Bristol Swifts 2024 Blog

Welcome to our 2024 blog page with all the very latest wildlife news from around Swift House. We have 25 swift boxes dotted around under the eaves – see this link. 23 boxes have internal cameras fitted. Because of the length of the page my early 2024 daily swift blog entries before 1st June 2024 can be read here.

Wednesday 17th July

Even though yesterday was a dry day the swifts were finding it really hard to find insects. None of the pairs were bringing back much food. It was taking on average 3 hours for each bird to return. So In the end I decided to keep the little chick I’m hand rearing for another day. Its changed so much in the few days I’ve had it. Its reluctance to feed when I first got it has now gone. It is quietly trilling to itself all day long and as soon as I open its box its begging me for food. It’s so much easier to feed chicks if they take food readily from your hand. The next three days look particular good weather-wise. There should be more insects about plus I’m expecting one of the next three days to be flying ant day. That’s when thousands upon thousands of winged ants take to the air. In this summer where finding insects has been hard for the adult swifts it will be a huge bonanza for them. I expect when it happens all the chicks will be well fed. That’s one of the reasons I want to return this little chick to its box as soon as possible. The other is although I can feed it a variety of live insects, it’s not the same as being fed and cared for by a parent.

Tuesday 16th July

Yesterday was a poor day weather-wise. Dull and misty in the morning giving way to heavy rain in the afternoon followed by a drier, but overcast evening. I videoed one box all day to count how many feeds were brought back in. I chose nb5 north as it did have two chicks, in, but at the moment it only has one chick. The other chick I’m temporarily hand feeding and will return to the box this afternoon. The reason is that on Sunday I noticed one chick was getting all the feeds and the other nothing. When the adults were out I weighed both chicks. One weighed 42g the other only 21g. The smaller chick was underweight and looked dehydrated. So to give it a chance to catch up I removed the bigger sibling and left the smaller one there. Without the larger sibling in the box it received the next 8 feeds. Which brings me back to yesterday. I started videoing at 8am and finished at 10pm. The results were quite interesting. There were only 3 feeds brought in from 8am to 4pm.  Then nothing for 3 hours which coincided with the heaviest of the rain. However in the 3 hours from 7pm until 10pm 4 feeds were delivered making a grand total of 7 for the day. It has now received 15 feeds in day and a half and looks completely different in size and appearance. My plan is to place the larger sibling back in late this afternoon once the smaller chick has had another good day feeding. I’m hoping when they’re both back together the little one will be more able to compete for feeds on an equal basis. As always my dilemma is whether to act or just leave nature to take its natural course. However I feel if I can help then perhaps I should at least try.

Monday 15th July

Last night only one adult roosted in three of my boxes – nb1 west, nb1 north and nb2 south. All of these boxes have chicks in – nb1 west 1 x 36 day old, nb1 north 1 x 22 day old and nb2 south 2 chicks, one 26 and the other 27 days old. However this has happened before in previous years around this time in July. I’m hoping they’ve just decided to stay out rather than anything more sinister. The good news is all the chicks are reasonably well developed and healthy looking. A single adult if that happens to be the case in any of the boxes should be able to feed them until they fledge. Anyway just to be on the safe side I shall keep a very close watch on all three boxes from now.

This morning at 6am we were woken to the alarm calls from a family of magpies. They were make a racket just outside our bedroom window. When we pulled back the curtains we saw the reason why. A fox cub was sleeping on top of our hedge much to the consternation of the magpies. The noise eventually got the better of it and it wandered along the 8 foot high hedge. Eventually it jumped onto a shrub and ended up on the ground next to the hedgehog feeding station. Here are a few photos and a short video taken by Jane.

Sunday 14th July

Yesterday was reasonably warm and sunny right from the start and the fine conditions brought out the prospectors again in some numbers. I think a few of them might be part of the third wave which tends to arrive about now. I counted over a dozen whizzing around the house and flying up to the boxes. I even saw a couple enter some of my empty boxes which bodes well for next next. Most of their attention however was focused on the occupied boxes. With a couple of chicks just about to fledge this added to the general air of excitement that surrounded their banging activity. This went on for most of the day and only went quiet for a short while during late afternoon. It was one of the best days I’ve had for almost a month. I managed to film this short video of the action in the morning.

Sitting in the garden enjoying all the prospecting activity gave me the opportunity to monitor nb2 and 3 south in some detail. In nb2 south there are 3 chicks about 25 days old, whilst in nb3 south there is now only one 31 day old chick. In yesterdays blog I wrote that I thought the adults in that box weren’t very good parents. Well having observed what happened I think I might have jumped to the wrong conclusion. In the 3 hours I watched both boxes the adults in nb3 south brought back four feeds, whilst the pair in nb2 south only managed one. The single chick receiving a whopping four feeds whilst the brood of three only had one between them all. This disparity in feeds surprised me greatly as it should it have the other way around. So based on these observations I thought it might be worth evening up the two brood sizes. This kind of intervention is always a difficult decision which I do not take it without due care and consideration. I need to weigh up the evidence before acting. Just after 1pm I removed the largest chick who weighed 34g from nb2 south and moved it into nb3 south. It was roughly the same size as the single chick despite being 6 days younger. Having evened up the brood sizes I sat back and watched what happened. Swifts are such amazing birds. The foster chick immediately settled down in the new box as if nothing had happened as did the two remaining chicks in nb2 south. The adults also didn’t seem to notice the change in brood size and continued to bring back feeds on a regular basis, although the pair in nb3 south brought in slightly more feeds overall. I’m delighted to report that all 4 chicks received several feeds each during the rest of the day which I believe justified my intervention.

Saturday 13th July

With the loss of a third chick on Thursday I’ve been looking back at the records in both those nest boxes and I found some rather interesting facts.

Firstly the pair in nb1 north. This is their first year at breeding. Perhaps the loss of one chick can be attributed to their lack of experience in raising young?

In nb3 south though it is another kettle of fish altogether. They bred for the first time in 2022. In that year they only managed to raise one chick. Their second chick I had to hand rear (Cyrus). In 2023 again they only managed to raise one chick from a brood of three. The other two chicks I had to foster into other boxes. This year it looks like they will only raise one chick again from a brood of three. The other two chicks died before I could intervene.

So to sum up the three fatalities this year. The loss of a chick in nb1 north could just be down to young inexperienced parents. Whereas there does seem to be more of a disturbing pattern in nb3 south. I’m drawn to the conclusion that they’re just not very good at raising any more than one chick at a time.

Following on from yesterdays blog I had a few emails from all over the UK regarding swift colonies. One in particular I found most revealing. Martin Calvert in Leeds has had his worst year on record. He’s got a few more pairs than me, but his results are really disappointing. The interesting thing though is Martin is not that far away from Tanya whose colony in Cumbria is thriving.

