

Essex and Suffolk Water is carrying out a £290,000 tower refurbishment and has teamed up with contractor Stonbury and the Save Our Suffolk Swifts Campaign to incorporate the boxes and the sound system into the work. The campaign is a partnership involving the 400-member Suffolk Ornithologists' Group (SOG) and Suffolk Wildlife Trust and aims to reverse swift population declines in the county.

SOG president and East Anglian Daily Times environment correspondent John Grant formally launched the project from high up on the tower yesterday, as he unveiled a commemorative plaque with campaign volunteer Edward Jackson.

Save Our Suffolk Swifts Campaign volunteer Edward Jackson, left, and Essex & Suffolk Water's Oliver

Save Our Suffolk Swifts Campaign volunteer Edward Jackson, left, and Essex & Suffolk Water's Oliver Rogers, on the top of Southwold Water Tower, discussing a graph showing the UK's steep decline of swifts since 1994. Picture: Essex & Suffolk Water. - Credit: Archant


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Mr Jackson said: 'Across the UK we have lost almost half our swifts in the past 25 years. We believe this is mainly due to nest sites being destroyed as old buildings are demolished or roof repairs and improvements seal up existing nest sites.

'SOS Swifts is working to help swifts in communities across Suffolk and is delighted to be working with Essex and Suffolk Water and Stonbury to provide 16 new nest sites on the tower. It may take several years but we hope that young birds from the colony of swifts that is with us now in Southwold will find and use these new homes - and help secure the future for this most iconic bird of summer.'

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It is thought that the project is the first in the UK to make use of a water tower - similar nestbox and sound system initiatives across Britain have previously proved to be successful in such buildings as churches and apartment blocks.

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