80-year-old man spends 13 years building shelters to house 60,000 pairs of swifts

John Stimpson, a retired salesman, turns 80. Stimpson is particularly proud of one achievement: he has just achieved his goal of building 30,000 swift boxes, which could accommodate half of Britain’s breeding population of 60,000 pairs.

(Photo: Image by Bernard DUPONT)

Devotion

Stimpson has been producing these oddly shaped boxes in his garage attached to his cottage near Ely, Cambridgeshire, for 13 years, using three saws and three drills.

After orders increased, what started as a retirement hobby turned into a full-time profession, and he now works 13-hour days to complete them all. He sells them for £20, which covers all his expenses.

He also built about 700 nest boxes for barn owls and 800 nest boxes for blue tits, finches, blackbirds and thrushes. According to the British Trust for Ornithology, Stimpson built most of the swift boxes installed in the UK. He didn’t realize how much he had earned until he took a look at his order book in July.

“I don’t get bored easily.” The amount of life issues that have been resolved in this garage is amazing. He said, “Your mind thinks about things.” He aspires to continue building boxes at 99 (his mother’s age), although he expects his speed to decline.

provide shelter

Given that half of the artificial nest boxes in the UK are occupied, Stimpson probably housed 15,000 pairs of swifts. He speaks modestly of his accomplishments. He said, “That’s a wonderful idea.” “At the end of the day, I’m pretty proud of it.” I believe I had an impact after failing academic tests in the 1950s.”

After 20 years as a Weetabix salesperson and another 19 years selling horticulture labels at Burall Bros, Stimpson retired early. He and his wife, Jill, have resided in Wilburton for 51 years. He credits his grandfather, a farmhand, with teaching him to appreciate nature by taking him out. “Wildlife gives me so much pleasure. One way to repay it is to build these boxes.”

Related article: Jays could be responsible for planting half of the tree population in England’s forests

Notice the problem

Stimpson, like many others, witnessed an alarming decline in animal numbers during his lifetime. Swifts, swallows and house swallows, which he remembers from his childhood, are gone. He is furious that his two grandchildren cannot benefit from the richness of the past.

Stimpson, like many others, witnessed an alarming decline in animal numbers during his lifetime. Swifts, swallows and house swallows, which he remembers from his childhood, are gone. He is furious that his two grandchildren cannot benefit from the richness of the past.

Swifts in the UK are in decline due to a loss of nesting sites, with their numbers declining by 57% in 22 years. These migrants, who are now on the UK Red List, are site-specific, meaning they return to the exact location every spring after flying hundreds of miles from Africa. The problem is that many old barns and drafty dwellings have been renovated and repaired, resulting in the loss of nesting places.

Also read: Environmental ‘protected’ areas not as guarded as they should be, evidence shows

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