Leeds – 17 pairs on camera. Number of eggs 34. Number of eggs infertile/rejected 12. Number of chicks 22. Number of chick fatalities 7.

From the emails I’ve had there does seem to be a marked difference between urban colonies and those in more rural locations. The rural colonies seem to coping much better than expected than those in the cities. As swifts only travel relatively short distances from their nests when they are feeding their chicks it suggests to me that there are more insects rurally than close to the big cities. If the weather has been the same for everyone this year then maybe there’s something else at play. Perhaps there’s just more pollution close to big cities which is having an adverse affect on insect numbers?  Because if all things are equal weather-wise it makes no sense to me why rural colonies are thriving whilst city colonies are struggling.

Friday 12th July

Yesterday I lost another chick. In nb1 north a 17 day old chick, one of a pair died without any warning. Again it wasn’t a box I was closely monitoring as both chicks seemed to be doing fine. Also in nb1 west only one adult returned last night. Luckily in this box there is only a single chick. It is 33 days old and due to fledge in just over a weeks time. However the single parent should easily be able to look after it until it leaves, so I don’t need to worry too much about it.

With the loss of a third chick in my colony Tanya and Edmund Hoare sent me some very interesting figures from their colony in Cumbria. They have a very big colony of over 34 pairs. However only 18 are on camera which is very similar to me. The striking thing is although their numbers on camera is roughly the same as mine the results couldn’t be more different. In fact it’s almost the complete opposite. I also got some figures from Steve Hyde in Somerset. He has 9 pairs on camera and although his colony is slightly smaller they seem to be fairing much better than mine with hardly any infertile/rejected eggs and no chick fatalities. Here are the results:

Cumbria – 18 pairs on camera. Number of eggs 47. Number of eggs infertile/rejected 4. Number of chicks 41. Number of chick fatalities 0. Number of pairs with 3 chicks 8.

Bristol – 16 pairs on camera. Number of eggs 41. Number of eggs infertile/rejected 18. Number of chicks 23 . Number of chick fatalities 3. Number of pairs with 3 chicks 1.

Somerset – 9 pairs on camera. Number of eggs 21 eggs. Number of eggs infertile/rejected 3. Number of chicks 18. Number of chick fatalities 0. Number of pairs with 3 chicks 1.

Their figures show that the colony in Cumbria is doing much better than the birds down south in Bristol and Somerset which surprised me. I thought it would be the other way around. The colony in Somerset is somewhere in between my colony and Tanya’s in overall results. Although not truly scientific it does seem to suggest the existence of regional variations between colonies across the country. So whilst my colony is struggling this year others are doing surprisingly well. What I can’t determine from these results is what’s actually causing the differences. However I can speculate and my gut feeling is it is a combination of locally poor weather causing a shortage of insects which is having an adverse affect on the swifts in that particular area.

Thursday 11th July

Not much to report on swifts so I thought you might like to an update on the hedgehogs in our garden. On Monday night I put out the trail camera to see what was happening. Here is a short video put together by Jane of the evenings activity.

Just after 10.20pm what appears to me to be a heavily pregnant female arrives at the feeding station. About 15 minutes later she is joined by a male hedgehog. It’s the same male we saw about a week ago with an injured back leg. He’s still limping a bit, but not quite as bad as before.

At around 1.30am a second male arrives and is joined a few minutes later by a third male. All thoughts of feeding peacefully together go out the window as they fight over the food in the cage. After about 10 minutes of pushing and shoving one of the males leaves. The last visit of the night is around 3am when the female wanders past again.

In total we had 4 different hedgehogs visiting the feeding station. One female and 3 males. I think the female and the male with the limp are living in the garden as they arrived not long after it got dark. Our garden is surrounded by a thick, dense hedge and I’m pretty sure they both have nests in it somewhere. I wonder if the other hedgehogs live further away as they take longer to arrive. We’re really hoping if all goes well we might see the female with some little hoglets in the coming weeks.

Wednesday 10th July

I had a nasty shock yesterday afternoon when I came across a dead chick on the ground under nb3 south. To be honest I wasn’t expecting to see such a thing as it’s not one of the boxes I’ve been closely monitoring. I check all my boxes every morning and evening. In the morning I’m looking to see if the chicks are fine and moving about. A good indication thats all well is to see them preening, stretching and yawning. If they look stiff and motionless then that’s not a good sign and one to keep an eye on. In the evening I’m mainly looking to see that both adults have returned. When chicks are small it’s easy to see if one is struggling purely on its size when comparing it to its siblings. However after a couple of weeks they start to grow feathers and it becomes more difficult to tell them apart. The only really accurate way to see how they are doing would be to weigh them on a daily basis, but I think that’s far too intrusive. So all I can do is monitor them on the camera and look for any obvious signs of distress.  When I checked that box yesterday evening both chicks looked fine. Obviously I was wrong in that assumption. It was 27 days old and only a couple of weeks from fledging, however when I weighed it the chick was only 21g. That’s severely underweight for its age, it should have been over 40g or more. For some reason the adults in that box were only feeding its sibling and not both of them. I’m not sure why some adults do this. I’m thinking it’s more likely to be down to lack of experience on their behalf rather than a lack of insects. I have several other boxes with chicks roughly the same age and they are doing fine in comparison. However I have come across this behaviour a few times before and invariably it only happens during bad summers. It’s like some adults make a conscious decision that it’s better to raise one chick successfully than struggle to bring up two. Also this is the same box that back on Monday 17th June that a third chick in that brood was knocked out of the nest by one of the adults and died. To lose two chicks in the same box seems more than a coincidence. It suggests to me that this pair aren’t that good at raising young and these deaths are a result of their inexperience.

It has been buried in the little bird cemetery under our plum tree.

Total number of eggs 41. Total number of eggs rejected 18. Total number of chicks 23. Number of fatalities 2.

Tuesday 9th July

It looks like the weather forecasters were a little too optimistic about high pressure building in this weekend. Now they’re saying it won’t after all and we’re stuck with more of the same. Here in the West Country we’ve already had over 120% of our average July rainfall with more to come this week. Luckily most of the rain has fallen overnight so my birds have been able to get out and about during the day to find food. In the early part of the 18th century none other than King George II described the British summer as three fine days and a thunderstorm. Although historians now dispute it was actually him who said it the adage has stuck through the centuries. However I think a more accurate description of the British summer now would be three wet days and a fine day!

I thought you might like an update on the two foster chicks. Back on Monday 17th June I fostered a neglected chick from nb1 west into nb6 west. It was 6 days old and its parents were completely ignoring it for some reason. See LH photo. The pair in nb6 west were vainly sitting on 3 addled eggs so it seemed a sensible thing to do. Two days later on Wednesday 19th June I fostered a second chick into nb6 west. See RH photo. It was 2 days old and was the largest chick in a brood of three. The idea was to even up the clutches in both boxes and at the same time remove the addled eggs to give the foster chicks more room. See middle photo.

