Bristol Swifts Blog 2016

Bristol Swifts blog of activity and observations of the swift colony around our house in Bristol in 2016. For details of the location of each occupied box see Swift nest box location on our house. See 2015 Blog for last years activity.

Tuesday August 9th.

The final two chicks have fledged and all my swifts have now gone.

I’ve added the results from 2016 and compared them with 2015 and it’s quite interesting to see the difference between the two years. See 2016 Swift Colony Summary pdf attached.

Sunday August 7th.

Both our chicks are still here but they are really restless this morning. Continuously flapping and stretching their wings and peering out of the entrance. I’ve filmed them 5 times already convinced they were just about to go and each time they return to the nest. I bet they will leave the moment I’m not looking,

Yesterday I saw my first migration group. Around 3pm about 10 swifts leisurely flew over the house heading south-west. After a few minutes 2 returned. It was the adults from NB5 west, the ones with the 2 chicks. The others continued on their way and I watched them slowly disappear over the hill in the far distance, heading towards Weston-Super-Mare. Last night only 8 adults returned to roost, 5 were missing, probably part of the group I saw earlier in the day.

Saturday August 6th.

I really thought one chick would fledge yesterday. It spent all day peering out of the entrance hole as if it was ready to go.  A couple times after 9pm it looked like it was just about to leave when one of the adults returned. Because it was so close to the hole it got fed twice in quick succession. After the second feed it decided to return to the nest cup for the night. The other sibling who had remained on the nest missed out on its late feed and looked a little peeved. It vigorously pecked at the beaks of both adults to try an elicit a feed but none came. It went to sleep hungry whilst the other looked contented. The swift nearest the camera is the one that had the double feed last night.

Friday August 5th.

I think this could be the day our chicks fledge. They are 43 & 44 days old and look ready to go. All day yesterday they were stretching and flapping their wings in readiness. One spent a lot of the time looking out of the entrance hole, I really thought it was going to leave last night but when the adults returned around 9pm it snuggled up with them on the nest. It’s a lovely morning, no wind sunny and warm and it feels right for them to go. We still have 13 adults roosting overnight. It’s almost as if they are waiting for these chicks to fledge before they go as well.

Thursday August 4th.

No activity this morning. The 2 chicks are still here along with 13 adults.

Wednesday August 3rd.

We still have 13 adults and 2 chicks with us, because of the rain they were all back in their boxes relatively early last night the last one coming in at 7pm. One of the two chicks has started to spend a lot of time looking out of the entrance hole which is a sure sign it’s getting close to fledging.

Reports from around the UK yesterday of large groups of swifts gathering high up and moving south, although I haven’t seen any here yet.

A swift friend in Cambridge has just told me he has a pair still on eggs which are due to hatch today. That’s very late for swifts and if they do hatch they won’t be ready to go until mid September.

Tuesday August 2nd.

Sad news from Gillian Westray yesterday. The injured swift we took to her last week didn’t make it. It had dislocated it’s shoulder which tragically had fused back together in the wrong place. She said “He would never had been able to fly and had become increasingly stressed attempting to fledge so putting him to sleep was the only option, however for a few days before the vet made the final decision he ate really well and enjoyed the company of his new friends, I always like to think whatever the outcome their time with me is happy and comfortable”.

Checked the boxes last night and we still have 13 adults and 2 chicks with us.

Monday August 1st.

At 10am I was treated to a single noisy fly-by by 6 swifts. The came out of the blue, did a low level scream around the house and disappeared.

At least 14 returned last night, so although it’s very quiet during the day they’re still roosting in their boxes at night. Once the chicks leave it’s quite normal for the adults to remain for an extra week or two in order to build up their strength before they migrate.

So far this year I still haven’t seen any mass migration movements. Most years on a warm sunny afternoon I often see a large group of swifts,100 plus, screaming and circling high above me. They are always heading in a south-westerly direction. They seem to be calling swifts from the local area to join them as they pass over. Looking at the weather forecast it looks pretty good from Friday onwards so I shall be watching the skies in anticipation. If I’m lucky I just might catch a glimpse of one of these groups as they fly over. If you’re intending to have a look yourselves, late afternoons from 4pm onwards are the best times to see them. Friday and Saturday looks promising as does the beginning of next week.

The 2 chicks in NB5 west are doing a lot of exercises and wing stretching. They look fully grown now although they still have another 5 or 6 days before they’re ready to go.

Sunday 31st July.

I actually witnessed only my third chick fledging in 11 years. It happened last night just before 9pm. One of the adults returned to feed the remaining chick in NB3 north. I had a quick check of the camera to confirm there were only 2 birds inside the box. At the same time a group of swifts were screaming around the house. They usually put on a short display just before they disappear back into their respective boxes. However this activity was carrying on slightly longer than normal, were they waiting for something to happen? Then the adult dropped out of the box followed about 5 minutes later by the chick. It laboured to start with, wings flapping furiously before it eventually climbed to a safe height. The group of swifts who were still hanging around a few houses away saw the newcomer and immediately gave chase. Within seconds the youngster was in the middle of a very excited and noisy melee. And then the finale. The group including the youngster very noisily whizzed around the house, a real treat.  It was almost as if they were saying to it, this is where you came from, remember it because you might want to return sometime. Then after a few minutes they all disappeared into the night sky. Several returned a little later and went into their boxes but the youngster was not with them, it had gone. The perfect end to the fine evening.

Only the 2 chicks in NB5 west to go. One 1 of the non-breeders in NB2 south also went yesterday. The numbers remaining with me are 2 chicks and 14 adults.

Saturday 30th July.

Sometime last night between 6pm and 10pm 1 of the chicks from NB3 north fledged. Around 9pm there was a group of about 8 swifts which buzzed the house for about 10 minutes and I wonder if that’s when our swift slipped out. Very quiet for most of the yesterday with virtually no actively expect for that at 9pm. Only 3 chicks left to go now.

Friday 29th July.

No activity this morning and to my surprise both chicks are still here in NB3 north. I normally expect them to leave around the 43-45 day mark but both of them are older that that. However I expect them to fledge over the weekend. The last chick that fledged on Wednesday from NB4 south was 49 days old which is the oldest one I’ve ever recorded. One adult from NB3 west went yesterday, so at the moment I’m left with 4 chicks and 15 adults.

Reports from across the UK are indicating this is going to be the worst breeding year since 2012. It looks like the average number of chicks per nest is going to be somewhere in the region of 1.5 to 2.0. In a good year it would be somewhere between 2 and 2.5 perhaps even higher.

Thursday 28th July.

For an hour or so this morning I was treated to 8 swifts screaming around the house. It’s the first real bout of sustained activity since last Friday. They were targeting NB3 north which has 2 chicks in that are just about to fledge. I thought one or both might go this morning however I’ve just checked the camera at 1pm and they are both still there.

Wednesday 27th July.

I had been looking after a baby swift for over a week now but I was getting worried that it wasn’t putting on any weight and one of it’s wings looked a bit strange. So yesterday we took our little friend up to see a dedicated swift first-aider near Broadway, Worcestershire.

Gillian Westray is an amazing woman. For over 16 years she has been looking after abandoned and injured hirundines and swifts all by herself. She has converted one of her rooms into what can only be described as a hospital ward where she looks after up to 200 patients a year. At the moment she has about 50 to care for. Her daily routine starts around 6am and finishes at midnight. Her dedication and commitment is awe-inspiring. 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for up to 5 months. We left there humbled and full of admiration at the works she does, especially as she’s completely self-funded. The live food bill alone is over £200 a week!

The LH photo is me looking into cages full of baby swifts, the middle photo is Gillian feeding one of her patients and the RH photo is our swift. We were so pleased she offered to look after our swift and feel it has a really good chance of fledging. Whilst we were there we also had a look around Broadway, such a beautiful and picturesque village. Not a bad place for a spot of lunch either!

Hand rearing swifts

When we arrived home we found another chick had gone. The last chick in NB4 south had fledged leaving only 4 more to go.

Tuesday 26th July.

Even though it appeared nothing was happening yesterday when I checked my cameras late last night I found another 2 chicks had gone along with 1 adult. Both chicks in NB1 north and 1 of the adults were missing. There is also no activity from the roof tile nest so they’ve all gone as well. I’m not sure when they went as I hardly saw any activity all day, they must have all slipped out quietly without any fuss when I wasn’t looking.

So to revise the totals are as follows; 12 out of 17 chicks have fledged and 4 out of 20 adults have gone.

The remaining chicks are in the following boxes; 1 in NB4 south, 2 in NB3 north & 2 in NB5 west. The chicks in NB4 south & NB3 north are due to go any day now, whereas the chicks in NB5 west aren’t due to go until the 8th August.

Monday 25th July.

A very quiet day yesterday compared to all the activity of the last week or so. No chicks fledged either so we still have 10 chicks left to go. It feels difference somehow and by next weekend I wouldn’t be surprised if most have gone. The only ones left will be the ones in NB5 west who are due to go around the 8th Aug.

Sunday 24th July.

8am. A damp drizzly morning means no activity at the moment. No chicks went yesterday which surprised me as I thought the last one in NB4 south was ready to go. Also 2 adults I thought had gone have returned. One in NB2 north and the other in NB5 north. They must have decided it was better to spend a night on the wing rather than roost in the box, perhaps because of the hot weather.

Saturday 23rd July.

7am. Lots of activity again this morning as another chick gets ready to fledge. The chick in NB4 south is ready to go.

Yesterday the remaining chick in NB5 north went together with the last adult, that box is now empty. Also one of the adults in NB2 north migrated as well. Total as it stands at 7am is 17 adults and 10 chicks still here.

A short clip from Thursday of swifts trying to entice the last chick out of the corner box NB4 south and prospecting the middle box NB2 south.

Friday 22nd July.

No chicks fledge yesterday, however there is quite a bit of activity this morning especially around NB4 south. There are 2 chicks ready to fledge anytime now. One in NB4 south and the other in NB5 north, I think all this frenzied activity is a sure sign one will go later this morning. I hope I’m wrong and they’re still here tomorrow as my good friend Simon and his daughter are coming up from Taunton to have a look.

