Bristol Swifts 2024 Blog

Welcome to our 2024 blog page. The daily swift blog will begin in April when the first birds return. There will also be regular wildlife updates from around Swift House as the seasons unfold. For those of you that can’t wait until then my 2023 daily swift blog can be found here.

Swifts need our help more than ever. Their numbers have been declining year on year for the last 25 years. They’ve fallen to such a low level that in December 2021 the species was Red-listed in the fifth Birds of Conservation Concern report. However it needn’t be like this. Simple things like putting up a nest box or swift brick can make a huge difference. At Swift House we now have 25 boxes under the eaves – see this link for their location. By providing them with a suitable place to nest we’ve managed to reverse the decline. Since we put up our first box in 2005 the number of breeding pairs has risen from 1 in 2005 to 19 in 2023.

Here is a brief summary of what happened during the summer.

The first swift arrived back at Swift House on 28th April.

May was a mostly dry and warm month, although the mornings were a tad nippy. The colony slowly re-established itself as last years breeders arrived in dribs and drabs throughout the month.

June turned out to be an exceptional month – the hottest June since records began. It was sunny and warm for almost the whole month. More and more swifts arrived a back and by the end of the month we had 19 breeding pairs, which was a record number at Swift House. 18 were in my camera boxes and the other was in one of my non-camera boxes. The camera boxes produced 40 chicks between them.

July on the other hand was a truly awful month. A shift in the position of the jet stream to the south of the UK brought in a succession of deep low pressures. Week after week of rain and wind followed. The prolonged poor weather eventually took its toll on the colony with 7 chicks dying from starvation. On top of the poor weather we also had the unwanted attention of the local Sparrowhawk who caught at least four adults, leaving another 9 chicks without any parents. Luckily I managed to foster 7 into my other boxes. The remaining 2 had to be hand-reared. We named them Stanley and Oliver.

Augusts weather started in the same vein as Julys. Thankfully though by the beginning of the month I only had 7 chicks left in my boxes. The last chick in my boxes fledged on 24th August. The following day the last adult departed. The chicks we were hand feeding fledged as followed – Oliver on 20th August and Stanley on 30th August.

Total number of eggs laid 46. Total number of infertile/reject eggs 6. Total number of chicks 40. Total number of chick fatalities 7. Total number of chicks fledged 33.

We will also be holding another National Garden Scheme/Swift open day in the summer. It will be a pop-up event sometime in June or July depending on the weather, so keep an eye on this page for details nearer the time. Here are a few photos of last years event.


Friday 23rd February

The first House Martins have arrived back in the UK, albeit a tad too early for my liking. These delightful, joyous birds with such a charming song are very close to my heart. Sadly my local colony that nests under the eaves of the Old Station Building in Sea Mills has dwindled from over 20 pairs in 2018 to only 2 last year. Desperate not to lose them forever we decided we must do something to help. I’ve made 5 nest cups myself and ordered another 11 from a specialist nest cup maker. In total 16 des-res cups will be installed before the birds return. Hopefully they’ll like what they find and move straight in. For more information on the Sea Mills Station House Martin Project click on this link.

Tuesday  20th February

The pond is alive with the sights and sounds of mating frogs and toads. There must be over 100 frogs and a couple of dozen toads. Here is a short video of their activity filmed this afternoon.

Thursday 1st February 

The first signs of spring are just starting to appear in the garden. Snowdrops and winter aconites are in flower and the crocus are just pushing up through the lawn. On the milder days bumblebees are out and about foraging for nectar and the birds are beginning to sing more in the mornings.

A couple of weeks ago on BBC Winterwatch they did a bit on great crested newts (Weds 17th Jan programme). Howard Inns from Amphibian and Reptile Conservation explained that their breeding cycle had changed. They were now starting to breed in winter rather than their traditional time in spring. Intrigued by his remarks I checked my own pond and sure enough I saw great crested newts – 2 males and 1 female. The males had fully developed crests along their back and were displaying to the lone female. I was amazed to see so much activity that Jane took a couple of photos and we sent them to Howard. Not only were there great crested newts in my pond but a couple of dozen palmate and smooth newts along with at least 40 frogs, many in amplexus.

Copyright © 2024 Mark Glanville. All Rights Reserved.