Swifts - in my mind the most interesting member of the Hirundines (swallows, sifts, martins). We are lucky in that all 4 British speices occur on the farm, although only swallows currently nest here. Its always exciting to see the first Swifts in May, normally high up screeching around. Not far down the road at Leigh Church there is a small colony of swifts which nest under the stone roof tiles. We spotted these a few years back at the parish bbq whilst led on the grass enjoying a burger. Watching them zoom in at high speed to a tiny hole on the roof was great.
So why put up a nest box for them? So swifts really do need a helping hand. Numbers are going down, some say we only have 50% of what we had. They lay fewer eggs that swallows, and only have one brood. This means in theory a swallow can reproduce 5 times faster than a swift. With modern (sealed) buildings there are less nesting spots available, and in many cases nest sites are thought to be the limiting factor (rather than food).
So what can you do? Well my brother Chris came across the Bristol Swift project and made a box, I thought this was a great idea so made a double box based on the plans from the Bristol Swift project website www.bristolswifts.co.uk/swift-nest-box-design
However, swift boxes are a bit more complex that some other boxes. To improve your chances of attracting and keeping your swifts you need to do a few special things. Firstly it needs to be high, mine is near 5 metres off the ground on our cattle shed, it needs to be shaded from full sun, it needs to be painted black inside and dark, and finally you need a sound system installed. We are not talking pop music, what you need is to play the calls of other swifts, to attract the youngsters over to take a look. So thats what we are doing, playing swift calls during the day. We might attract a pair this year but most likely we will attract some youngsters, who will take a look, remember where it is, migrate to Africa, and then come back next year to the box, have a look again, and finally breed in their 3rd year. There is no rushing a Swift. It really is the long game.....
So I put it up when I realised that the Leigh Church swifts were back mid May (8 adults). Too early and the sparrows might take up residence. Also that week we had 15 swifts over the cattle feeding by the river, only 150 metres from the box.
Anyway lets see what happens.