One adult has migrated from NB5 north. Last night only 1 adult returned. This is what happens this time of year, an adult will just up and leave even if there are still chicks in the nest. However apart from the one that has gone all the other adults are still here. At the moment in my colony there is 19 adults and 11 chicks.

It’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy season with regards adult numbers. All last years birds returned safely and by late May all 8 pairs were back. These were joined by 2 new pairs in early June making it 10 pairs. Unfortunately I lost a pair in early July, back down to 9 pairs, but almost immediately gained a new pair a week later. So it looks like I’m going to finish with 10 pairs in total, 2 more than last year which is great.

I’m still hopeful that I might be able to attract the odd single bird or two in the next couple of weeks, so I’m going to play the attraction calls wherever I can, weather permitting.

Thursday 21st July.

The frenzied activity continued all morning yesterday and sometime between 11am-noon the first chick fledged from NB5 north. After that the activity died away to almost nothing until 8pm when the adults started to come back to roost. I love watching them whizz round the house at night and slowly one by one disappear back into their boxes. Although I really happy to see the chicks fledge, I’m also sad as I know their time with me is drawing rapidly to an end. Their time with is is so short it’s almost over before it’s really begun. In the meantime there’s still another 11 chicks to fledge so plenty more to enjoy. Total fledged so far; 6 out of 17.

Wednesday 20th July.

8am. All the bees have now gone and life has returned to normal. Lots of activity this morning with at least 15 whizzing up to the occupied boxes. I think another chick may be ready to fledge, either from NB5 north or possibly the last chick in NB4 south.

11am. One of the chicks in the top corner box (NB5 north) just about to fledge this morning, lots of excited activity from the adults trying to encourage it out.

Tuesday 19th July.

6.30am. The majority of the bees were removed last night, just a few stragglers left this morning. The beekeepers have left a dummy hive in the garden and will return tonight to take the remainder. It was upsetting to let them go but they were causing my swifts a real problem. Here is a short video clip from inside one of the nest boxes which is unpleasant to watch.

Despite the bees it was a cracking day yesterday with up to 20 swifts whizzing around the house virtually all day long. They obviously know when chicks are ready to go as they spent hours trying to entice them out. Well it worked, 2 more chicks fledged. The third and final chick from NB2 north and the second from NB4 south. That makes 5 out of 17 fledged to date.

Lots of activity again this morning but I don’t think any more chicks are due to fledge for at least a couple of days. The anticipated fledging dates are as follows; NB4 south 1 remaining, fledging date 21st July. NB5 north 2 remaining, fledging date 21st July. NB1 north 2 remaining, fledging date 23rd July. NB3 north 2 remaining, fledging date 28th July. Roof tile nest 3 remaining, fledging date 28th July and finally NB5 west 2 remaining fledging date 8th Aug.

Lastly but not least, the foster chick from NB3 north. I’ve put it back in the box a couple of times this morning but it keeps coming straight out. I think the episode with the bees has really unsettled it. As it won’t stay in the box anymore I’ll have to hand-rearing it. It’s not my preferred option but I have no choice. It only weighs 35g so it needs to put on another 5-10g before it’s ready – possibly in about a weeks time. That makes 13 more chicks waiting to fledge sometime over the next couple of weeks.

Monday 18th July.

Three chicks fledged yesterday. Two went from NB2 north (one of the pair was a foster chick) and went from NB4 south (the other foster chick). Lots of activity again this morning as I think the remaining chick in NB2 north is ready to go.

On a very stressful note, dozens of scout honey bees have been entering all the boxes on the front including the three with chicks in. It’s been most upsetting watching what’s happening. This started around 5pm yesterday and went on for a couple of hours and they’re back again this morning. I think they’re sussing out a new home before they swarm, heaven forbid it’s in one of my boxes!  I’ve been trying everything they say to try and deter them. I’ve been spraying the boxes with soapy water and puffing smoke over the bees in an effort to stop them at the same time trying not to upset the swifts. I just hope I can persuade the bees to look elsewhere.

5pm. It looks like it’s my own bees from my hive in the garden that are causing the problem. As much as I love my bees I can’t bear to watch what’s happening so I’ve called in the local beekeeper to remove my hive from the garden. Bees & swifts just don’t mix!

The bees have freaked out the foster chick in NB3 north who keeps jumping out the box. I’ve put it back in a couple of times but as soon as it sees another bee it comes straight out again. I’ll keep it in the house tonight for safe keeping. Luckily there are plenty of flying ants about. I’ve managed to pick up a good handful which I’ll give to the chick later – what a day!

Sunday 17th July.

Lots of screaming activity this morning. I think our first chicks may have just fledged. The 2 chicks in NB2 north were due to go on the tomorrow however I can’t see them at all in the box. The only place they could be is right next to the entrance which is just out of range of my camera, if they’re not there then they’ve went sometime after 8 am this morning.

Saturday 16th July.

Monday and Tuesday are going to be very hot & sunny with light winds – excellent swift weather.  The first chicks in many nests across the UK should be ready to fledge at the same time so expect lots of activity, in fact it could be the best two days of the season. There’s still a very good chance of attracting a swift or two into your boxes so keeping playing the attraction calls especially on those two days. I don’t play mine as much as I used to but I’m going to on both days starting from 6am till noon, and again from 7pm till dusk. I’m hoping to entice one or two of these noisy newcomers who have been whizzing around here for the last couple of weeks.

There now seems to be two birds in NB1 south. I checked the box last night and could just about make out the tail feathers of two different birds. The strange thing is they roost right next to the entrance on the floor rather than in the nest cup. I’m sure it’s a new pair that have taken over the box after the disappearance of the original pair last weekend. It just proves how valuable an existing nest site is, when one becomes available it is immediately re-used.

A quick update on the three fostered chicks. The one in NB4 south is doing really well. It’s still there along with the other two chicks. Both adults are about and bringing back plenty of food. Now it gets a bit tricky to work out what’s going on in the other 2 boxes. In NB2 north I could see only 3 out of the 5 there last night. I’m not sure if it’s the 3 chicks or 1 adult and 2 chicks. One thing is for certain 1 adult is missing, it’s probably migrated early. The last foster chick which I put in NB5 north yesterday I think has fledged. It was there for most of the day yesterday but I can’t see it this morning. I can definitely see 4 birds in that box but I think it’s the adults and their 2 chicks. However the camera in that box is a bit fuzzy and it’s difficult to tell the difference between the adults and chicks. Chicks have distinct white edges to their wing feathers which under normal circumstances makes it easy to tell who’s who.

10am. The foster chick in NB5 north has just fallen out the box. It never looked at ease with the other 2 chicks who seemed to shun it. Rather than put it back in the same box I’ve moved it into NB3 north. The chicks in there are slightly smaller and I hope it won’t be bullied like it was in NB5 north.

10.30am. Great news the 2 chicks have bonded immediately with the newcomer and I’m really hopeful it’ll be OK from now on. It is the chick in the top LH corner in the short video below and seems to have settled in extremely well.

Friday 15th July.

6.30am. Lots of activity around the house. 6-8 newcomers whizzing around.

Got back late yesterday from a few days in Devon which was great but I was really missing my swifts. We popped into see our good friend Simon in Taunton. With his enthusiasm and drive the eco students at Heathfield School have raised the money and built 12 boxes. They are still waiting for their first swift but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Well done mate.

A quick check of the cameras revealed all’s well. It looks like only 1 adult in NB2 north. That’s the box I fostered 1 of the chicks into last Saturday. I’ll try and confirm today if one’s missing. If it has it’s probably migrated early. I’m not too worried as the chicks are due to fledge on Tuesday and It’s quite normal for an adult to leave before they do.

Also there is a new bird in NB1 south, that’s the box where both parents went missing over a week ago. I don’t think it’s one of the original birds, as it was roosting near the entrance and not in the nest.

We had a call from a lady in Bristol who had found a baby swift not far from us this morning. We whizzed over and picked it up immediately. It’s about 5-6 weeks old and in pretty good health. It probably fledged a bit too early before it could fly properly. Lucky NB5 north has 2 chicks in that are due to fledge next weekend. I put it in around 9am this morning and it’s already been fed once. In the RH photo it’s the swift underneath the other two.

Swift Chick July 2016

Tuesday July 12th.

6.30 am. Finally the winds dropped and are noisy newcomers are back. 4 of them whizzing around and banging the boxes.

9am. This group of newcomers has now swelled to at least 15. I don’t think they’re interested in the empty boxes at all, it’s the boxes with chicks in that they’re targeting. My first chicks are due to fledge around the 20th so the newcomers will have to wait a few more days before they’re ready to come out.

Monday July 11th.

Not much activity today, far too windy. The good news is both foster chicks continue to look well. I think we’ve passed the critical point and both should be OK, fingers crossed they should fledge in about 10 days time.

If this weather continues like this which seems likely, then I have a horrible feeling that this swift season will fizzle out like a damp squib. We desperately need some warmth especially in the evenings for them to perform, otherwise they will remain silent until they leave in a couple of weeks time. I’m starting to feel a little depressed with the way this summer is shaping up!

Sunday July 10th.

9am. Both foster chicks have settled in well and have been fed many times since their move.

Despite all the drama surrounding the foster chicks there was also quite a bit of activity as well. Our small group of newcomers remained around the house all day yesterday. They spent most of the time going up to and peeping inside the occupied boxes. I think they’re fascinated by the sound of the chicks inside. As the chicks get closer to fledging their excitement will build and this behaviour will intensify, they will lose all interest in the empty boxes. However at the moment they occasionally turn their attention to the empty ones and I saw them enter several, NB1 & 7 west and NB3 south. They even entered NB1 south, but I think they were still thinking the chicks were inside as it must have come as a surprise to find they’ve gone.

Saturday July 9th.

I removed the dead chick from NB1 south yesterday afternoon as it was attracting a lot of flies. However on a more worrying note I didn’t see the single adult return once during the day. Last night it didn’t return either so both chicks haven’t been fed for over 24 hours. There is the possibility that both adults have been predated but I’m not convinced that’s whats happened. It’s more likely that one or both have migrated early. I know sometimes 1 adult will migrate a few days before the chicks are ready to fledge but I’ve never heard of both going together. So if they have both migrated early then that’s very unusual behaviour indeed. And what’s makes matters even worst these chicks are at least 10 days from fledging. I’ll watch them for a few more hours this morning but if the single adult fails to appear then I must act if I want to save them. If I do nothing both will starve to death as they’re too young to fly. The good news is there are 2 other boxes both with 2 chicks in which are exactly the same age and size. If I don’t see the adult by mid morning I’ll foster 1 into each box. Swifts are excellent foster parents and this will give them the best chance of surviving. 