Swifts make excellent foster parents and both chicks were immediately accepted. They are now 22 and 28 days old and looking much more like baby swifts every day, although looking at them now it is difficult to see any size difference between them despite the 6 day age gap. Perhaps the oldest chick on the left in the photo below is a tad bigger, but there’s not much in it. In nb5 west the remaining two chicks are also both doing well, but being a couple of days younger than their foster sibling are a little smaller in both size and appearance.

Monday 8th July

A warm sunny start to this morning has brought out the screamers again. I don’t think they are new birds but some of my non-breeders just enjoying the fine conditions. Anyway it was lovely to see and hear them again after what seems like ages. Not much else to report from my colony other than I’m keeping a close eye on 4 boxes just to make sure the smaller chicks in there aren’t struggling. Thankfully at the moment they all seem to be doing ok. The adults from the 12 boxes with chicks are busy out and about whenever the conditions allows them.

I had an email recently asking me about the absence of other garden birds. Well they’re still about but keep a very low profile in July. That’s when most undergo their annual moult. They tend to go very quiet and lurk about in dense scrub and woodland until it’s completed. It can be a dangerous time for them, so the more inconspicuous they are the better. When they’ve finished their moult they’ll be back again.

Sunday 7th July

There’s a glimmer of hope on the weather front. Next weekend a large high pressure system is forecast to establish itself over the UK bringing warm and settled conditions. If the forecast is correct it’s just when the 3rd wave are due to arrive. These are predominately yearlings who form large, very noisy screaming parties and are great fun to watch. They’re not really interested in choosing an actual nest site but are more focused on sussing out potential colonies to join the following year. Fingers crossed we could all be in for a swift bonanza.

In Friday’s blog I mentioned that I gave an old apex box I had to our friend Nigel. Well he didn’t take long to put it up. Yesterday he sent me this photo of it on his house in Somerset. It looks really good on the gable end, just like it was meant to be there. There’s quite a few swifts nesting in the village close to his house. If he can rig up sound system in time he just might attract a few of the local prospectors to take a closer look.

Saturday 6th July

Yesterday it rained in the morning and again in the evening but in between it was dry. That meant the adults had chance to go out and find some food for the chicks. The current conditions are making it hard for them to find insects on the wing and it’s taking them longer to return. The result is less feeds per day per chick. However as long as there are some drier interludes each day there is hope. What we definitely don’t need now is day after day of continuous rain like we did last year. I checked my records for July 2023 and we had a succession of 4 low pressure systems that rattled in at a rate of one every 7 days. The whole month was very poor indeed and as a result I lost 7 chicks. When the chicks are feathered it’s more difficult to tell their overall condition. I lost a few last year which looked fine to me but in hindsight were obviously struggling. At the moment I have 4 boxes I’m keeping a special watch on. All the chicks in those boxes look OK but experience has taught me things can quickly deteriorate. I’m highlighting this so others with cameras in their boxes can also be extra vigilant in the coming weeks.

Friday 5th July

Yesterday Nigel Bean an old friend from the BBC came to see us. He spent the best part of the summer in 2015 filming our swifts for BBC Springwatch and Autumnwatch. Back then he adapted a couple of my boxes to include a much better camera than I use. One of these was streamed Live on the BBC red button, their website and on a screen at Millennium Square in Bristol. He came every week to check the camera and clean the lens, so we got to know him quite well during that time. One of the films is still on the BBC website – here is a link.

A few months ago I offered him an old Apex box I had knocking about under the house. Filming Springwatch has been keeping him busy recently, so he popped in yesterday to pick it up. I’ve also given him copies of swift attraction mp3 calls to help him. Hopefully if he gets the box up in next week or so he just might attract a pair before they leave in August.

Thursday 4th July

Yesterday I had a phone call my my brother-in-law Norm. He’s got a couple of pairs of swifts nesting in his boxes in north Bristol. He told me that one of them has just laid an egg. They are a new pair who arrived quite late. It is unusual for eggs to be laid in July but not unheard of. In 2021 I had a pair lay eggs on 4th and 6th July. The chicks fledged in the first week of September. I’ve still got 5 pairs without eggs but I don’t think any will lay this year, but you never know.

Di Bunniss sent me some lovely photos of a couple of house martin chicks peering out of their nest at Sea Mills Station. We’ve got a couple of pairs using the artificial nest cups we installed in March. Both nests have chicks in now, but only one has them looking out of the entrance hole. We’re hoping both pairs will have second broods as there’s still plenty of time to go before they leave.

We put the trail camera out last night to see what the hedgehogs were up too. We only saw one male and he had quite a pronounced limp on one of his back legs. It didn’t look broken, but it did look tender every time he put weight on it. Thankfully it didn’t deter him for eating and he ate quite well, so I’m hoping he will recover in the coming days.

Wednesday 3rd July

Yesterday was another cool and breezy day. Again there was very little prospecting swift activity. I only really saw adults retuning with food every now and then. Just to add insult to injury the long range forecast looks decidedly poor with no signs of settling down either. What has happened to our summer!  I don’t think I’ll see any prospectors over the next week if the forecast is correct, all very disappointing indeed. Let’s just hope the adults can find enough food to feed their chicks.

On a brighter note below are here are some more beautiful photos taken by Julien from our open day on Sunday. LH – Ammi Majus. Middle -Sweet Pea (Gwendoline). RH – Vipers Bugloss.

Tuesday 2nd July

Yesterday was a catch-up day as I didn’t really have any time on Sunday to have a proper look at my birds. The good news is there’s nothing major to report other than most chicks still had adults brooding them. However what is slightly worrying is that their parents should be out all day finding food. It’s good in one sense that they’re keeping the chicks warm, but on the other hand it means they’ll get less feeds during the day. The consequences are two-fold. In a normal summer chicks should reach their maximum body weight of around 50g after about 3 weeks. After that they start to lose weight as their feathers grow and by the time they’re ready to fledge at 6 weeks they should weigh around 40-45g. This is the ideal weight for fledging. However If their parents aren’t bringing in enough food to begin with they never quite reach their maximum weight and may only get to around 35g at 3 weeks, and barely weigh any more by the time they are ready to go. Chicks can though successfully fledge at that weight but it’s not ideal. Sadly quite a few of them just won’t have the strength to make it and these are the ones we find on the ground. If we don’t see an improvement in the weather in the next week to 10 days then I fear we will see an awful lot of chicks needing our help around the end of July.

