The 2009 Nestbox Diary

August (part 1)  

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1 August - Well, August is starting off in the same sorry state that most of July found itself in - grey, with some light rain.

There was another staggered start in the boxes, with the female from STle leaving at 7.43am and 'White-Spot' just a minute later. It was 8.39am before the pair in SWup left.

At the end of a miserable day on which there were no visits to either box, there was a surprise in store when only one pair of Swifts returned, the birds from STle. The female arrived at 7.43am and 'White-Spot' joined her at 8.19pm.

It's too early to say that the (somewhat limited) exodus is under way, but I suspect that the flight south must be due very soon.

Unfortunately the computer problem means that I'm not in a position to include any images tonight, although I hope to add a couple tomorrow.


2 August - The day started off as a day in August should, with bright sunshine! Despite the bright conditions outside the pair in STle didn't show signs of leaving until approaching 8am. Then, after spending a few minutes at the exit, the female headed out at nearly 8.05am, with 'White-Spot leaving at 8.07am.

Up until 11.25am there have been no visitors to any of the boxes, although at 11am I could see six Swifts high overhead, and a single House Martin which was much lower than the Swifts.

At 11.30am there were no Swifts, but for the first time this year I saw a pair of House Martins, so I guess that they are nesting not too far from here, and in the half hour up to 6pm I saw just a single House Martin.

Back in 2004 Martins started nesting here (presumably a second brood) at the beginning of August. With that in mind I'll be keeping my fingers crossed and the cctv cameras running for a few weeks after I've confirmed that the Swifts have left. In the slim chance that we can attract the Martins I've replaced the Swift CD with one of House Martin calls and that will now play daily for at least the next week.

This afternoon I looked into both Swift boxes to record the state of the nests, and the pictures illustrate the contrast between the effort the two pairs have needed to make.

Upper Swift box - nest after six weeks


First, the pair in SWup clearly had a head start with the House Sparrow having produced what seemed like a perfect nest cup for them.

As this picture (taken from above the entrance)  confirms, the pair brought in very little in the way of feathers, and virtually no plant down during the last six weeks.




On the other hand, the pair that chose to use the Starling box only had a thin spread of twigs to act as a base for their nest and needed to bring in large quantities of nesting materials.


Swift nest in Starling box after six weeks - close-up



Look closer and you can see that they brought in what appears to me to be a nearly 50/50 balance of feathers and plant down, which appears beige in colour and tends to reflect the modelling light on the camera.

There is no sign of droppings having been left in either nest.


Female Swift returned at 7.22pm


I may not have seen any Swifts this afternoon, but there is at least one still about! The female returned to STle at 7.22pm!



Swift pair in STle tonight



'White -Spot' joined her at 8.44pm.

This pair is clearly not ready to leave us yet....




3 August - A brilliantly sunny morning, but our remaining pair of Swifts seemed reluctant to get started.


They were paying a great deal of attention to each other, and it wasn't until 8.21am that the female finally stretched her wings and headed out.

As I write this at approaching 8.30am, 'White-Spot' has been looking out for around five minutes -

He finally made the decision to leave at 8.34am.


There were no visits during the day, and although I spent several hours outside I didn't see any in the sky over us. However, just after 8pm, with the sky starting to cloud over I could see a pair high overhead, as well as a solitary House Martin.

At 9.10pm, as darkness fell the boxes remained empty, so it looks as though a fascinating six weeks may have come to an end, although I will continue to monitor the boxes for another day or two before I am sure that they have really gone.


4 August - A really dim morning under a uniformly grey sky with the cloud base well below a thousand feet, and a south south-westerly breeze - and damp!

There have been no visitors to the boxes this morning. If it stays that way today I will be starting to wind down my monitoring of the boxes, and I will suspend the webcam. However, the diary will continue with occasional updates as I set about the changes that I want to make ready for next year.


7 August - With no visits by Swifts or House Martins since the 4th, so it does look as though they have left. Having said that, there are still Swifts in the area. I saw one high over us for a short time at just before 8pm before it headed off towards the south.

After months of nest watching, these last few days have been a bit of an anti-climax in some ways. I have now switched off the nestbox cameras, disconnected most of the monitoring equipment that sat next to my computer, and today I took down the Starling boxes so that I can get started on the changes when I and the weather are in the right mood!

One of the first jobs will be to take out the cameras and give them a thorough clean, a necessary task after a Starling season, although I don't think I'll need to open them up this year as the silicone sealant that I applied last winter seems to have kept the mites out this year.

With the cameras out of the way I need to remove the old Starling nest in STri, but  it is very likely that I will leave the Swift nest in place in STRle. However, as it is on top of a thin straw base I'm hoping that I will be able to extract it on a temporary basis once I remove the box front by sliding a thin metal sheet under the straw.  This will allow me to give the box a thorough clean prior to my putting on a new front with Swift-friendly entrances.

I must order some more IR LEDs, but they won't be needed until I start on the Swift boxes themselves.


8 August - My reports that the Swifts have all left the neighbourhood left were somewhat premature.

I spent a great deal of time outside today, continuing work on the Hawthorn and other bits. During the day I didn't see any sign of Swifts or Martins. However, at around 8.15pm I counted six Swifts over us. They were quite high, and I saw no sign of any coming down to rooftop level. Then, at 8.37pm I happened to be looking the right way when a pair flew up to my neighbours' roof and enter the nest site with not much more than a bird's length between them.

Once that pair had gone inside the others also seemed to disappear without any coming near our driveway.

- Click on images to see larger versions -

2009 Nestbox Diary Index...........Start of the Year..........  ..Next chapter

The arrival of the Swifts