10am. No sign of the remaining adult so I’m going to move both chicks.

11am. Both chicks are 34 days old. The larger one weighs 38g and the slightly smaller one 33g. The ideal weight for fledging is 40-45g so they’re some way of that and I think that justifies my decision to move them. I put the larger one in NB2 north with 2 other chicks which are exactly the same age & size. The slightly smaller one I put in NB4 south. The 2 chicks in there are 3 days younger but are about the same size.

Rehabbing swifts

Top photos – swifts to be fostered. Bottom photo left inside NB4 South and bottom right inside NB2 North.

The fostered chicks are the middle ones in both photos. They have been accepted immediately and were fed within 30 minutes of being placed in their new boxes.

Friday July 8th.

7am. Last night I noticed an adult missing from NB1 south. I’ve just checked that box this morning and found a dead chick inside the box. I can only pressume that the adult went missing whilst we were in Devon and unfortunately the smallest chick didn’t survive. The remaining two chicks are just over 4 weeks old and have another 2 weeks to go before they fledge. They look pretty healthy so I’m hopefully the single parent can cope on it’s own.

Whilst checking all the other boxes I also found another chick missing (presumed dead) from NB2 north. This box had three chicks in and although both parents are still here they obviously couldn’t find enough food for all three chicks. I can’t see inside the whole box so I’m not sure if it’s still inside just out of camera view, or whether it fell out of the box. I think the poor weather in the second half of June has definitely had an adverse affect on all my boxes with three chicks in as they have all suffered 1 fatality each.

Revised total; 17 chicks from 9 nests.

Thursday July 7th.

3pm. Just got back from a few days in Devon and the last two eggs in NB3 west have hatched. Looking at the size of both chicks I would say they hatched a couple of days ago.

Final total from our colony; 21 chicks from 9 nests.

6pm. I was mistaken, what I thought was 2 chicks was in fact feathers. I started to worry after watching for over an hour and saw no movement from inside the nest cup. A quick look outside on the ground under the nest box revealed 2 smashed eggs. The chicks inside were fully formed. I can only presume that a newcomer entered the nest box and threw out both eggs in an attempt to force the female to mate again. This is extremely unusual behaviour and I can only attributed it to the fact that this pair laid their eggs so late in the season. They then by default became vulnerable to the arrival of newcomers looking for nest sites. Although I couldn’t have prevented this from happening it’s kind of put a dampener on my short holiday.

Revised total; 19 chicks from 9 nests.

Tuesday July 5th

Yesterday began well but petered out after about an hour but a strange thing happened. A swift entered one of my artificial house martin nests. To start with I couldn’t quite see what it was, just a white patch in the entrance hole, then it moved and it was obvious it was the head of a swift. I hope it was only a one-off as it’s far too cramped for swifts.

All quiet this morning.

NB3 west eggs are due to hatch today. That’s the last box with eggs in. The other pair of newcomers in NB2 south won’t breed this year, it’s too late now.

Monday July 4th.

Last night was probably the best night for activity so far this summer. in fact it was so good I even gave up watching the football (France were leading 4-0 anyway). From around 9pm until 10.10pm a large group of swifts (10 plus) were flying up to all the boxes. It was difficult to tell who were newcomers and who weren’t, but slowly the resident birds returned to their respective boxes leaving around 5 or 6 outside. These newcomers continued their onslaught by landing on the strips underneath and peeping inside. Two or three times a newcomer peeped a bit too far inside an occupied box and was caught by the resident bird. They were unceremoniously ejected and left dangling outside the entrance by their tail feathers, making a dreadful noise. However they also landed and peeped inside several empty boxes, mostly NB4 north & NB1 west. So I’m hopeful they might come back today to investigate them a bit further. The even better news though is the weather is finally settling down, so I’m expecting an action packed week ahead.

6.30am. They’re back again and doing the rounds.

Sunday July 3rd.

7am. The best morning since last Tuesday and our small group are newcomers are back. At least 2 banging up against the boxes, perhaps they’ll be joined by others as the day progresses.

Saturday July 2nd.

Another rubbish day weather-wise. No activity again so I thought I’ll show you the pictures of the two newcomers nests. Both pairs turned up about the same time at the beginning of June. The LH nest is NB2 south. They’ve been busy building for the last week, adding a lot of new feathers however I don’t think they’ll breed this year. The RH nest is NB3 west. They took over an old abandoned nest and have laid 2 eggs. It difficult to know why one pair laid eggs and the other didn’t. Perhaps It was something to do with the fact one box already had a complete nest inside, who knows. The eggs are due to hatch on July 5th.

Swift nests 2 July 2016

Friday July 1st.

The picture below is from inside NB1 south. The adult is on top of, believe it or not, 3 chicks. These hatched just over 3 weeks ago and are due to fledge around the 23rd July. The chicks are almost as big as the adult now, although their wing and tail feathers still have a bit more growing to do. You can easily distinguish chicks from adults as they have white edges on the wing feathers, whereas adults don’t. These white edges on the wing feathers can clearly be seen on the chick below.

Swift chicks 1 Jul 2016

Thursday June 30th.

2pm. Very quiet from the word go this morning with no screaming activity so far. Grey skies and rather cool for June but at least it’s stopped raining. The adults have been taking full advantage of this to collect as many insects as the can. Most of the chicks went hunger yesterday, but today they’ve had plenty to eat.

Wednesday June 29th.

The new pair in NB2 south spent most of yesterday morning bringing back small white feathers.Their nest is really starting to take shape now. To help I always put a handful of loose feathers in each box to give them a head start. They’ve glued all these together with their saliva and moulded them into a neat circular nest. At the moment they’re applying the finishing touches by adding some extra feathers they’ve caught on the wing. There’s still a slight possibility they might breed this year but it’s getting very tight. The latest egg ever laid in one of my boxes was on June 26th back in 2013. I have read of eggs being laid in early July but that’s very rare and then only in very warm summers, unlike this one.

Surprise surprise, no activity this morning as it’s pouring down.

Tuesday June 28th.

5.30am. A bright sunny start before the rain arrives and the newcomers are back. At least 8 in the group and for the first time I’ve seen them enter at least one of the unoccupied boxes. One swift entered NB1 west and possibly another in NB8 west.

The photos below were taken yesterday. The one in the middle is one of the adults leaving NB1 south. The two end photos are of the roof tile nest entrance. The RH photo is the swift emerging from under the tile and the LH photo is it launching itself off the gutter.

Swifts 2016

Wonderful swift photos by Matt Collis

Monday June 27th.

We opened our garden yesterday to raise funds for several local charities. Unfortunately the weather was against us and it rained all afternoon. However not all was lost, we rigged up our web cameras to show live pictures from inside our nest boxes which was a great success. We had well over 200 people visit us and by far the best attraction was the swifts!

With the 8 other gardens open we raised over £1000 which was fantastic. If any of my blog readers that attended yesterday a big thank you to you all.

Today with much better weather the swifts have been more active. The adults with chicks have been returning about every hour whilst the non-breeding pair in NB2 south have been busily collecting feathers. Our good friend Matt Collis has been taking photos of them this morning and they are brilliant. I’ll add some to the blog tomorrow.

Sunday June 26th.

Yesterday activity started off pretty good but unfortunately it petered out rather too quickly, and by 9am it was all over for the day. Today the swifts must sense the changing weather. There’s a fresh westerly wind blowing and there’s been no activity at all. Still it hasn’t stopped the adults gathering food for their young but the noisy newcomers haven’t bothered to turn up. They definitely prefer warm, humid, non-windy days to perform. Looking at the forecast for the rest of the week it doesn’t look great, I think it’s going to be several days before they return again.

Saturday June 25th.

6.30am. Lots of activity again with our group of newcomers whizzing around the house.

Friday June 24th.

4.35am. I decided to stay up and watch the results from the referendum. Whilst trying to keep awake my attention was caught by the first swift leaving its box. Just as the BBC confirmed that the leave campaign had won it slipped out of NB3 north. Twenty minutes later it was joined by swifts from NB1 & NB5 north.

5.05am. Our regular group of  newcomers (6-8 birds) arrive from the north. 5 minutes later at 5.10am the first screaming party of the morning.

5.20am. The first egg had just hatched in NB5 west. Total; 18 chicks and 3 eggs still to hatch.

3pm. The second egg has hatched in NB5 west. Total; 19 chicks and 2 eggs still to hatch.

Thursday June 23rd.

6.30am. A humid and very warm start, it’s already 17c and the swifts are up and about. At least 6-8 whizzing around the house. One thing I have noticed is a slight change in behaviour from the newcomers that arrived in early June and the ones that are here now. Back then it was obvious that in that first group there were 2 pairs already formed. These new pairs targeted the all boxes entering many of them, before finally sticking on their preferred boxes. Whereas this new group of newcomers seem to be made up of entirely single birds. They spend most of their time flying up to the boxes especially the occupied ones, and peeping inside. I’ve not seen any actually enter any boxes at all. It makes me wonder if they only begin to investigate inside once they’ve found a mate. Perhaps they’re just sussing out suitable locations for the future?

The eggs in NB5 west are due to hatch anytime now. The sitting bird (female?) is acting a little restless this morning so something might be happening underneath her.

Wednesday June 22nd.

6.30am. Lots of activity outside. A small group of newcomers (5-6) are doing the rounds. At the moment they’re mainly screaming close to the boxes, however I expect this will change to landing and peeping inside as the morning progresses.

Sad news in NB5 north. There were 3 chicks in that box but the smallest one has just died. It was a couple of days younger than the other two was considerably smaller in size. I think it just wasn’t strong enough to compete for food against its bigger and stronger siblings. When the parents leave I’ll remove it from the box.

Revised total; 17 chicks and 4 eggs still to hatch.