Monday 1st July

Yesterday stayed dry all day, but could have been a bit warmer. The cool conditions keep the swift activity to a bare minimum with only the adults with chicks returning every now and then. Despite the lack of swift action the open day was a huge success with almost 200 visitors. Many thanks to everyone who came, especially those who came from far away. We wished we had more time to chat to everyone. We raised over £1200 for charity which was amazing and sold virtually all our plants as well. All in all a super day (plus England won as well!). We couldn’t have done it however without the help of our friends, so a big thank you to John and Julien Crowther (Stroud Swifts) and George Ashwell for their help during the day. Below are a few of Juliens wonderful photos taken yesterday.

Sunday 30th June

Yesterday the female in nb3 west laid another egg, sadly just like the first one it was soft-shelled and cracked during the process. When they left later in the morning I removed it from the nest to stop it making any more mess. I feel a bit sad for this pair. Their first clutch was thrown and now their second clutch has failed. Last year they didn’t raise any young either. They just don’t seem to have any luck at breeding. Total number of eggs 41. Number of eggs rejected 18. Number of chicks 22. Number of fatalities 1.

On a more positive note the 2 foster chicks in nb6 west are now unrecognisable from the two tiny, naked chicks I placed in there on 19th June. There are so big and boisterous now their foster parents can barely sit on the nest anymore!

Up early this morning to do the finishing touches to the garden. Some welcome light rain overnight has perked up the flowers which saved me the job of watering them, now all we want is a little bit of sunshine. Gate or should I say garage opens at midday.

Saturday 29th June

Late yesterday the second egg in nb3 north hatched. That was the last egg in the colony, so unless one of the new pairs surprises me and lays an egg that’s it for this year. Out of a total of 40 eggs a record 16 were rejected. That’s 42.5% of all eggs laid, the highest total I’ve seen since my records began back in 2011. The good news is I’ve only lost 1 chick out of the 23, which thankfully is extremely low. Plus I’ve got only one brood of 3 which seem to be bringing in enough feeds for all three chicks at the moment, so I’m hopefully I won’t lose anymore.

Whilst gardening yesterday I managed to photograph a beautiful comma butterfly basking in the sun. It’s one of my favourites. Today we will finish off tidying up the garden ready for tomorrow’s open day. There’s an outside chance of a rogue shower during the afternoon, but hopefully it will stay dry whilst we’re open.

We have 10 signed copies of Super Swifts children’s book for sale at our open garden. Local author Justin was hoping to pop in tomorrow, but unfortunately is unwell. They are £10 each (rrp £12.99). A wonderful gift for a child or in our case grandchildren!

Friday 28th June

8am.Yesterday was a much cooler and breezy day and as a consequence there was far less prospecting. All in all it was a very quiet day at Swift House, just with the adults with chicks returning every now and then. Still the quiet conditions gave me chance to concentrate fully on the garden for Sunday. So todays blog is all about what’s happening now. In nb3 north the last two eggs are due to hatch. The sitting bird is extremely fidgety and continually looking underneath but at the moment I can’t get a proper look. The other two boxes of interest are nb 2 and 3 west. Both these boxes had eggs laid in them a couple of days ago and both for various reasons were rejected. I’m hoping when the pairs go out I can see if they’ve laid a second egg each. Watch this page for an update in the next hour or two.

8.30am The first egg has just hatched in nb3 north. One of the adults came back in and revealed a newly hatched chick. It was so tiny it could barely lift its head. With some gentle coaxing from the adult it eventually managed to raise its head and got its first feed before flopping back over exhausted!

9am. The pair in nb2 west have just gone out and there’s no second egg in the nest. They are a new pair so that might be it for their breeding attempt this year. However the pair in nb3 west are still together on the nest so things look more promising in there.

11.30am. The pair in nb3 west has just gone out and alas no second egg in there either.

Thursday 27th June

Yesterday was a bitter-sweet day. When I checked my cameras first thing I saw we had two more eggs. One in nb2 west (a new pair this year) and the other in nb3 west (start of the second clutch, the first clutch was thrown out a couple of weeks ago). However the egg in nb3 west looked a strange colour. So when both birds went out I had a closer look. Sadly the reason for the strange off-white hue was it had a soft shell which has been damaged whilst it was laid. I’ve removed it to stop it fouling the nest. The egg in nb2 west was thrown out in the afternoon, not sure by who but there’s been lots of banging activity so I reckon it was done by a prospector. I can only hope both pairs have more luck with their second eggs which are due to be laid tomorrow. The LH photo is the soft-shelled egg from nb3 west. The RH photo tis he remains of the egg under nb2 west on our roof.

For anyone who has only just got their first pair this might be of interest. The pair in nb2 west are a new couple this year and only took up residency on 31st May. It’s taken them almost 4 weeks to produce their first egg. By comparison established pairs take on average about 10 days to lay their first egg.

I’ve had many emails from all over the UK saying they like me have noticed a lack of insects. I was sent this snippet by Liz from last Saturday’s Times newspaper:

“We have witnessed the deepest insect ‘June gap’ I have known, deeper than even last year’s nadir………gardens have been bereft of bumblebees, let alone butterflies.  Were it not for hive bees, carpets of nectar and pollen-rich wild flowers would have stood vacant.   The ‘June gap’ trough occurs when poor weather knocks out the spring and early summer insect fauna prematurely and holds back the midsummer fauna from emergence. …. insect populations are subject to huge boom and bust cycles. ……….the troughs seem to be getter deeper.   …..The good news is that this week’s fine weather has brought many of our midsummer insects out, though perhaps in depleted numbers.”

Thank you Liz for sharing the article with me. It was something I wasn’t aware of and I think it could explain the reason why there’s so few insects around now.

Total number of eggs 40. Number of eggs rejected 17. Number of chicks 20. Number of fatalities 1.

Wednesday 26th June

Yesterday the second egg in nb5 north hatched. I’ve only got one pair left with eggs in nb3 north and they’re due to hatch by the weekend. Total number of eggs 38. Number of eggs rejected 15. Number of chicks 20. Number of fatalities 1.

Whilst pottering around in the garden yesterday I noticed something quite concerning. I’m not sure if it’s just here but there were hardly any butterflies or bumblebees flying around. I only saw a couple of meadow browns and that was it. Not a single white butterfly at all which surprised me as they normally love my vegetable patch! As for bumblebees, just a couple of white-tailed ones and that was it. Considering it was a lovely warm sunny day I would have thought there would have been more. Perhaps it’s just in between their life cycles and give it a few weeks and they be back again. I hope so.

Tuesday 25th June

Yesterday saw 3 more eggs hatch. Both eggs in nb1 south and the second egg in nb1 north.  Only 3 eggs left to go now. Total number of eggs 38. Number of eggs rejected 15. Number of chicks 19. Number of fatalities 1.

