Friday, 31 March 2017

Swift boxes at Cley Nature Reserve

When it was suggested to Richard Porter, a Cley resident and Trevor Williams an energetic volunteer with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust that it might be a good idea to have Swift boxes on the visitor centre, they quickly responded by getting approval from the powers that be.

However, when we came to look for suitable places for Swift boxes, there was nowhere that was ideally suited. We originally thought that the Simon Aspinall Education Centre would be the most appropriate - Simon was a great fan of Swifts, and would have loved the idea. However, it is adjacent to the public area where people have their picnics in the summer, so attraction calls so close might not be appreciated by all visitors. Also the building is quite exposed.

As a result we settled on the Dick Bagnall-Oakeley Centre, an attractive thatched building, clad in timber and with broad eaves. However, the eaves are only 2.8 metres high. Although this is well below our very minimum recommendation (~3.5 metres), Swifts are known to nest at this height and lower. (see here) The ground in front of the building slopes away from the building, overlooking Cley Marsh, so this might help
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Trevor Willlams installing a Model 30 Photo Richard Porter
The net result is that we installed 4 Model 30's supplied by John Stimpson. The geometric shape of the Model 30 fitted the underside of the eaves perfectly.

Should this plan succeed in attracting Swifts, then there is scope to expand to double or treble the number of boxes.

We regard this project as pushing the boundaries - although it challenges our own advice, it may tell us something.

Trevor Williams and Richard Porter with 4 Model 30 nest boxes

Monday, 27 March 2017

A Swift tower at The Avenue Washlands

Back in 2011, we posted an idea for a Swift tower, based upon four 4-box cabinets, so 16 nest chambers. Since then, we have installed a fair number of 4-box cabinets, many of which have between 1 and 4 pairs of Swifts in them, but we never built the tower. Now, volunteers from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have extended the concept and executed an excellent example with 24 nesting chambers.

The Avenue Washlands is a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust wetland reserve consisting of reedbed, marsh, ponds and grassland in the valley of the River Rother, near Chesterfield. Along with the installation of pole-mounted Barn Owl boxes, they have now successfully installed a pole-mounted Swift Tower.

The project was funded and built by members of the Chesterfield & NE Derbyshire Local Group of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. For the installation they were helped by the reserve’s Sunday work party volunteers.

The body of the boxes is made of pressure-treated timber. The roof and backs are made from Tricoya which claims to have an exterior life of 50 years! The roof has a ridge made from guttering.

The pole was donated and erected by Western Power. It is the most impressive pole that we have seen in terms of its size and rigidity, and gives a sense of proportion to the whole structure.

A solar panel driven attraction call system will be installed ready for the 2017 season.

We thank Brian Goodwin and Nick Brown for sending us this story and the pictures.


The tower is assembled from 2 each of these components
A test assembly on the ground.
Assembly in progress by reserve volunteers
A great-looking end result

Friday, 24 March 2017

A new Swift box in GRP

GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) is a waterproof material normally used for making boats, car bodies and other products which need to combine strength with light weight. So, Len Haworth decided to apply his boat building skills to produce a range of rather nice looking, very long-lasting Swift boxes.

In his own words:

"Since 2003 I have been using my boat building skills in GRP for the good of the birds. My company www.impeckable.co.uk does not make a profit, any surplus either goes on development for more species or to buy the expensive materials which go into each box. But then I thoroughly enjoy what I do. Before I start the development of any nest box, which is a long and expensive business, I have to get the basic design spot on because later alterations are not possible with GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic). I have consulted with ornithologists such as Chris de Feu, who I greatly value as an advisor and where it comes to Swifts, Edward Mayer of swift-conservation.org and I have had a long exchange of emails to get the basics correct. "

Certainly the first Swift boxes off the production line look the business. One can see the nautical heritage in the porthole-style entrances. All the fittings are stainless - as Len "does not do rust". For south-facing aspects, exposed to the sun, Len is producing a canopy to deflect the sun.

Each nesting chamber has dimensions; 300mm long; 200mm wide; 200mm high

The oval nest concaves are a novel idea, it will be interesting to see what Swifts make of them.

Boxes are available in 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8-chamber versions.

For further information and prices, download this leaflet 
Also visit www.impeckable.co.uk





Monday, 20 March 2017

A New colony box in Magrath Avenue

We first installed a 4-box cabinet, made by Bob Tonks on Helen Hodgson's house in Magrath Avenue, Cambridge in 2010. Helen already had one pair of Swifts nesting on top of the wall under her eaves, but despite playing attraction calls every year, by 2016, still no Swifts have occupied her boxes.

Click to enlarge
Few places are as stubborn as this. More recently we installed 3 Zeist-style boxes further along the eaves, but although attraction calls generate interest from the Swifts, they are as yet to become established in any of the boxes.

In 2010 there was a small tree in front of the house, which has now become a substantial tree. Trees in front of boxes tend to slow things down. Although the tree has been trimmed somewhat over the winter, one can imagine that it is still a disincentive for the swifts.

So, as a last resort, we have installed a 4-box cabinet facing out over Magdalene College. It faces the same direction as the eaves which contains the existing pair of Swifts.

The space between the drainage pipe and the end of the wall is 29cm, so enough to get a floor area of about 26cm x 20cm for each chamber. The headroom in each chamber is 15cm

The front of the box faces south east, so it is painted white to reflect the sun. The box is made of 12mm weatherproof plywood, and the roof is covered in 9mm PVC.

Grooves were cut below the entrances to provide some grip. This might assist the Swifts in gaining their first entry.

The picture left shows how it was constructed. There is a tweeter in the 2nd chamber up.

The cabinet is secured to the wall with anchor bolts which screw directly into the brickwork, without a rawlplug.


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Swift boxes in southern Sweden

Benny Båth
We received this story and pictures from Benny Båth who lives near Rydsnäs in central southern Sweden. Benny has built many nest boxes for a range of species, but has only installed Swift boxes before last summer. He has some success already and useful experiences to share

Benny writes: 

"I have about 35 nests at 6 sites for swifts but I'm a bit unsure about the best way to place them. Some of my boxes are placed close to each other but it seems that the birds choose boxes with some distance between them.

I had seven boxes located on three different walls at my home and got one box occupied on each wall, it was then that I started to suspect they might prefer some privacy.

No occupants at the other sites were recorded, but I will open all the boxes soon.

I've noticed that the sound system is essential for fast results, I had swifts prospecting on all sites with sound systems (4) including the three nesting pairs with two chicks each at my own home. 

At the moment I  am building four internal boxes on my barn gable, facing west, the main reason is to get the nests out of the heat. I measured the temperature in the box next to the occupied box this summer. The maximum temperature reached 42°C!


I construct entrances by drilling a 64mm hole in the box and the barn wall and then fit one of the front plates outside. This plate is 9mm plywood with an oval hole of 60x30mm. I painted the plate soft yellow and around the hole with black so its seems more distinct from a distance. I got the idea to paint black near the hole from a post on Bristol Swifts website.

All three nesting pairs at my home chose boxes with this kind of front plate so it will be interesting to see if it was a coincidence or if it actually has some effect.

The farmers nearby are really cooperative and I have permission to install both internal and external boxes at many sites, this year I will have about 80 boxes and 8 sound systems up."

Benny has modelled his external boxes on the Model 30, but with a roof sloping at 15°. The material is plywood clad in 1.5mm GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) - so they should last for a long time.

It seems that, from a standing start, Benny has considerable momentum!


DIY nest box with removable entrance plate


Nest box with concave made of Asfaboard, a bituminous fibrous material

2 boxes installed on Benny's house

Entrances to internal boxes installed in the barn