Tuesday June 21st.

Another quiet day around the house, not much to report only the adults returning every hour or so to feed their young. However a swift friend of mine ( thanks Bob) sent me a link to this website in Poland. It’s an excellent website and well worth a visit especially the live webcam, you can also translate into English. Enjoy.

Monday June 20th.

A damp start but at least it’s warm. All the swifts are still in but it’s due to clear up mid-morning so they won’t have to wait long.

All the breeders are now back. Most are paired up and are either on eggs or have chicks. However there are still a few unattached breeders about, these are the ones that are currently prospecting around existing colonies hoping to find a mate. I once had a pair that arrived in late June, laid their first eggs in early July and fledged in September, so although it’s unlikely it’s not unheard of to still attract a breeding pair this late in the season.

The good news is the second wave of juvenile non-breeders has just started to arrive. These are 2 year old birds that are looking to find their own nest sites and maybe even begin building a nest for next year. On Friday 17th June, 60 plus were seen arriving at Portland Bill heading north. More and more will arrive in the next few weeks. They will join up with the remaining breeders to swell the overall numbers, everyone should see an increase in activity. With the prospect of muggy weather towards the end of the week things should really start to hot up!

Sunday June 19th.

Yesterday was a really good day with plenty of action around the house for me to film. Today despite the weather being almost the same as yesterday there has been virtually no activity at all, just a couple of half-hearted fly-bys around 8am but nothing since – very strange.

Saturday June 18th.

6am. The group of newcomers are back already and buzzing the boxes. At least 5 in the group, at the moment they’re just screaming as close to the boxes as they can without landing. All the residents are still sat tight on their nests wondering what’s going on outside. Some are screaming back in defiance but most are just ignoring them. This could be a perfect swift morning, no wind and quite warm.

10am. The newcomers have now started to land and peep inside. They particularly like the two boxes on the corner, see video below.

Friday June 17th.

The missing adult from NB1 north eventually returned late last night. I watch the box all day and there was definitely only one adult feeding the chicks. There are 4 other nests on the north side and the adults in those boxes were returning every hour or so with food whereas the adult in NB1 was returning every 2 hours. When it did return the chicks were franticly begging to be fed, more than I would normally expect. A sure sign that they weren’t getting enough food. However when I checked the box at 10pm both were back inside. Where it has been all day is a mystery but at least it’s back now.

8pm. The second egg has hatched in NB3 north. I think it probably hatched yesterday but I was unable to confirm because the adult wouldn’t leave the nest, however judging by it’s size I’m sure it’s not just hatched today.

Total so far; 18 chicks and 4 eggs still to hatch.

Thursday June 16th.

Last night one of the adults in NB1 north failed to return. I’ve just checked the box again this morning at 7am and there’s still only one inside. I’m hoping that it’ll return later today but there is the possibility that it’s been predated. There are two chicks in that nest which hatched about a week ago. If it becomes a single parent brood then the remaining adult is going to have to work really hard to raise them to fledging in 6 weeks time. I will keep a close eye on that box and especially the chicks from now on. One adult can easily bring up one chick but it might struggle with two. If that happens I’ll foster one of the chicks onto one of the other pairs around the house. Swifts are very good parents and readily adopted other chicks without any fuss and bring them up as their own.

1pm. A second egg in NB3 west. Total so far; 17 chicks and 5 eggs still to hatch.

Wednesday June 15th. After 5 quiet days two bangers arrived this morning and started to check out the boxes.

11am. It’s turning out to be the best best since last Friday with at least 6-8 swifts whizzing about.

Our new pair in NB3 west who laid their first egg appear to be incubating already. They don’t normally start to incubate until the clutch is complete so perhaps they are only going to lay one this year. It’s not unusual for first time breeders only to lay one egg. I’ll keep an eye on that nest in the next couple of days just to make sure.

8pm. The first egg in NB3 north has just hatched in the last hour. This is their second clutch the first one was thrown out on May 18th.  Total so far; 17 chicks and 4 eggs still to hatch.

Tuesday June 14th.

To my surprise one of the new pair has just laid their first egg this morning. The pair in NB3 west were late going out and I assumed it was due to the weather but finally when they left at 11am I noticed one egg in the nest, see photo below. They will probably lay another egg in 2 days time. Add 20 days for incubation and another 45 days to fledge means this pair will still be here in Mid-August, way after all my other pairs have gone. This unexpected addition to the egg count makes the total; 16 chicks and 5 eggs still to hatch.

Swift egg

Monday June 13th.

A photo of the three chicks in NB1 south. The two facing towards the bottom left hand corner hatched on Sunday 5th (8 days old). The other slightly smaller one hatched on Tuesday 7th (6 days old). Their fluffy downing is just beginning to grow although at the moment they are all still blind. It will be two weeks before their eyes open. When the parent bird returns they beg for food by squeaking and waving with their beaks open indicating they’re ready to feed. When they’re small like this the parent divides the food between all three, however in about a weeks time as they get a bit bigger a single chick will have the whole amount. These are due to fledge in 6 weeks time around July 20th.

Swift chicks 13 Jun16

Sunday June 12th.

This cool weather has affected the activity around our colony, we’ve seemed to have entered a quiet period. The adults with chicks are busily foraging for insects, returning every hour or so, quietly and without any fuss. The two new pairs are idling high above and don’t seem very interested in much at all. They’re definitely not bothered about chasing the returning adults. The noisy newcomers have also disappeared and probably won’t return until the weather improves (next weekend?). So life at the moment around our colony is full of peace and tranquility.

It’s amazing how quickly the chicks grow, within a few days they’ve almost doubled in size and fill the nest cup completely. As they grow so does their appetite and their parents are constantly out looking for food.

Saturday June 11th.

7.30am. A change in the weather has brought a change to the swift activity. All 18 birds are still in their boxes and there’s no sign of the noisy newcomers either. Peace and quiet outside and an end to the 5.30am starts, finally a lie-in at last!

Friday June 10th.

5.30am. The same group of 4 or 5 newcomers have just arrived and start to investigate the boxes. They particularly like going up to the occupied boxes and annoying the resident birds, although I did see one enter NB6 west which is empty. I’m not sure why they do this each day, perhaps they’re building up a memory of each occupied box before they chose an empty one.

A very short clip to show how useful the landing strip is. Two newcomers using it to land momentarily to peep inside.

4.30pm. The second egg in NB1 north and the third egg in NB1 north have just hatched in the last couple of hours. Also the roof tile pair are returning every hour so I think their eggs have hatched as well. Assuming 3 eggs in that nest that makes the total; 16 chicks and 4 eggs still to hatch.

NB2 north & 5 north and NB1 south all have 3 chicks each. NB1 north and NB4 south both have 2 chicks each. No more eggs in any of these nests.

NB3 north & NB5 west both still on eggs, 2 in each nest. Hatching due dates as follows; NB3 north June 17th, NB5 west June 25th.

NB3 west & NB2 south still roosting in their respective boxes but no eggs yet.

Thursday June 9th.

5.30am. Still lots of activity with 5 or 6 swifts prospecting the boxes. Lots of noise and commotion as they bang up against the entrances.

The first egg has hatched in NB1 north.Total so far; 11 chicks with another 6 eggs in boxes plus another 2 or 3 under the tiles.

Wednesday June 8th.

7am. The swifts love this warm weather and already up and about. Lots of screaming activity already as a group of 6 are targeting the empty nest boxes on the west side. As both our new pairs spent their third night in their respective boxes, NB3 west & NB2 south, I’m confident they will remain in these now. There is even a slight chance that they might breed as both have old nests already in situ so they don’t have to do any nest building at all.

The first egg has hatched in NB4 south.Total so far; 7 chicks with another 10 eggs in boxes plus another 2 or 3 under the tiles.

2.30pm. The first egg has also hatched in NB5 north. Total so far; 8 chicks with another 9 eggs in boxes plus another 2 or 3 under the tiles.

NB1 south & NB2 north all their eggs have hatched, they have 3 chicks each. NB4 south & NB5 north their eggs have just started to hatch, they have 1 in each so far. NB1 & 3 north & NB5 west both still on eggs.

9pm. Two more eggs have just hatched in the last hour. The second egg in NB5 north & NB4 south. Total so far; 10 chicks with another  7 eggs in boxes plus another 2 or 3 under the tiles.

Tuesday June 7th.

Our two new pairs seem to have decided on what boxes they like. Both spent their second night in their preferred box. The one on the west side is in NB3 and the one on the south side in NB2.

10am. Still lots of screaming activity with birds flying up and banging the entrances to all my boxes. I think it’s a mixture of the two new pairs plus a handful of unattached newcomers. Perhaps we might even attract a new pair?

The third egg has hatched in NB1 south – newly hatched chick is the one in middle. Total so far; 6 chicks with another 11 eggs in boxes plus another 2 or 3 under the tiles.

swift chicks

Monday June 6th.

Another early morning, the first screaming party arrived just after 5am. For the last 3 hours there has been almost constant activity. Our two new pairs managed to spend the night together last night, albeit not in the boxes I thought. One pair roosted in NB3 west, the other in NB2 south. Although they are relatively new they immediately return to guard their respective boxes as soon as the newcomers arrive. I think there is possibly between 6 or 8 newcomers in this group who are actively looking for their own nest sites. They spend about 5 minutes investigating my boxes before disappearing to explore (annoy) other nearby colonies a few streets away. After about 10 or 15 minutes they return and this will continue like this all day. This routine has been going on since last Friday. This won’t stop now until they either find their own nest site/box or the weather turns wet and windy. So I think I’m in for a few more early starts before it finally settles down.

Sunday June 5th.

5am. It’s 15c already and the first screaming party has just announced it’s arrival – it’s going to be a long hot day!

My two new pairs who spent all day yesterday going into the respective boxes, NB2 north and NB3 south decided to spend last night in separate boxes. Why this did this I can’t explain, but it ended up with one pair split between NB1 & NB2 north and the other pair split between NB2 & NB3 south. However I’ve just checked the cameras this morning and their back together in the correct boxes.

At least 6 possibly 8 newcomers outside which I think includes my two new pairs. It’s early and their really noisy, I hope they don’t wake the neighbours up!

