The 2013 Nestbox Diary
July - part 1
7 July - I'm afraid that the Swifts have had to take a bit of a 'back seat' over the last week or so, and today's entry doesn't do much in the way of catching up.
The chicks in SW(le) are doing well and with good weather prevailing there are no feeding problems - it's a pity that the other pair failed to produce fertile eggs.
The chicks' flight feathers are developing and while they are still some way from their first flights, the chicks have started to exercise their wings each day.
This image was captured on the 3rd,
and this was captured yesterday, showing quite a difference in just three days.
This morning this chick spent time in a very familiar pose, not just stretching its wings but using the side of the box as an aid as it arched its back.
Here are the four north-facing boxes tonight. The new pair in SW(up) have brought in a small amount of nesting material so far, but those in SW(ri) have been building up their nest steadily over the last week or so.
As for the east-facing boxes at the front of the house, my initial optimism has had to be moderated. I don't think any birds are spending night in them at the moment, although there are occasional daytime visitors.
Once the pair had moved into SW(up) I spotted playing Swift calls during the day in case they disturbed the birds in the box right next to the loudspeaker. With activity being very limited around the front boxes, yesterday I rigged up a loudpeaker in my loft to play the calls through a small opening into SW(A). Within minutes there was a Swift at the entrance to that box and a pair looking into SW(C). Hopefully the calls, played from 8am until 8pm (no later in case it disturbs my grandson when he sleeps here!) will encourage some positive behaviour.
This morning a Swift swooped and missed my head by no more than a foot after it had inspected a House Martin nest!
10 July - With perhaps two more weeks before they fledge, the Swift chicks continue to do well.
The pair continue to spend much of their time resting, usually huddled close together as they await their next feed.
There are periods of preening as well as wing flapping and stretching. At least one of them has taken to using the ledge above the entrance to perch as it stretches its tail down under its body, something I've seen in previous seasons.
Also, from time to time one will reverse to the far end of the box before producing a faecal sac, some of while are now being dumped out of the box and onto the ground below!
At this stage the wings and tail of each chick resemble those of the young of some our garden birds which fledge much sooner. Of course, those fledglings have only to fly to a nearby branch and will be tended to by their parents over the days that follow as they learn the arts of flying and survival.
In contrast, these chicks will get no such treatment once they leave the box and set off on what is essentially a solo flight of many thousands of miles - it takes along time to prepare for such a start in life.
Tonight, all six adult Swifts from the camera boxes were 'home' by 9.50pm.
It will be interesting to see how long the two pairs without chicks will stay with us. Will continuing good weather encourage them to stay a bit longer?
15 July - The hot weather continues with daily temperatures in the shade creeping close to 30C. Fortunately, all the Swift boxes are either under the roof overhang at the front of the house or on the north-facing wall. They are all subject to direct sunshine first thing in the morning, and the north facing boxes also get some exposure in the evening.
The chicks seem to be coping with the heat, and the parents are having no problem catching food for them. Having said that, the chicks are not a great deal of energetic stretching at the moment.
They spend a great deal of time resting, usually together, either at this end of the box,
with occasional sessions of mutual preening.
or positioned so that they can look out, without blocking the way for a returning parent!
At the front of the house the boxes continue to receive some attention, especially around the middle of the day when there is quite a bit of activity around all the boxes that I've put up.
Today a pair spent ten minutes or more in SW(A).
While today's flying display was going on I was having a chat with one of the neighbours who already has one of my boxes (occupied) and the possibility of putting up boxes on more houses was raised. It's something I would love to do as long as we can persuade people of positive effect the swifts' presence will have on the community.
21 July - With the very warm weather continuing, albeit with a slight reprieve this morning thanks to cloud cover we have entered the final couple of days before the chicks fledge. All being well they should take to the air on the 23rd or 24th.
And I guess that when the chicks depart so will some of the non-breeding adults that are about at the moment. For a while this evening there were some 25-30 birds flying low over us, with smaller groups splitting of to scream their way between houses, although they showed little interest in actually inspecting boxes. In fact, over the last couple of days interest in the boxes at the front of the house has declined.
With their wings now close to fully formed, the chicks in SW(le) have been stretching quite a bit today.
It's interesting to compare that image with this almost identical picture captured two days ago (the 19th).
With a wingspan like this the box can be rather restricting while exercising takes place.
However, it does help is one's sibling gets out of the way so that one has the floor to one's self!
Rub away the image of the box in this picture and you could almost imaging the young Swift is flying.
I occasionally get a glimpse of the Swift's gape. This is half way there as it seemed to be panting. It was not particularly hot at the time (3.15pm - 26C).
Tonight, in addition to the chicks all adults are present and correct on the three occupied boxes.
22 July - A very brief entry on what has been the hottest day of the year so far, with a high in the garden just shy of 32C -
For the chicks it was business as usual with some very impressive wing displays as they prepared for a departure that could come as soon as tomorrow for at least one of them,
and tonight all the adult birds were back in.
There was quite a bit of Swift activity around lunchtime and at least one Swift entered SW(A), although I have been too busy to check through the day's recordings to see if any other boxes were also visited.
Unfortunately, It is unlikely that I will be adding the large images until at least the second half of this week.
Click on images to see larger versions