The singleton in nb4 north who has been here since 10th June finally managed to attract a mate back in. That takes the number of pairs up to 17. 16 in my camera boxes and 1 in one of my non-camera boxes. Out of the 16 pairs in my camera boxes 10 now have chicks, 1 still have eggs and 5 have yet to lay. Out of those 5 yet to lay, 3 got together at the end of May/early June so I’m expecting they might all have a go at breeding. One pair formed around the middle of June so only a 50/50 chance of that one laying and the last only yesterday, so no chance of them breeding this year.

The one brood of 3 I have all seem to be growing at the same rate which is good. There’s no dominant chick in the brood so they’re all getting a fair share of the feeds, helped by the fact their parents are excellent foragers. David Lack (Swifts in the Tower page 191) observed in fine weather a brood of 1 received 8.9 feeds per day, a brood of 2 received 7.4 feeds a day and a brood of 3 received 6.4 feeds a day. The pairs with broods of 3 are bringing in two and a half times as much food as the pairs with only one chick. They’re returning on average 19.3 times a day compared to pairs with only one chick of 8.9 visits. The adults with broods of two are roughly in the middle with 14.9 visits per day.

One other thing I noticed yesterday was a single crataerina has just appeared in nb1 north. No doubt it arrived on the back of one of the many prospectors who have been targeting all the occupied boxes for the last week. It’s amazing how easily this flightless parasite moves around from nest site to nest site. There’s no way regardless of how thoroughly I clean my boxes each year that I can stop this from happening. All I can do is keep their numbers down to a reasonable level.

The next few days are meant to be very hot so I’m expecting to see lots of swift activity around my boxes. I’m meant to be getting the garden ready for Sunday, but I expect I’ll spend most of my time watching swifts instead. It’s a hard life! Some of Jane’s photos below taken yesterday of the pond surrounded by pots of agapanthus which are just about to burst out into flower. It would be nice it they were out by Sunday.

Monday 24th June

After much deliberation we’ve decided to open our garden for NGS charities next Sunday, so we’ve probably put a kibosh on the weather now! The long range forecast is still uncertain but we hope it will be dry on the day. Our garden will be open from midday until 4pm. (Adults £5. Children free). We’ll show live webcam footage from inside our nest boxes. Come and say hello and have a wander around our wildlife friendly garden. We also have a wide selection of plants for sale. All monies from these plant sales will go towards help fund local swift rehabbers. Details of address etc on link at the top of this page.

Yesterday two more eggs hatched. The first eggs in nb1 & 5 north have hatched. Total number of eggs 38. Number of eggs rejected 15. Number of chicks 16. Number of fatalities 1.

Sunday 23rd June

Barrie the cameraman returned early yesterday morning to film the swifts as they first left their boxes. Luckily it was a lovely sunny morning and the light was absolutely brilliant. He told us he’s got lots of really good footage. Whilst we were chatting he spotted a male sparrowhawk on a nearby roof, which was obviously attracted by all the noisy prospectors. The swifts knew it was there and made alarm calls. The hawk watched them for a while before disappearing back into the nearby woods.

Last autumn I modified the entrance holes to eight boxes, so the swifts can get in quicker. Hopefully the hawk won’t be as deadly as he was last year when he caught at least 4 adults just as they entered their boxes. The entrance holes are now round rather than the traditional D-shape. Watching the swifts this year they definitely seem to be able to fly in more quickly which is what I’d hoped. Here are some before and after photos.

Apart from that it was business as usual. The prospectors were really active up to 10am and again from 8pm to dusk. Whilst the adults with chicks went out their daily routine of bringing back food. Three clutches are due to hatch either today or tomorrow, so plenty going on to keep me busy.

Saturday 22nd June

I was watching the prospectors last night and came to the conclusion they weren’t bothered in finding an empty box for themselves, but seemed more interested in looking into the occupied ones. Time and time again they flew up to them, momentarily landed and peeped inside virtually every one I have. Either side of these boxes I have a row of 5 empty ones and not a single prospector landed on any of them. I was wondering if this behaviour might be an age-related thing. I’ve already had a few prospectors take up residency this year and I wonder if they were 2 year old birds securing a nest box ready to breed next summer. Whereas the ones I watched last night might be only 1 year old birds and not in the same hurry to find a home. If only I could speak swift!

The fine weather has meant the adults with young are finding plenty on insects and I saw them return time and time again to feed them.

An update on the status of the colony as of this morning. In total we have 16 pairs. One of these pairs is in one of my non-camera boxes which I think is still on eggs, the other 15 pairs are in my camera boxes. 7 of these pairs have chicks and another 4 pairs are sitting on eggs and 4 pairs are still to lay. We also have one singleton which makes a total of 33 swifts in the colony. Total number of eggs laid 38. Number of eggs addled/rejected 15. Number of chicks 14. Number of fatalities 1.

Friday 21st June

Yesterday was a much quieter day regarding me having to do anything other than to just enjoy their aerial acrobatics. The fine weather meant there was plenty of prospecting to watch. In the evening the camera crew returned and managed to film plenty of action. They borrowed a high-spec camera to film the swifts in slow motion. I’m really looking forward to seeing the final cut.

I kept a close eye on nb5 & 6 west and what a difference a day makes. Both pairs of chicks could hardly keep up with the feeds and seem to be growing in front my eyes.

My only box with 3 chicks in, nb2 south also seems to be coping well, so at the moment life at Swift House is fairly relaxed. Time to get the garden looking nice for our open day in the next couple of weeks.

Total number of eggs 38. Number of eggs addled/rejected 15. Number of chicks 14. Number of fatalities 1.

Thursday 20th June

Yesterday was a very busy day. In the morning I decided to balance up the number of chicks in nb5 and 6 west. That meant moving one chick from nb5 (brood of 3) and putting it in with the single chick in nb6. I hoped to do this when the adults had gone out but they weren’t moving. In both boxes one adult stubbornly remained so it meant having to disturb them for a moment to move the chicks. It’s not ideal but if your quick they don’t seem to worry too much. My first job was to remove the largest chick from nb5. I wanted to match its weight to the foster chick I placed in nb6 on Monday. At the same time I removed the 3 addled eggs from that nest to give them more room. In the LH photo is the chick I fostered in nb6 west on Monday weighing just 6g. The middle photo are the addled eggs removed from nb6 west and the RH photo is the largest chick from nb5 west weighing 9g. The good news is when I re-weighed the first foster chick it had put on 3g so both chicks are exactly the same weight despite one chick being 5 days older than the other. Both boxes now have 2 chicks in each, all about the same size which is a much more manageable number for the adults to successfully raise.

It only took me a few moments to complete the changes and once done I then had to wait for the adults to return in both boxes. The first adults returned about 45 minutes later to nb5 west. Both arrived at the same time and both chicks were fed. LH photo just after I removed one chick. RH photo the adults return and feed the chicks.

About the same time one adult returned to nb6 west and both chicks were fed.LH photo just after I removed the 3 addled eggs and placed the second foster chick in. RH photo one adult has just returned and fed both chick and settled down on top of them.