Three more eggs have hatched. The other two eggs in NB2 north and the first egg in NB1 south. It’s difficult to gauge the correct day because the clutch is spread over several days, sometimes it can be up to a week. I tend to work on 20 days after the final egg has been laid but sometimes one hatches a day or two before that. Total so far; 4 chicks with another 12 eggs in boxes plus another 2 or 3 under the tiles to hatch.

I’m expecting to see a second egg in NB5 west later on this morning so will update the blog accordingly. There is also the possibility that the first egg will hatch in NB4 south although it’s not due for another day or two.

4.30pm. The second egg has hatched in NB1 south and the second egg has been laid in NB5 west. Total so far; 5 chicks with another 12 eggs in boxes plus another 2 or 3 under the tiles.

Saturday June 4th.

Once it warmed up yesterday the swifts really put on a good show. From about 1pm onwards right up till dusk there was a small group of newcomers (6-8) buzzing the house every 20 minutes or so. They were mainly harassing the returning resident birds but occasionally they turned their attention away from annoying them and investigated the empty boxes. NB 2 & 3 south and NB1,2,3 & 4 west were all entered during the day. They only stayed inside for a few minutes before leaving so it’s difficult to tell how serious they are about taking up residence.

Our pair who where out of sync on the west side finally made it up and both spent the night together in NB2 west.

The single swift that targeted NB1 south roosted in NB2 south. I’m sure it was investigating the boxes with another swift so it will be interesting to what happens today.

At around 9.30pm the other 4-5 newcomers finally gave up their antics and disappeared into the night sky, hopefully they’ll be back today.

The first egg is due to hatch today in NB2 north. If I’m lucky I’ll might catch a glimpse of it has the birds change over incubating duties.

6.45am. There’re back. Our newcomers have just arrived and are banging up against the boxes again, lots of noise and activity outside.

11.30am. First egg hatched in NB2 north.

The swift who roosted in NB2 south has brought a new mate back but they’ve opted to go in NB3 south instead, whether they remain in that box only time will tell.

Friday June 3rd.

6am. A lot of noise from outside and on investigation there is a lone banger targeting NB1 south which has prompted the resident birds to response.

Our newcomers on the west side are still out of sync with one another. Last night one returned to NB2 at around 8.30pm the other returned half and hour later but it went into NB3 by mistake. It looked very restless, stayed only for a short time then left before disappearing into the night sky. I think the bird in NB2 needs to lead the other bird back into its box and start the pair bonding all over again.

Yesterdays sightings from Portland Bill reported a steady stream of swifts arriving with over 300 seen at one time passing through. I think it’s definitely the start of the mass arrival of non-breeders, the second wave. With the wind forecast to turn round to an almost southerly direction next week we should all see a marked increase in numbers and activity.

1pm. First egg in NB5 west. That makes 16 in the boxes, plus another 2 or 3 in the roof tile nest. 

As it warms up lots more activity as a small group of bangers investigate the boxes. Probably including our pair from NB2 west, perhaps they’ll have another go at sussing out their own box.

7pm. The swift that was targeting NB1 south this morning has been entering two unoccupied boxes right next to it. All day it has been going in and out of NB2 & 3 south. Mostly it has been doing this on its own,however this afternoon a second swift has joined it. I’ve not seen them both go in together. Perhaps it’s only our pair from NB2 west changing boxes again or if we’re really lucky, it’s another new pair just that’s just arrived.

Thursday June 2nd.

7am. The cool breezy conditions that persisted for most of yesterday put paid to any activity. All the pairs on eggs stayed inside well into the morning, before some decided to go out and feed. Even our new pairs in NB1 & NB5 west weren’t in any hurry to go out either. The pair who stayed in NB1 west on Tuesday only one returned last night. It roosted back in NB2 west, no sign of it’s mate which I presume stayed on the wing. I’m not too bother by its absence as this behaviour is quite common in new pairs especially if the weather’s a bit iffy, they normally settle back down as soon as it warms up again.

Over 1000 swifts seen at Portland Bill yesterday although there was some debate on whether they were actually newcomers arriving or displaced breeders from the mainland pushed there by the weather.

Wednesday June 1st.

7am. Last night around 8.30 pm one of the new pair from NB2 west entered NB1 west and settled down. It’s mate who arrived a few minutes later entered NB2 west expecting to find it’s partner. The pair then started to call to each other from inside their respective boxes. After a short while the bird from NB2 left the box and entered NB1 where they remained overnight. Whether they remain in this box is uncertain as they’re just has likely to go back to NB2 tonight. It’s likely to take some time before they finally decide on which box they like best.

Another thing I did notice on the single bird in NB1 just before its mate joined it was that it is host to a parasitic louse-fly, Crataerina. The Crataerina is a large crab-like parasite which feeds on the blood of both the adults and chicks. From a human perspective it’s a horrible looking creature, the good news is it rarely kills the host although it must be a real irritation to the poor birds who are infested with it. The interesting thing about this is that it must have been picked it up from another colony as mine is free from this particular parasite. There are three possible ways how this could have arrived here;

1. The bird whilst prospecting entered an infested nest site in another colony before coming here.

2. It is a displaced bird from another colony who has lost it’s nest site due to building works.

3. It was ousted from it’s nest by a new bird and has had to changed colonies.

2pm. I’ve just seen another Crataerina but this time in NB4 south. I have a nasty feeling that these newcomers whilst prospecting for new nest sites over the weekend, have inadvertently infested all my occupied boxes.

Just read yesterdays report from Portland Bill and more swifts still arriving and heading north.

Tuesday 31st May.

8am. Our new pair in NB2 west having spent their first night together. As you can see in the photo below the nest is a made up of loose feathers. I normally put a handful in each box at the beginning of the season for the birds to use first. Hopefully if this pair remain in this box this rather untidy mess will turn into a neat little round nest.

Swifts preening

Monday 30th May.

8am. Our newcomer spent a second night with us. However it decided to change boxes and roost in NB2 west rather than NB3 west. This box hopping is quite normal, it often takes the newcomer several days or sometimes weeks to make its mind up which box it actually prefers.

New Swift

More sightings of swifts arriving at Portland Bill yesterday. I think it’s probably the beginning of the second wave. These will be predominately 2 or 3 year old non-breeders who are intent on finding their own nest sites. These are the ones that you are most likely to attract. If you haven’t started already make sure your sound system is up and running. Aim to play it as loud as you can and as close as you can to your boxes as possible. Fine, warm mornings are usually better than afternoons, but if you see any birds play it regardless of the time of day.

9pm. After hardly any activity today our newcomer in NB2 west has just returned and more importantly, it has found a mate. Both are cuddled up together and preening one another. Photo for the blog tomorrow. Fingers crossed there is even a chance that they might breed this year. That makes 8 pairs in boxes, 1 under the roof tiles.

NB2 & 5 north and NB1 south have 3 eggs each, NB1 & NB3 north and NB4 south have 2 eggs each, NB2 & NB5 west have none. Roof tile pair 2 or 3 eggs. Total eggs in boxes 15 plus another 2 or 3 under the tiles.

Sunday 29th May.

8am. Lots of activity again with a repeat of yesterdays behaviour. I’m keeping a close eye on the unoccupied boxes on the west side. I’m hoping our new bird will return, hopefully with a mate and pick a box.

Our group of newcomers returned just as I thought last night to continue their harassment of the resident birds. They returned around 7pm. They seem to enjoy chasing the returning adults back into their boxes. Once the adults were back inside the newcomers would repeatedly fly up to the entrance, either banging it or land momentarily. This behaviour annoys the resident birds who scream back in noisy defiance “this box is taken”. This went on until it was almost dark. Finally they disappeared into the night sky, however to my surprise I found one had gone into NB3 west where it remained all night.

Saturday 28th May.

10am. Lots of activity this morning with 4-6 newcomers buzzing the house. Short clip of  two of them targeting NB4 south and trying to get in. Both resident birds are just inside stopping them from entering. This has been going on since 7am this morning.

3pm. Finally some respite for the resident birds. The newcomers have disappeared and everyone can return to incubating their eggs in peace. It’s been relatively quiet now for the last couple of hours, however I expect our troublemakers will return again later this evening.

A second egg in NB3 north. Egg count, 15 in boxes, 17/18 if roof tile nest included.

Friday 27th May.

6.30am. I eventually managed to check NB2 north and found to my surprise that there are 3 eggs in it not 2. The third egg was probably laid on the 16th May but its taken until now to find out.

Egg update; NB1 south, NB2 & NB5 north all have 3 eggs. NB4 south & NB1 north both have 2, and finally NB3 north 1 at the moment but I expect that to rise. We also have the possibility now that NB5 west has finally attracted a mate that we might get some eggs in there as well.  Plus there’s at least another 2 or 3 in the roof tile nest. Egg count – 14 in boxes, total 16/17.

Lots of activity yesterday. A small group of newcomers put on a great show, repeatedly banging the boxes on the west side. Their main focus was NB5 west, much to the annoyance of the resident pair inside. I managed to catch a short sequence of one bird clinging to the entrance as the resident pair screamed loudly back at it – see below. This activity continued for the rest of the day. They eventually managed to look inside some of the unoccupied boxes on the west side, mainly NB7 & NB3 but didn’t stay long. One even tried to get into NB7 west last night. At around 9.15pm it spent 20 minutes or so banging on several boxes and I had high hopes it was going to enter NB7 but in the end it disappeared into the night sky.

7PM. I’m very pleased with the entrance hole modifications I made last year to all my Zeist boxes. I made them slightly D shaped rather than the standard oblong and its worked. The single swift which targeted them last night has been back again today. This time it managed with ease to enter both boxes ( NB6 & NB7 west) without any trouble at all. The critical test is whether it returns later to roost in one of them.

Thursday 26th May.

Our swifts in NB5 west are not making it easy for themselves. I had hoped that they would spend most of yesterday cementing their pair bond. However I didn’t see them at all during the day then at 8.30 pm a single swift entered NM7 west. that box had never been occupied before so I was hoping it was a new bird. At 9.15pm our single swift returned to NB5 west and within 5 minutes was joined by the swift from NB7. I can only assume that the new bird got it’s boxes mixed up and moved back to the correct box when other bird returned. I watched them for a while and they don’t seem that friendly to one another so I don’t know what’s going to happen, hopefully they’ll eventually settle down.

