A project led by the community in Stradbally and Laois County Council is taking practical action to enhance the town’s wildlife and built heritage.
Stradbally Community Development Association was granted funding in 2021 through the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, for the conservation of the bridge at the centre of the town, public realm enhancements and actions to improve biodiversity.
After a period of planning the project is now seeing visible action on the ground, with nest boxes for breeding swifts installed at strategic locations in the town this week.
Swifts are a summer visitor to Ireland from Africa, a little bit larger than a swallow but blackish-brown all over, except for a small, white chin-patch, with a short tail and long, sickle-shaped wings Swifts in Ireland are in decline.
We have lost 40% of our Swifts in the last ten years, according to BirdWatch Ireland. A survey carried out for Laois Heritage Office in 2018 highlighted the importance of Stradbally as a stronghold for swifts in the county.
Ricky Whelan of BirdWatch Ireland assisted the SCDA group with finding the best site for the new nest boxes and was there on Saturday to help with installation. He said: “It’s fantastic to see Laois County Council and local communities collaborate to help this charismatic and endangered bird across County Laois.
“The swift boxes installed in Stradbally will increase nesting opportunities for swifts in the town and we hope that this will have a positive impact on the population locally.
“A Biodiversity Week walk held in Stradbally this week explored the swifts, swallows and house martins of the town, and it was great to see such interest from people from Stradbally and farther afield in these beautiful birds and how to help them.
“BirdWatch Ireland looks forward to working with the community of Stradbally in the coming years to enhance the town for all wildlife”.
John O’Brien, PRO Stradbally Community Development Association said: “The birds are singing and moving SWIFTLY in Stradbally especially on Main Street and Hunters Lane.
Stradbally Tidy Towns and Stradbally Community Development Association are delighted to join forces to execute a project that will enhance the town’s wildlife and built heritage.
“Thank You so much to Pat Deegan Engineering, Stradbally and his Team for their expertise, time and hard work on Saturday morning”
Ann Simpson, Chairperson Stradbally Community Development Association said: “We are delighted to have the swift nest boxes installed in Stradbally, and we would like to thank in particular Fr Breen PP Stradbally for allowing us to put three nest boxes and a caller at the back of his house.
“We are all looking forward to watching our new residents arrive!”
The nest boxes were installed in time for a Biodiversity Week walk in Stradbally and are part of an ongoing commitment to swifts by Laois County Council which has seen swift nest boxes installed in public buildings across the county, including the new Portlaoise Library, following the survey of swifts in Laois in 2018, and with the support of the Heritage Council and the Local Biodiversity Action Fund.
The project in Stradbally will also see biodiversity-friendly planting at strategic locations through the town, and a planting plan is currently being drawn up to guide this.
Part of the project will also see conservation of the masonry of the main town bridge, including repointing and repair of the architecturally important early 19th century ashlar limestone piers and parapets, and conservation of the historic ironwork on the west side of the bridge.
As the road on the bridge is a national primary route, consultation with Transport Infrastructure Ireland has been required, and reinstatement of railings on the east side of the bridge (removed many years ago) has been ruled out, for safety reasons, but the project will ensure the restoration of this important part of Stradbally’s heritage to its former glory.
The Town and Village Renewal Scheme project in Stradbally also includes public realm improvements including installation of disability access parking, universal access seating and bicycle stands in the village.
Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council, Conor Bergin, welcomed the progress in Stradbally and said: “The funding provided by the Town and Village Renewal Scheme is very important in improving economic and social status of communities across Laois.
“The community section of Laois County Council works closely with local communities in developing and delivering these projects and I would like to commend all involved in Stradbally and communities across Laois who have taken advantage of these opportunities.”