To make sure all was OK I closely monitored both boxes for the rest of the day and was delighted to see all 4 chicks receiving numerous feeds each. I started out with 5 clutches of 3 eggs. I lost one chick in nb3 south that accidentally got knocked out the nest by its parents. Nb6 west and nb4 south both contained addled eggs and I’ve just fostered one chick from nb5 west, so now I’m left with only one box left with 3 chicks in, nb2 south. As there’s a distinct lack of insects this year  I think broods of 3 are going to find it hard going. However If the parents are really good they may just be OK. Therefore to be on the safe side I’m going to keep a very close eye on nb2 south from now on.

In the evening a camera crew came to film our swift colony and the swifts put on a good show. We’re looking forward to seeing the footage.

Wednesday 19th June

Yesterday I closely watched our little foster chick in nb6 west to make sure it was fine. I needn’t have worried it was well fed by its foster parents who continued vainly to incubate their three addled eggs. In nb5 west the adjacent box is another clutch of three. Two of the eggs have hatched and possibly the third as well. I’m tempted when the adults go out in both boxes to remove the largest chick from nb5 west and foster it into nb6 west. At the same time I’ll remove the 3 addled eggs to give the foster chicks more room. By balancing up the numbers in both boxes will give the three chicks in nb5 west a much higher chance of all surviving.

In nb4 south is another clutch of three, two eggs hatched 4 days ago but again it looks like the third egg is addled. That is quite a few eggs that are addled this year and I wonder if they perished after being left uncovered back in May. Total number of eggs 38. Number of eggs addled/rejected 15. Number of chicks 13. Number of fatalities 1.

A quick update on the house martin colony on Sea Mills Station. We definitely have two pairs, one in nest cup 2 and the other in nest cup 6, which we believe both have eggs now. We also have a third pair just starting to nest build in nest cup 6. Di Bunniss took these lovely photos including one bird taking in feathers to nest cup 6 and in nest cup 2 the contented pair looking out of the entrance hole.

Tuesday 18th June

We were out most of the day yesterday but when we were here quite a bit happened. Before we went out in the morning I went up and removed half dozen crataerina from nb3 west. The pair in that box have already thrown out their first clutch of eggs. If they do decide to lay a second clutch then the last thing they need is crataerina crawling all over them. When we got back in the afternoon I found a smashed egg on the ground underneath nb1 south. I thought they laid only 2 eggs in that box but they must have laid 3 and one got knocked out of camera view. Anyway the adults must have come across it on the floor and threw it out.

Things got really interesting after 9pm. I’ve been waiting for the eggs to hatch in nb6 west but I think all 3 are dead. They are way past their hatching dates at 24, 26 & 28 days respectively. I think they must have perished in the cold. However the adults are really faithful and continue to incubate them in earnest. In another box nb1 west there are two chicks about 6 days old. From some reason only one is getting fed. It is massive when compared to its younger sibling and so it is only a matter of time before the smaller one dies unless something is done. Then it occurred to me why not remove it and place it in nb6 west. So that’s what I did. I removed the smaller chick and gave it some rehydration fluid via a cotton bud. The adult was in nb6 west when I opened the inspection hatch but didn’t move off the eggs. I just gently slid the small chick underneath it and closed the hatch. Watching from the camera a few moments later it was preening the chick and giving it lots of care and attention just as if it was one of their own. A few minutes after that its mate returned and took over incubating duties allowing it to go out to feed. 10 minutes later it returned and the chick got its first feed. They swapped over incubating duties and the second adult went out to feed and again returned a few minutes later with food and the chick got its second feed.

The one sad note was in nb3 south. That’s my only box with 3 chicks in. It looks like one chick was accidentally knocked out of the nest while we were out. It couldn’t get back in and sadly perished just a few inches away from the nest.

Number of eggs 38. Number of eggs rejected 14. Number of chicks 9. Number of fatalities 1.

Monday 17th June

Yesterday was a much better day weather-wise. It was still a bit breezy, but there were plenty of long sunny spells which made it feel much warmer. The warmth brought out more insects which meant the swifts with chicks managed to find food more easily. Hopefully we’ve turned a corner on that front.

Yesterday the pair in nb3 west which threw out there eggs and abandoned their nest returned. Not sure where they’ve been for the last couple of days but they roosted back in their box last night. Unfortunately they weren’t the only things that came back, at least half a dozen parasitic flat-flies, crataerina pallida hitched a ride on their backs. When they go out I see if I can remove them from the box.  Apart from that there were no other eggs that hatched and it was relatively quiet on the prospecting front.

Sunday 16th June

I dare not say it too loud, but the weather’s look pretty good from Monday onwards. If the forecast is right it has arrived just in the nick of time as the majority of eggs are due to hatch then.

Yesterday on the other hand was another awful day weather-wise. It was really windy with frequent heavy showers. There were a few bright intervals during the afternoon so I sat outside to see what was going on. In the hour I spent watching I didn’t see a single swift return which was a bit disappointing. Back inside looking at the cameras I did manage to get a closer look into the nest in nb6 west. I was convinced one of the eggs had hatched as the sitting bird was extremely fidgety and constantly looking underneath itself, but when it went out to feed there are no chicks in that nest. There were however three eggs and not two as previous thought.

This year is definitely turning out to be unusual. So far 10 out of 37 eggs have been rejected, that about 27% of the total. The highest number of rejects since records began 2011. I’ve also observed the adults leaving their eggs uncovered to go out to feed, making the incubation period much longer than normal. I’ve been keeping records since 2011 and each year the average incubation period has been around 20 days. This year is closer to 24 days. Is this a deliberate tactic by the adults to delay their eggs from hatching, perhaps in the hope the weather will improve or just the consequence of the eggs being left uncovered for longer? Whatever the reason it is 4 days longer than normal.

Total number of eggs 37. Number of eggs rejected 10. Number of chicks 9.

Saturday 15th June

This morning I found 2 eggs smashed on the ground under nb3 west nest box. One adult has definitely gone. The remaining adult must have realised it was on its own and decided to throw both eggs out. There’s still a chance it might try to find a new mate, but at the moment it looks a bit grim for that box.

Following on from yesterdays blog I had a few emails from around the UK reporting the same observations from their own colonies. It looks like the weather is starting to have an effect nationwide on our swifts. It is generally only the broods of 3 that suffer in poor weather with the last chick to hatch struggling to survive. According to David Lack (Swifts in the Tower – page 189) in poor summers around 50% of broods of 3 lose one chick. Broods of one tend to all survive regardless of the weather, whereas broods of two only suffer in exceptionally poor summers. I have four pairs with broods of 3. Unless things change this has the makings of an exceptionally poor summer, so we should be prepared to see quite a few chicks perish and nests abandoned.