A quick summary on the egg totals; NB1 south and NB5 north, 3 in each. NB 1& 2 north and NB4 south 2 in each. The only one I haven’t manage to check 100% is NB2 north but I’m reasonably sure there’s only 2 eggs in there. That’s makes a total of 12 eggs so far in the boxes. The pair under the roof tiles have been back for sometime now so I estimate they should have eggs now, 2 or possibly 3.

8.30am. Lots of activity this morning after virtually none yesterday. 4 swifts whizzing round the house and flying up to the boxes.

Below is yesterdays sightings report from Portland Bill, it highlighted for the first time this spring a reasonable amount of swifts arriving.

Visible passage continued, with Swifts featuring more conspicuously than of late amongst the pulses of Swallows and House Martins: the total of 50 swifts through at the Bill wouldn’t ordinarily be anything to shout about but reflects the dreadful numbers logged there so far this spring“.

10.30am. The pair in NB3 north who threw all their eggs out on the 18th have just laid a new egg. Total eggs 13.

Wednesday 25th May.

Our new pair in NB5 west are cuddled up together and preening one another which is a good start. The crucial test will be later on today. What should happen is the resident bird should keep on returning to the box (hopefully) followed by the new mate. They should both enter and mutual preening should commence for a few minutes each time. However if the pair are going to stay together then this behaviour needs to continue for the next couple of days. It will only cease when the pair bond is fully formed between them. Below are some photos of the new pair in NB5 west and the eggs in NB1 south.

Swifts May 2015

New pair in NB5 west and eggs in NB1 south ‘Springwatch’ box

No sign of the 3 newcomers yet.

2pm. I just noticed one of the eggs missing in NB5 north so I had a quick look and found it had been flicked out the nest. I popped it back in just as one of the adults returned, hopefully none the wiser for my intervention.

Tuesday 24th May.

6.30am. Up early this morning as I think we could be in for a bit of action when the 3 newcomers return. As I write this I can hear screaming from outside. I can count 6 swifts, but I’m not 100% sure how many newcomers in the group so I need to check all the cameras asap.

Two things I did notice yesterday. Most of my birds are now incubating their eggs however although it’s almost impossible to tell the sexes apart, one bird in each pair tends to do the majority of the sitting. In each of my pair one bird is slightly bigger than the other, however size isn’t related to sex i.e. the female bigger than the male or vice-versa. Bearing this in my I’m convinced it’s the female who does the majority of the incubating and is only relieved occasionally by the male so she can go out to feed. She normally returns within 20 minutes to push the male off the eggs and resume her incubating duties.

The second thing I noticed based on my assumption that the females do the majority of the incubating, is that the three newcomers were actively targeting the returning males last night. In one instance one newcomer and the male returning to NB1 south actually got involved in a mid-air fight. Both grappling with one another and only releasing their hold inches from the nest box. The returning male only just managed to veer away from the box at the last moment, he then flew off and waited until the 3 newcomers had turned their attention to the boxes at the front of the house before sneaking back in undetected.

1pm. At least 4 swifts banging on the boxes at the front all morning but at the moment none have entered, however their activity has definitely upset the locals who are most annoyed by this behaviour.

Our single swift in NB5 west has been trying to entice a mate back into its box again, but like before, the new bird keeps missing the entrance hole and landing on the tiles – must be a novice.

9.15pm. Success, our single swift in NB5 west has finally managed to attract a new mate. After several days of trying to entice it back into its box it has finally succeeded.  At 9.15pm two swifts entered the box, both are a little tentative to one another but I’m hoping they’ll soon settle down. If they do I’ll take some photos for the blog tomorrow. If it stays that makes 8 pairs in total, 7 in boxes , one under roof tiles.

Monday 23rd May.

7am. A small group of swifts (3) buzzing the house, one flies up and bangs the entrance to NB8 west which is unoccupied. Could this be the first of the non-breeders-I think I’ll play the attraction calls for a while to see if I can draw them in a little closer.

9pm. The same group of 3 swifts returned again to buzz the house. Even though I was playing the attraction calls they didn’t seem that interested in it. They were more interested in screaming at the boxes as they flew by. This caused the sitting birds to answer back. I think they were just sussing out which boxes were occupied. I think they will be back first thing tomorrow morning. If I’m correct they should start to land momentarily on the landing strips under the empty boxes as a prelude to entering.

Sunday 22nd May.

12.30pm. A reasonable amount of screaming activity this morning. A small group of between 4-6 have been putting on a good display. However my main priority is trying to confirm the final clutch sizes in NB1 & 4 south and NB 1,2 & 5 north. As sheer luck would have it I was watching NB5 north just has the birds changed over and can confirm 3 eggs in that clutch. Total eggs so far, 11.

The pair that threw out all their eggs on the 18th (NB3 north) still haven’t started laying again. The first year (2014) they threw out their eggs it took another 2 days before they laid again, last year (2015) it was another 6 days, so they’re due anytime now.

5pm. Both swifts from NB1 south have just left the nest box together so I managed to check the clutch size finally. They have 3 eggs, the same number as in 2014 & 2015.

Quick egg summary; confirmed clutch sizes in NB1 south and NB5 north, both have 3 eggs each. In the remaining 3 boxes with eggs, all contain 2 eggs at the moment, NB1 & 2 north and NB4 south. Total eggs to date, 12.

Saturday 21st May.

Half of our swifts are out feeding high above the house, zig-zagging in a leisurely fashion across the sky in search of any small insect that has been sucked up from the ground. The other half are sitting tight on their eggs, passing the boredom as best they can by doing a bit of nest building from time to time. Pulling in any loose feathers they can reach from the nest and sticking them down with their saliva. As I watch the ones above feeding something catches my eye, it’s my pair of blue and great tits busily bringing back food for their young. All four parents, their beaks crammed full of small green caterpillars returning every few minutes. Compared to the effortless action of the swifts above these little birds are a hive of activity, still it gives me something to watch on a grey morning.

Friday 20th May.

10.30am. A very quiet and subdued morning. Nothing to report activity wise outside, so I’m waiting for the birds to go out before I can check their nests for anymore eggs.

The big group of swifts that arrived yesterday didn’t stay long before moving on, they were heading in a north easterly direction.

I’ve just spoken to the chaps at Portland Bill Bird Observatory and they have confirmed that very few swifts have been seen so far this year. I’ve asked them to let me know when they see an increase in their numbers so I can pass it on to you.

4.30pm. A second egg in NB1 north. That makes 10 so far. I’m still unable to confirm the clutch size in NB1 south and NB2 north. There is definitely 2 eggs in each but there might be more. Both birds are sitting tight, the only way I’ll be able to tell is if I just happen to be watching them as they change over incubating duties. As they don’t do this very often my chances of counting the eggs is almost zero.

Thursday 19th May

9am. I think some more swifts have just arrived. High above the house there are at least 15 swifts screaming and circling just like they do when they first return. I quickly checked all my cameras and there was 7 still inside so there’s at least half a dozen more than what’s in my colony. Whether they stay is another matter, perhaps it’s the mate of the single swift in NB5 west.

It’s difficult now to check if any more eggs in NB1 south and NB2 north. Both had two in before I went away, but they’re both sitting tight so I can’t confirm if they laid a third each.

10am. A second egg in NB5 north & NB4 south. Total eggs so far, 9.

Wednesday 18th May

9.30am. It’s just stopped raining and a few swifts have just departed. There is the first egg in NB1 north. In the other 5 boxes with eggs all have a sitting bird at the moment so I’m unable to confirm if any new eggs have been laid. Total eggs so far 9.

Our single swift in NB5 west still hasn’t managed to attract a new mate. I watched it on Sunday leading a potential mate up to the box. Several times it flew up to the box and entered it with the new bird right behind, this behaviour is called follow the leader. Normally the new bird would follow the leading bird into the box, but unfortunately this new bird kept missing the entrance and landing on the tiles above. After 3 or 4 attempts they both gave up and disappeared for the rest of the day. I was really expecting to see it in the box last night but only our single swift returned. It’s just gone out now so perhaps it will be back shortly with the new bird to try again.

Swift enthusiasts across the UK have reported that they are still missing a lot of swifts from their colonies. I think my colony numbers (15/16 back) is a bit of a fluke and the general consensus is that most other colonies are down by 30-50%. The good news however is that this slow start is quite normal and by the end of the month most should have returned. So don’t worry if you haven’t seen your birds yet, they are on their way.

12.15pm. A strange thing has just happened in NB3 north. For the third year in a row as soon as the final egg has been laid  (3 in this case) they are immediately thrown out. Why this particular pair do this every year is a mystery to me. I can only speculate that the male isn’t 100% sure they belong to him. Although is this very upsetting at the moment, this pair always settle down pretty quickly and in about a weeks time I expect to see another egg. In the past two years they have successfully reared a second clutch without any problems so I’m confident they’ll be OK in the end. Total eggs 7.

Tuesday 17th May

3pm. Just come back from a short break near Sidmouth in Devon. One thing I noticed was the lack of swifts. I normally expect to see around 8-10 in Sidmouth but didn’t see any. There were only two in Branscombe where I normally see 6-18 and only one in Beer, normally 6-8. It looks to me that the majority of swifts still haven’t returned yet. The vegetation is at least a couple of weeks behind us with most of the Ash trees completely bare. I wonder if this could be the reason why.

3.30pm. Checked the cameras and we have 3 new eggs. A second egg in NB1 south and first eggs in NB4 south and NB5 north. That’s a total of 8 eggs so far.

Monday 16th May

8.30am. Both swifts from NB1 north and our single swift from NB5 west are up and whizzing around the house. All the other pairs are still in so I can’t tell yet if any more eggs have been laid. I expect at least 1 in NB1 south and hopefully another in NB2 north. If we’re really lucky perhaps the first egg in NB4 south as well.

Reports from Portland Bill yesterday of a steady stream of hirundines (swifts, swallows & martins) moving north, perhaps this is the beginning of the second wave  of non-breeders arriving. For those of you with the sound systems make sure you’re ready to play as they could arrive anytime from now.

