Flanders Moss NNR
It is swift awareness week.
So if you aren’t very aware of these amazing birds then this is a good week to learn a bit more. These are birds that spend most of their life flying and it’s been shown that they can even sleep on the wing. They are adapted to this aerial lifestyle by having very long wings and tiny feet that don’t get used very much. They have huge mouths to make it easier to catch the aerial insects that they live on. And you might not realize that bogs actually play an important role in the lives of these birds.
The numbers of aerial insects that swifts feed on are dropping. Research shows that in places they have dropped by over 75%. This is not surprising when you think about the huge amount of pesticides and herbicides used across the countryside. Nesting sites that are usually in older buildings are also becoming less common There are projects that raise awareness about accommodating swifts in buildings but this is only part of the story and if they don’t have enough food they can nest safely but starve.
Swifts can and do travel quite large distances to feed, especially when they are catching insects to feed young. Flanders Moss produces a lot of insects while sitting in a sterile, insect free desert of intensively farmed landscape. So, as somewhere to feed, Flanders is very important to swifts. This week this has been very obvious as there have been up to 50 swifts feeding over the bog in a stunning display of group flying. Standing on the viewing tower with these striking birds swooping close overhead is a fantastic experience. As these birds travel so far to good feeding areas the swifts at Flanders could be from neighbouring villages Kippen or Thornhill. But they could be Stirling swifts. Or maybe even Glasgow swifts. I like the thought that the Moss is feeding the birds that others are enjoying in the towns and cities.
So this is another example of how important sites like Flanders are for wildlife, not just specialized bog wildlife but other wildlife across a much wider area. Why not go down to see the display?
(Apologies for the rubbish photos but they are really hard to photograph!)