Yesterday the first egg in nb6 west and the second egg in nb4 south hatched. Total number of eggs 36. Number of eggs rejected 10. Number of chicks 10.

Friday 14th June

Yesterday was another poor day regarding any swift activity outside. There was virtually none all day. I spent most of the day watching the cameras instead to see if any more eggs had hatched. As far as I could tell there weren’t any. Worryingly I saw adults leaving newly hatched chicks to go out to feed. All very concerning.

Last night only one adult returned to nb3 west. This is a pair this year that only got together on 21st May. There are two eggs in that box, but if the missing adult has been predated then they will be rejected. I hope however that is not the case and it just decided to stay out last night because of the weather. I think some of the adults are flying long distances to find food so that might explain its absence.

7.30am. Just checked nb3 west and the eggs are uncovered and there is no sign or either adult. Will keep an eye on this box for the rest of the day.

10am. I had a feeling something wasn’t quite right about the pair in nb3 west so I’ve been looking at my notes for last year. In 2023 we had a pair of first time breeders in that box. They laid only one egg but for some reason deserted it just before the egg hatched. This is what I wrote on 8th July last year. Sadly it looks like history is repeating itself again.

Something quite remarkable happened last night, something I’ve never seen before. The abandoned egg in nb3 west that was lying on the floor of the box hatched. Its parents having previously tossed the egg out twice. The first time they threw it out I put it back in the nest but when they threw it out for a second time I just left it on the floor. I assumed it was addled. Then by sheer chance as I was checking my cameras at 9.45pm last night I noticed something moving. It was a newly hatched chick. I immediately removed it, warmed it up and gave it a small fly dipped in water. I placed it back in the nest hoping its parents would return. Alas by 10.30pm it was obvious they had deserted the box. It’s only chance for survival now was to place it in nb10 west but that meant disturbing the adults in that box. Weighing up the options I decided to risk it. It was dark and both adults were in the box. As soon as I opened the inspection hatch they both flew out. I placed the little chick in the nest next to the newly hatched chick and another egg. A sleepless night followed worrying if I had done the right thing. The good news and to my immense relief is that both adults are back on the nest and have fed both chicks. Fingers crossed the little chick will be OK now. Hopefully I’ll get a good look at it today”.

Thursday 13th June

Yesterdays swift action was confined to an hour or so first thing in the morning and an hour before it got dark. That’s when the small group of newcomers are most active. It’s difficult to tell their exact numbers but somewhere around 5-7 I think. They’re targeting all the boxes which is a good sign, as hopefully one or two of them will take up residency.

The newcomer who took up residency in nb12 west on 7th June managed to entice one of them back in last night, so we have a new pair in that box now. That leaves only one other newcomer in nb4 north without a partner. Hopefully it will attract a mate in the coming days. This latest pair takes the numbers up to 15 in my camera boxes plus another in one of my non-camera boxes. That makes 16 in total. Last year we had 19 so still a few to go to match that total.

Yesterday the first egg in nb4 south and the second egg in nb3 south hatched. Number of eggs laid 36. Number of eggs rejected 8. Number of chicks 7.

I’ve noticed a  slightly worrying tendency of some adults to leave their eggs and newly hatched chicks uncovered. Normally they sit on their eggs continuously until they hatch and seldom leave the chicks uncovered until they are at least a week old. This is quite unusual behaviour. I wonder if there is a lack of insects about this year forcing some sitting adults to leave them longer searching for food. If that is the case then that’s not a good sign as the chicks will need more and more feeds as they grow.

Wednesday 12th June

Yesterday the first egg in nb3 south and the second egg in nb1 west hatched. Total number of eggs 27. Eggs rejected 8. Chicks 5.

Something strange happened yesterday. We were spending a relaxing afternoon when we had an email from Scott Ellis from BBC Points West. They were on their way to Clevedon to film a swift project. They wondered if they could pop in for 5 minutes and have a look at our swift boxes on their way. Well the 5 minutes turned into an hour. What we thought was just going to be a few questions about swifts turned into a full blown interview. Anyway we think it turned out OK despite the lack of preparedness on our side. We think it might be shown sometime next week.

Tuesday 11th June

Not sure if there was much swift action yesterday as we spent the day visiting Stourhead in Wiltshire with our family. A bit of a drive from Bristol, but well worth a visit if you get a chance as the gardens are absolutely stunning.

Yesterday evening just as it got dark there was a little bit of screaming activity around the house. As far as I could tell there were about about 5 prospectors whizzing around outside. The good news is the newcomer in nb4 north returned and roosted in that box overnight, see RH photo below. I think that’s 5 newcomers who have taken up residency in the last couple of weeks. We now have singles in nb12 west and nb4 north. A new pair in nb2 west and the resident bird in nb6 north has found a new mate. The next eggs to hatch are in nb3 south. However getting a good look is normally very difficult as the sitting adult rarely leaves them uncovered, but by sheer good luck I did get a look in yesterday and there are still 3 eggs in there. I’m expecting one to hatch today. See LH photo.

This morning is sunny again and there is quite a bit of screaming activity around the house. Maybe the single birds will try and entice partners back into their boxes.

Monday 10th June

Yesterday started off fantastic with sunny blue skies and lots of swift activity but it didn’t last. By 10am it had clouded over and a chilly north westerly wind picked up making it feel more like March than June. The deteriorating conditions meant there was no more swift action for the rest of the day.

The newcomer that entered nb4 north didn’t return last night, but I think that was more down to the weather than anything else. Better news on my other new bird in nb12 west. It has now roosted overnight in that box for the last two nights. Now that it has chosen nb12 I am confident it will try to attract a mate back in to join it.

Yesterday saw a second egg in nb3 north and the first egg hatch in nb1 west. Number of eggs 27. Number of eggs rejected 8. Number of chicks 3.

Sunday 9th June

A gloriously sunny morning with lots of swift activity going on outside. I have a new bird in nb4 north and at least half a dozen more banging the other boxes. The resident birds don’t like it at all and several have left their eggs uncovered to scream at the newcomers from their entrance holes. I’ve just watched the behaviour of several prospectors, when they land they scream into the entrance holes and listen. If there is a resident bird inside it will automatically reply indicating the box is taken, whereas in unoccupied boxes their calls are unanswered.

Saturday 8th June

Yesterday morning a swift entered nb12 west. I think it might have been the same bird that entered nb11 west on Thursday night. It came back at 9pm and roosted in nb12 west overnight. I’m hopeful it might find a mate in the coming days.

A second egg was laid in nb3 west. Number of eggs 26. Number of eggs rejected 8. Number of chicks 2.