Sunday 15th May

8.30am. It’s our swift open day at our house today and we’re hoping for a good show by our swifts for our guests to enjoy during the day.

It’s been a cold night so most of our swifts are still in which is good. As it warms up hopefully they should become more active. I’m also expecting one or two more eggs today in NB3 north & NB1 south.

Had a wonderful day meeting our swift supporters, many who have put up my design of swift boxes and share our enthusiasm for swifts and swift conservation. Weather was kind to us and a few swifts were seen and a second egg was laid in NB3 north. Total eggs now 5.

Swift Day

Saturday 14th May

12.20pm. Due to the chilly morning I’ve had to wait until now for the birds to go out before I could check if any more eggs have been laid. Sure enough a second egg for NB2 north. That makes 4 so far.

The single swift in NB5 west has been trying to attract a new mate to follow it back into the box. Every time it enters the box the swift which has been tagging behind veers away at the last moment. I think it’s going to take a few more fly-bys before the new swift cottons on to what its meant to do.

Friday 13th May

I’m not convinced that the bird that turned up yesterday in NB5 west is the missing mate. After staying for a short while both birds flew out together but only one returned to roost. The strange thing is that when they’re together they show no aggression to one another and are quite affectionate. If it was a genuine intruder then the response from the resident bird would be to attack and I see no sign of this behaviour. So I’m at a loss to explain what’s happening at the moment. Perhaps it will return today?

10am. First egg in NB3 north. With 7 pairs in boxes I’m expecting between 14-18 eggs (most clutches are either 2 or 3, probably split about 50%). Total eggs so far 2.

12.30. First egg in NB1 south. That makes 3 eggs in total.

Thursday 12th May

8am. It rained nearly all day yesterday, whilst that was welcome news for the gardeners it was useless for swift activity. When it finally went off around 7pm I was treated to one or two screaming parties whizzing around the house. That was a nice end to the evening, but all in all it was a poor day.

I’m beginning to think that the single swift in NB5 west is still waiting for its mate to return and the other bird I saw in with it on the 6th was an interloper, who has subsequently moved on. Checking my records it is quite common for young pairs to be the last to re-unite. This pair only got together only last year, so this will be their first attempt at breeding. Something similar happened last year to another newly formed pair. The first bird arrived on May 14th and its mate on May 29th. So our single swift in NB5 west might have to be patience for sometime to come.

11am. First egg in NB2 north, this came as a bit of a surprise as it’s only 7 days after they were re-united. I normally don’t expect to see the first egg until at least 10 days after the mate as returned.

Guess who has just turned up, the mate of NB5 west. Just after I had written that it might be several weeks before it appears it arrived 10 minutes later, impeccable timing.

Total back 16 out of 16 which is fantastic.

Wednesday 11th May

8.30am. We’ve all managed to have a lie-in this morning as it’s pouring down again. All our swifts are still inside including the single swift in NB5 west who is usually the first to leave. They won’t go out until it stops which is sometime around lunchtime, hopefully.

Tuesday 10th May

7.30am. It’s tipping down with rain and all our swifts are still in and showing no sign of wanting to go out, can’t say I blame them.

The mate of NB5 west is still missing, however I was reading reports from other swift colonies from around the UK saying that some of their birds have also gone missing. It seems that this behaviour is quite normal. It appears with some pairs once they have re-united, they might stay together for a few hours or a night or two. Then suddenly one of them will go missing for a few days before returning again. Where they go nobody knows, I suspect they head for a location which has a rich food source, perhaps they need to re-fuel after their long migration.

7.45pm. By sheer luck I just happened to be outside when two swifts disappeared under the roof tiles, the mate of the roof tile swift is back. It’s probably been back for a few days but it’s so difficult to catch them going in together, luck was definitely on my side.

Total back so far 15. We just want one more to return to make 16 (8 pairs) which will be the same number as last year. I have a feeling that if we have half a decent summer we could be in for a real treat regarding newcomers arriving. The last really good summer was 2010 closely followed by 2013.

Monday 9th May

7am. The mate of NB1 north has returned. However at the same time the mate of NB5 west has gone missing – are the the same bird? Just checked the cameras and the only swift out is the single bird from NB5 west, all the other 6 pairs are still in. I was unable to confirm last night if the mate of the roof tile swift has arrived so the total remains on 14 out of 15. (note one of the 14 is a brand new bird – mate of NB4 south).

2pm. After several days of intense screaming activity during which the returning swifts meet up with their partners again, the level of activity has settled down to almost nothing which is a shame. Even though it’s still pretty warm there has been virtually no screaming parties since 10am. I don’t think we’ll see the same level of activity again until the non-breeders arrive in a few weeks time, then we should be in for some fun.

Sunday 8th May

9am. Cloudy but quite warm, lots of activity but unable to confirm if it’s our 2 missing swifts. The restless swift in NB5 north has now decided to go back into the box underneath again (NB8 west).

Saturday 7th May

7.30am. To my surprise the swift in NB4 south has found a new mate. That’s the swift who lost its mate last year, I wrote about it yesterday suggesting it would wait a few weeks before looking for a new mate. Well how wrong was that! Within 3 days it has found a new mate. Perhaps it already knew last years mate was gone and therefore didn’t waste anytime waiting. Anyway their cuddled up together like two little love birds.

Also the pair in NB 8 west have moved to NB 5 north ( NB8 is attached underneath NB5). I’m convinced it’s the restless swift and it’s mate who can’t make up their minds which box is best.

Quick summary, 14 back out of 15 so far. This total consists of 6 pairs, NB 2,3 & 5 north, NB 5 west and NB 1 & 4 south. Plus 2 single birds one in NB1 north and one under the roof tiles. The hardest thing now is trying to confirm when the mate arrives under the roof tiles. The only way to be certain is to catch them going in together which is very difficult.

Friday 6th May

6.30am. Just checked NB 3 north and the pair are cuddled up after last night fight. The fight went on for at least 2 hours before eventually moving out of camera view so I’m not sure when it ended. Sometimes fights can go on for hours and hours, most are harmless but occasionally they’re a bit more vicious and a bird dies but that’s very rare. I have a feeling that last nights intruder was the swift from NB 1 north who failed to return to it’s own box. Perhaps it followed in one of the residents of NB 3 by mistake, It’ll know better next time. It’ll find life’s much easier if it just waits for it’s own mate to return rather than trying to muscle in somewhere else.

I feel a little sorry for the swift in NB 4 south. It’s sat there waiting patiently for it’s mate to return but unfortunately that won’t happen because it was predated last summer. It will probably wait for another 2 to 3 weeks before finally giving up. It will then start looking for a new partner, so I don’t expect to see anything till then.

Now we have 4 pairs back I can pencil in the first egg dates. Normally it’s 10 days after the pair has been re-united so I expect to see the first eggs around the 14th or 15th of May.

8.30am. The mate of NB5 west has arrived, however I think it was possibly the swift that entered NB3west at 9.05pm last night. Probably forgot which box it was. They took over this box last year but didn’t lay any eggs so this will be their first breeding season together.

The single swift in NB1north has returned.

2.25pm. Well the intruder that entered NB3 north obviously didn’t learn a lesson last night, it’s been back again to have another go.

One of the roof tile swifts is back. I can hear it calling from under the tiles, not sure if it’s on it’s own or with it’s mate, will have to check it out tonight.

Lots of banging going on as new swifts check out potential nest sites. They do this by flying up to and banging the entrance holes with their wings to see if the box is occupied or not.

Total back so far, 13 out of 15

Thursday 5th May

6.45am. Another cracking morning. Clear blue skies with no wind and temperatures expected to reach 21c, perfect swift weather. Most of the swifts are already up and screaming about the house. After all the excitement yesterday with 5 new arrivals it will be interesting to see what happens today.

Reports from fellow swift enthusiasts right across the UK of swifts returning in large numbers.

8.50am. Our swift in nest box 8 west (shoebox) has just come back with a mate. Perhaps it’s the restless swift from nest box 5 north immediately above? Also the mate of nest box 3 north has just re-appeared after a night away. We now have 4 confirmed pairs back (NB 2 & 3 north, NB 8 west and NB 1 south). Plus we have single birds in NB 1 north, NB 5 west & NB 4 south.

2.30pm. A warm afternoon coupled with a pleasant breeze has made it ideal conditions for nest building. All four pairs have been coming back at regular intervals with feathers caught on the wing. Every feather carrying bird is chased right up to the box by small groups of very noisy and excited followers.

9pm. A big fight going on in nest box 3 north. Three swifts in the box and I think it’s two males and a female. The female is sat on the nest while the two males scrap it out right next to her it’s been going on for at least 30 minutes. A single swift has entered nest box 3 west, stayed a short while and left. Is it a newcomer?

Total so far back, 11(possibly 12) out of 15.

Wednesday 4th May

6.30am. What a beautiful morning, clear blue skies and not a cloud in the sky. I think we could be in for a good day activity wise as the temperature rises later.

No sign of our restless swift again, so it will be interesting if it pops back again for a short while today like it did yesterday.

Our re-united pair in nest box 3 north are cuddled up together to keep warm. I checked to see when they arrived last year and it was on the 4th and 7th May respectively. This year they’ve come slightly earlier, one on the 29th April and other the 4th May.

8.45am. Quite a bit of activity so far this morning and a new arrival to add to the total. The swift in nest box 4 south has just arrived. This is the mate of the one that was predated last summer. It will be interesting to see if it can (a) attract a new mate, and if so (b) whether it will remain in the same box or move somewhere else.

What a unexpected surprise. My new shoebox design (nest box 8 west) which I managed to fit under an existing box is an instant success. You can just about make out the face of a swift looking out. I was a little concerned that the two side panels on the landing strip were too close to the entrance hole bit the swift had no trouble at all entering. It stayed for about 5 minutes before leaving, I wonder if it’ll be back tonight?

Swift in Nestbox

10.30am. The mate of the swift in nest box 1 south has just arrived. It’s been such a very busy morning with almost continuous low level screaming parties. It was during one of these sorties that I saw 2 swifts enter nest box 1 south. They stayed inside for well over an hour.

