Huge interest in live 'Save our Swifts' project as birds return to campus

Friday, May 16, 2014 Press Office
Press Release

Local primary school children flock to the Mayo campus to view the birds' activities

Groups of children and adults are flocking to GMIT Mayo to watch and learn about an exciting bird conservation project called ‘Save our Swifts’ which is being streamed live on The first swift returning from its winter break was captured live on Wednesday night (14 May, 10.30pm), heralding the start of summer.

This unique biodiversity project is part of GMIT Mayo’s Green Campus programme led by staff member and environmental conservationist Lynda Huxley and the Green Campus Committee.

The group installed twelve swift nest boxes under the eaves of the campus building two years ago in a bid to increase the dwindling swift population. Cameras were installed in all the nest boxes this Spring and four of them went live on GMIT’s website this week.

School children, their parents and teachers have been finding out about the project and visiting the campus in their droves these past few weeks, attending talks and presentations on the project, viewing the nests at first hand, and watching the birds’ activities online. They have also each received copies of the booklet “We are Swifts – We are in Trouble” produced by the Green Campus Committee.

Sixty children visited from St Angela's in Castlebar and a further 60 are expected this coming week from Scoil Rafteiri, organised in collaboration with the Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar.  Other schools from Swinford,  Ballinrobe and Killaser will be visiting the campus during the next few weeks to learn all about the project.

The ‘GMIT Mayo Save our Swifts’ project is a unique conservation initiative that has captured the public’s imagination. There is no other site in the country with the ability to live-stream from swift nest boxes. Live-streaming of the swifts will continue on the GMIT Mayo website until the end of August.

The project is linked to several GMIT Mayo degree programmes such as the environmental modules on GMIT's BA in Heritage Studies and the BA in Outdoor Education. It also links in to the GMIT Construction courses, demonstrating to students how wildlife can be affected by building renovation work (swifts traditionally nested in old buildings, many of which were demolished or refurbished during the Celtic Tiger years thus destroying their nests). 

Lynda Huxley, Chairperson of the GMIT Green Campus Committee, says the committee members are delighted with the public’s response ““The Swift population has been in serious decline throughout Europe but particularly in the west of Ireland (46% in recent years). Currently Castlebar has just 20 pairs nesting in traditional sites and GMIT provides nine of these. This month, we expect to add three to five pairs to that and it’s looking like we’re on target.”

Deirdre Garvey, Head of GMIT Mayo, says: “"I don't think we could have anticipated the positive impact of this project on campus and the level of interest it has generated. We are delighted to welcome the local schools to share this experience and of course to welcome viewers through the live streaming. We are very proud of our Green Campus Committee and all their work on this project. "

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