Look to the skies above Helmsley any time between May and August and you’ll probably see scores of swooping swifts. The town boasts a very healthy swift population, and local artist Jonathan Pomroy, whose works in watercolour can be seen in this post, has been observing and documenting the birds for many years. He is the author of On Crescent Wings: A Portrait of the Swift.
Jonathan is also involved in Helmsley Swifts, an organisation formed in 2018 to protect the swift population and make efforts to increase it. Generously helped by North York Moors National Park and Helmsley Town Council, the group has installed 85 nest boxes which are located throughout the town. Those boxes are now starting to be occupied, which is a wonderful and encouraging result.
We may have a healthy population in Helmsley but the reality is that swift populations have declined by 58% in the last 25 years. Along with house martins they were added to the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List in 2021. By installing nest boxes Helmsley Swifts are securing nest sites for many pairs of swifts, but crucially they are also surveying the town for existing nest sites. The organisation wants to educate people how to spot a swift nest site - if for example a roof needs refurbishing we can advise on preserving that site or providing alternative nesting opportunities. Helmsley Swifts can also arrange to supply a nest box (or preferably two because swifts nest colonially) for Helmsley residents.
On 9th July 10am- 4pm Helmsley Swifts will be showcasing their work for swifts in the town at NGalleries in Barker's Yard. This is a free event as part of Swift Awareness Week 2022.
The gallery offers a fine viewpoint to watch swifts and house martins above Helmsley. There will be an exhibition of recent swift paintings by artist and author of On Crescent Wings, Jonathan Pomroy. There will be activities for children and anyone can have a go at sketching swifts, guided by Jonathan.
Do come and chat to us about your swift sightings and we can advise on how you might attract swifts to nest on your house or business premises. Or just come to enjoy watching swifts!
NGalleries, 7 Barkers Yard, Helmsley, YO62 5DR
Tel: 01439 772 010
You can follow us on Twitter @HelmsleySwifts
Plan your visit here, and if you would like any help Kevin Bradshaw will be pleased to offer you assistance. Please keep in touch as we will be announcing updates regularly.