9pm. The new arrival in nest box 8 west, the new shoebox design has just returned. No sign again of the restless swift in nest box 5 north.

9.05pm. 2 new very late arrivals. One in nest box 1 north and another in nest box 2 north which already had a bird inside. There is now a big fight going on inside nest box 2 north. I’m not sure if it’s the mate or an intruder. Sometimes when pairs first re-unite the initial display between them is one of threat. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens, It’s difficult to tell exactly how many birds we have back because of the absence of the restless swift at night, so it’s probably either 9 or 10.

9.50pm. The fight is over in nest box 2 north. It was the mate rather than an intruder. After a brief skirmish when it first arrived they now seem to have settled down and are preening one another. I’ve just checked all the cameras and there are 9 swifts in residence. However to complicate matters two are missing, the restless swift from nest box 5 north and tonight the mate of nest box 3 north hasn’t returned. So I’m not 100% sure how many are back 9 or 11.

Total back so far, 9 (possible 11) out of 15.

Tuesday 3rd May

Once again our restless swift from nest box 5 north failed to return last night. I don’t think it’ll settle down until it’s mate returns. No new arrivals yesterday. The only activity over the house was a couple of very high level fly-overs. However I have witness some interesting behaviour from inside the occupied boxes. The accepted consensus written about swifts is that the first bird back won’t start nest building until it’s mate returns. Well I’ve seen something to challenge that view. Each year I always place a handful of loose feathers in each box. I like to think of it as a bit of a starter pack. Well to my surprise it has already been used. The swift in nest box 1 south has made a wonderful job in re-building it’s nest all on it’s own.

7.45am. Our restless swift has just arrived back, it was one of a group of 4. It re-entered it’s box while the other 3 buzzed the house. It remained inside for a few minutes before re-joining the group. I think we have another arrival, but which box?

7.20pm. The new swift is the mate of nest box 3 north. After several low level screaming fly-bys,  2 swifts broke away and entered nest box 3 north. Their first encounter was a bit tense, both birds a little nervous but that soon dissipated and was quickly followed a bout of mutual preening. My first pair are re-united together.

Total back so far, 6 out of 15.

Monday 2nd May

Late last night swift number five returned to nest box 5 west. For an hour I had all 5 swifts in their respective boxes. However the swift in nest box 5 north seems a little restless and left again to spend the night on the wing. The other four seem quite content just to sit there and wait for their mates.

The weather is looking really promising from Tuesday onwards with temperatures up into the high teens, but more importantly the wind is moving around to the west or south-west. Excellent migration weather.

Just checked the Portland Bill Observatory site and the report from yesterday is as follows; By the look of the steady arrival of Swifts and hirundines throughout the day conditions were more than favourable for migration.

Total back so far 5 out of 15.

Sunday 1st May

8am. One more swift has returned. The swift in nest box 2 north has arrived. However the swift in nest box 5 north failed to return again last time, it seems to spend one night in then stay away for a day or two, hopefully it’ll settle down in the next few days.

Total back so far 4 out of 15.

Another swift has just arrived. It’s 7.15pm and a group of three have just buzzed the house, one entered nest box 1 south, another nest box 3 north and the new arrival entered nest box 5 west. The weather looking good from Wednesday onwards so I’m confident most of my missing swifts will arrive in the next few days. I have a feeling it’s going to be a really good week!

Total back so far 5 out of 15.


Saturday 30th April

11.30am. The first screaming party of the year, half a dozen swifts whizzing around the house in full voice. What an absolute pleasure to hear them again after 9 months away, long may it continue.

Last year we had 8 pairs, unfortunately 1 adult was predated during the summer leaving the colony with 15 adults. It will be interesting to see if the single adult from nest box 4 south finds a new mate or moves box.

Total returned so far 3 out of 15.

Friday 29th April

The weather’s horrible, blowing a gale with frequent hail storms. As I haven’t seen my swift since Tuesday I decided to take a trip out to Chew Valley Lake to see if that’s where their hiding. Well there was a handful there, which was a little disappointing as I had hoped to see a lot more. However my trip wasn’t a complete wasted journey. There were hundreds of swallows and house martins darting about over the reed beds whose antics more than made up for the lack of swifts.

8.15pm and the wind has finally dropped. 2 new swifts arrived out of the blue and took full advantage of the calmer conditions. The first one entered nest box 1 south (last years Springwatch box) and the second entered nest box 3 north.

8.45pm and the swift who first arrived on Tuesday but we haven’t seen since, has just returned back to nest box 5 north.

Thursday 28th April

No sign of our swift since Tuesday. However Portland bill reported 2 yesterday which is a very good sign. It’s one of their main routes into the UK and I expect  more and more will follow in the next few days.

Wednesday 27th April

Our new arrival didn’t return to roost last night, probably because it was so cold. I wondered if it is usually the males that come back first, so I asked my swift friends if they knew the answer as it’s impossible to tell them apart.  Erich Kaiser who has studied a large colony at his house in Germany for many years confirmed they come back together.  Single birds both male and female duet to each other from inside their respective boxes. The female has a higher pitched call than the male so Erich was able to tell the sexes apart. So as my bird remained silent throughout its short stay it could be of either sex.

Tuesday 26th April

My first swift  has returned to it’s nest and entered nest box 5 north just before 8am this morning.  I wonder if it is one of the birds that buzzed the house a few days ago? The pair who used this box last year both arrived on the same day, May 12th. This is a good two weeks earlier than that. I wonder how long before its mate arrives?

First Swift

Monday 25th April

Even though it stayed bright yesterday afternoon no swifts arrived. However 3 house martins from the local colony at Sea Mills station turned up mid afternoon which was a pleasant surprise.

Despite the lack of swifts over my house their numbers continue to increase with over 100 spotted over Chew Valley lake  yesterday.

Sunday 24th April

Nothing to report so far today, this nagging northerly wind is definitely not helping matters. However if the sun stays out it should warm up by this afternoon and that’s when I hope to see some activity.

At the moment my only company in the garden is a tame blackbird and robin who expect to be fed every time they see me, it’s costing me a fortune in live meal worms! There’s also a pair of great tits busily nest building in one of my boxes, bringing back beak fulls of moss and feathers every few minutes. So much sometimes they can barely squeeze inside.

On a more positive note about the weather, there are early indications that a high pressure will build in from the south west next weekend, bringing with it warmer conditions. If it happens I expect to see lots of swifts arriving on the back of it.

Saturday 23rd April

Three swifts seen flying over house at 2.35pm.

Friday 22nd April

Checked my cameras late last night and again first thing this morning, no sign of the swift I saw yesterday afternoon. Strange because it circled over the house which is a good sign that it belongs here. Perhaps it was just checking out the house again.

Small groups of swallows continue to head north, I counted over twenty by 8am.

70 swifts were seen over Chew Valley Lake yesterday which as it is only about 10 miles away and could explain the single swift seen over my house. This is where swifts congregate when they first arrive back.

20 or so house martins seen flying over this morning.

Thursday 21st April

First swift seen over the house. At 4.30 pm a single swift circled above for several minutes, not sure if it’s one of mine so I’ll check the cameras later.

A handful of swallows passed over heading north-west at the same time

Wednesday 20th April

First swift seen over Chew Valley Lake.

Tuesday 19th April

First swift back in Crumlin, Nr Ireland. It arrived at 8.05am and went straight inside its nest box. Crumlin swifts are normally the first to arrive each year and this year is no exception. Crumlin is located near Lough Neagh and in the next few weeks thousands more will arrive, it’s a real swift hot-spot. My friend in Crumlin has 36 boxes which will all be occupied by the end of May, must be the luck of the Irish! Mine normally arrive about a week later, so hopefully they’ll turn up early next week if I’m lucky.

Sunday 17th April

Not long now.                                                                                                                                                 Hundreds of swifts reported in both Belgium and the Netherlands. There seems to be a kind of pincer  movement of swifts migrating towards us, some coming in from the west (Spain & Portugal) and others from the east (Belgium & Holland). There are also some reports of swifts in Ireland, but only a handful at the moment.

Friday 15th April

Less than 2 weeks to go!                                                                                                                           First reports of swifts returning to their traditional nesting sites in Northern Spain.     No further sightings of any swifts at Portland bill (1st one seen on the 4th) but lots of swallows and house martins arriving at the moment.

Wednesday 13th April

Underneath one of my existing swift boxes I’ve managed to fit one of my new shoe-box designs. It’s really meant for houses with large soffits but it actually fits quite well under the existing box, so I’ll leave it in place for 2016 and report back in the autumn. The box that it is attached to was occupied last year, so I’m hoping it will generate a lot of interest when the swifts return.


Monday 4th April

I have just finished putting up my nest boxes. First swift sighted at Portland Bill bird observatory.


Friday 1st April 

One month to go or maybe even sooner. Five times in the past 10 years my first swift has arrived in the last week of April, so not long to wait now.  Next week  I will put my boxes back up. It’s something I always look forward to doing, it means the long wait is almost over. So if you’re thinking about putting up your own boxes now is the time to do it.

Our swifts will be gathering back in the Congo now and sometime in the next couple of weeks they’ll head up to Liberia before returning home by the end of April or early May. More and more summer migrants are arriving. I heard my first Chiffchaff and Blackcap yesterday and there have been reports of a few Swallows starting to arrive. In my back garden the Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit and Dunnock are all busy nest building.

Sunday 6th March

60 days to go before the vast majority of our swifts are due to return, although the really early ones will be here in about 50 days time (around April 26th). I usually expect to see one or two in the last week of April.

Swifts have started to arrive in large numbers in Israel. Fellow swift enthusiast, Amnonn who lives in Givatayim reported his first first bird arrived back on February 20th and more have been arriving everyday since then.

Wednesday  27th January

100 days to go before our swifts are due to return.

At the moment our swifts are in eastern Africa, probably somewhere in Mozambique. They’ll stay there for another 4 or 5 weeks before returning to the Congo on the west coast in mid-April. Then it’s a mad dash up to Liberia/Ivory Coast to feed on flying termites before a non-stop 5000 km journey back to the UK.

100 days seems a long time but it will soon fly-by (excuse the pun) so if you are thinking about putting up a box or two then you need to get your skates on and get busy.