We’re on the wrong side of the jet stream (again). Our weather is stuck in a rut with below average temperatures continuing for the foreseeable future. Depressingly, the long range forecast for rest of the summer doesn’t look good either. At the moment the poor weather is not having too much effect on the swifts as most of their eggs aren’t due to hatch for another couple of weeks. However if this poor weather continues into July then that’s not good. Swifts need warm, dry conditions to find enough aerial prey to feed their young. Let’s hope the long range forecast is wrong and we’re all in for a scorcher in July.

Friday 7th June

8.25am. A newcomer has just entered nest box 12 west. Is it the same bird that entered nb11 west last night?

Yesterday was a little warmer and sunnier and that encouraged a bit more swift action. The small band of newcomers were back again and investigating my boxes. They were most active after 9pm when I saw one newcomer enter nb11 west for the first time. I have 6 boxes on the west side nb6 -12 all unoccupied and these were the main focus of their attention. Apart from the one newcomer that entered nb11 west all the others were flying up to and momentarily landing on them and looking inside. I’m hopeful one or two of these boxes with become occupied in the coming days.

Yesterday the first egg in nb3 north. This is the box where the female laid her first clutch in the adjacent box nb4 north, but roosted in nb3 north. At the time I put the eggs in nb3 north but sadly they were thrown out a few days later. The good news is she has laid again and this time in the right box! Hopefully they won’t get thrown out this time.

Number of eggs 25. Number of eggs rejected 8. Number of chicks 2.

Thursday 6th June

Yesterday was very quiet with hardly any swift action going on. The lack of activity was due to a chilly north-westerly which took the edge off the temperature. The only thing of note was the second egg in nb2 north hatched. Number of eggs 24. Number of eggs rejected 8. Number of chicks 2.

Wednesday 5th June

The first egg of the season hatched yesterday in nb2 north. That’s a couple of days earlier than I thought, but that’s probably because it’s been relatively warm over the last 3 weeks especially at night.

The new pair in nb4 west have now decided to move back into nb2 west. Whether they stay there is anyones guess!

Second eggs have been laid in both nb1 north and nb5 north. That takes the total of eggs up to 24, plus another 8 that have been rejected. Number of chicks 1.

The last couple of nights we’ve seen a female hedgehog out feeding just as it gets dark. I reckon she has young nearby and needs all the extra food she can get. On Monday we filmed her at the feeding station. In this video she is just outside the cage whilst a large male hoovers up the leftovers inside. After a while she is joined by another hedgehog (female?) and there’s a slight altercation between them before she backs away. The male inside the cage just carries on eating!

Tuesday 4th June

Monday was a much quieter day compared to all the action on Sunday. The newcomers were still about, but not buzzing the boxes with the same energy as they did over the weekend. There are still half a dozen or so in the group. So potential for another pair or two to take up residency if the weather stays fine.

On the egg front a second egg was laid in nb1 south. That takes the total of eggs up to 22, plus another 8 that have been rejected. The first eggs are due to hatch this weekend.

The glorious weather over the weekend brought out an abundance of damselflies and dragonflies. The Beautiful Damselfly (in LH photo) was one of the more unusual ones along with the first dragonflies of the year – a Broad Bodied Chaser and Southern Hawker. The middle photo is our Common Spotted Orchid in flower. It was given to us by our good friend Geoffrey some years ago and takes pride of place in a small patch of wild lawn. They take such a long time to grow from seed to flower, something like 7 years making them special. A couple of years ago a fox rolled on it and snapped it when it was in bloom. I placed a protective cage around it to help prevent that happening and to remind our little grandkids to take care too. In last few days we’ve been seeing a hedgehog feeding in the daylight just before it gets dark. It’s one of the females that regularly visits us. We think she probably has some young not far away and needs all the food she can find.

Monday 3rd June

Yesterday was a super swift day with lots of prospecting going on, especially in the morning. I finally managed to film some of the action. As prospecting goes it was probably one of the best I’ve seen for a few years. I reckon there were about 8 prospectors, but there might have been more as counting them accurately was difficult. They were targeting all of my boxes but seemed to like the corner boxes best. Later on in the day the single bird in the bottom corner box managed to entice one of the prospectors in, so perhaps that explains why it was so popular. Here’s the video of the action yesterday morning.

The new pair seem to have picked nb4 west as home after spending some time in nb2 west.

The arrival of the newcomers has boosted the colony numbers. I now have 14 pairs in my camera boxes and another pair in one of my non-camera boxes.

The first egg of the second clutch was laid in nb6 north. Total number of eggs 21, plus another 8 that have been rejected.

Over the weekend Portland Bill Bird Observatory recorded a steady tickle of swifts, swallows and house martins arriving.

Sunday 2nd June

The new pair still can’t make their minds up over which box to use spending time yesterday in both nb2 west and nb4 west. However they did roost in nb4 west so perhaps that’s the box they will eventually settle on. Another two more eggs were laid yesterday. The first ones in nb1 north and nb1 south. That takes the number of eggs up to 20, plus another 8 that have been rejected.

Unfortunately yesterday the wind picked up during the day and that seemed to put off the prospectors. I’m hoping today with much lighter winds might be more favourable for filming.

Further afield in Holland Trektellen recorded a couple of thousand swifts were seen on the coast of Holland yesterday. Hopefully some of these will make the short hop across the channel.

With the lack of swift action yesterday we went down to have a look at the house martins at Sea Mills Station. We saw Di Bunniss there who was photographing the action. Between us we counted at least 6, possibly 8 flying about. Whilst we were there one darted into nest cup 8 with we believe some nesting material. Also quite a few of the cups have little bits of mud added around the entrance holes. You can see in the photos below the mud is slightly lighter in colour to the cup. We’re not sure if it’s the same bird adding the mud or several different birds all having a go. All in all the signs are very encouraging.

Saturday 1st June

Yesterday the newcomer who has been roosting in nb2 west brought a mate back in. However last night they decided to move boxes and spent the night together in nb4 west. It’s quite common for newly formed pairs to box swap to begin with. Give them a few days and they’ll eventually settle on one particular box. As they’ve paired up early they might even have a go a breeding, but as you can see from this photo they are still a bit wary of one another.

I was hoping to film some prospecting yesterday but as soon as I got the camera out it all went quiet. Hopefully today I might have some better luck. Another smashed egg on the ground under my corner boxes on the front of the house. Not sure which box it came from as one of the boxes has no camera in it.

A third egg in nb2 south. Total number of pairs 12, plus another pair in nb7 north a non-camera box and 3 singletons. Total number of eggs 18, plus another 8 that have been ejected.

Good news to report from Sea Mills Station. It looks like we have at least one pair of house martins using the new nest cups we installed in March. They are behaving a little bit like my new pair of swifts and are trying out several boxes for size. Hopefully they’ll choose the one they like in the coming days. They might mud up the entrance hole a bit and bring in some nesting material, but that’s about all they need to do before laying. Many thanks to Di Bunniss for all she has done to help these house martins and for these wonderful photographs she took yesterday.

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