Bristol Swifts Early 2017 Blog

These are my observations and thoughts about my swift colony in Bristol up until to the end of May 2017. To read the latest blog read Bristol Swifts Blog 2017 page.

Wednesday 31st May

9am. Well where did that month go!

Lets have a quick round-up of whats happened during that time. I was hoping that most, if not all of last years birds would return. I had 9 pairs in boxes and 1 under the roof tiles, 20 birds in total. The first one arrived back on May 1st which is about a week later than normal. By the 11th the majority of last years birds had returned, 16 in total, although the pair in nb5 north went missing almost immediately. About a week later another of last years pairs returned and so did one from the pair in nb5 north. That made 17 of last years birds back safely, 8 pairs and a single. Not bad. Unfortunately 3 are missing and I presume they died during their time away, the pair under the roof tiles and the mate from nb5 north. In the last week of May, 2 new pairs arrived taking the total up to 21, 10 pairs and a single. The male from nb1 north is sharing his affections with the single female in nb5 north as well as his own mate. I hoping she’ll find a new mate and ditch this philanderer. The first egg appeared on the 16th and yesterday’s total was 14 in 7 nests. The next big thing to happened will be the arrival of the non-breeders. I’ve not seen any yet but I’m expecting them any day now. The first eggs are due to hatch around the 8th June. All in all it turned out to be a pretty good month, lets hope June will follow suit.

10am. A small crisis for a moment. Our female in nb1 south laid a third egg which she flicked immediately out of the nest. She was obviously very confused as she kept looking into the nest expecting to see it. After a few minutes of frantically searching she left and I immediately got the ladder out and popped it back in. Hopefully she’ll return in a while and be “delighted” to find her egg where it should be. I feel a bit sorry for this pair because they’ve already lost their first 2 eggs to mishap. Also the first egg in nb1 west. That brings the total to 16 eggs in 9 nest.

2pm. Nb1 south has kicked the egg out again, unfortunately this time its been cracked in the process. However as it’s only the egg shell that has been damaged and not the inner membrane I might be able to do something. I’ve just read up about egg repairs and they recommend covering the crack with clear nail varnish. Not sure if it’ll work but worth a try. The egg has now been repaired and put back in the nest, the next 24 hours will determine if it’s a success or not.

Tuesday 30th May

1pm. A breezy, cool and damp morning has kept most of my birds in their boxes. They’re only just venturing outside now, as soon as they’ve gone I’ll check all the nests to see if any new eggs have been laid.

Both of my new pairs are doing fine, one’s in nb6 north and the others in nb5 south. These boxes are a new design. They’re slightly smaller in length than my existing corner boxes and are designed to fit directly underneath them. I’ve made them like this to make it easier for me to attach them. However because they are smaller in length I was worried that they would now let too much light in. To get over this I painted their interiors black. I have a hunch swifts like it as dark as possible and these boxes were just too bright, especially when the sun was out. So I decided to paint the interiors of 3 as a trial. The early results seem to speak for themselves as 2 have been occupied in the last week alone. I would say that my hunch was correct. I think in the autumn I’ll paint the interiors of any remaining unoccupied boxes black in readiness for 2018. At the moment there’s still 5 that are empty. However I’m hoping this figure might change, especially if we get a good summer with plenty of swift activity.

4pm. The first egg in nb6 north and I caught a glimpse of a second egg in nb5 west. That brings the total to 14 eggs in 7 nests. North- nb1 2, nb2 3, nb3 2 & nb6 1; West- nb5 2; South- nb2 2 & nb4 2. Four pairs still to lay.

Monday 29th May

7am. A grey damp start to the day the complete opposite to yesterday. No activity at the moment however it’s reasonably warm and it should pep up later.

Although I witnessed “new” birds enter several of my unoccupied boxes throughout the day yesterday when it came to roosting time none returned. I not too bothered by this as it’s quite normal behaviour. They’ll enter a box only for a few minutes just to check it out, but they don’t tend to roost in it until they’ve found a mate. I’ve made a note of the boxes that were entered so it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks. My money is on nb3 south being occupied by a new pair.

Some other interesting behaviour witnessed yesterday. As I reported the mate of nb1 north returned after being away for over 24 hours and at exactly the same time the “mate” of nb5 north disappeared. I’m sure it’s the same bird. I’ve read accounts of males sharing their affection with unattached females but never seen it myself. It looks like the male in nb1 north is one of these birds. Hopefully the female in nb5 north will find a more suitable mate and put an end to his indiscretion.

11am. A second egg has been thrown out of nb1 south. The first was chucked out back on May 19th. I’m not sure if it was an intruder who threw it out or one of the pair. My gut feeling is that it’s the work of an intruder has the box next to it (nb2) had an egg removed only a couple of days ago.

Our naughty male from nb1 north is at it again, slipped straight back into nb5 north for a cuddle! Not sure how long this threesome will last but it won’t work once the eggs in nb1 have hatched in about 2 weeks time. Once they’ve hatched he’ll need all his energy just to feed them. He’d better sort himself out in the meantime or there’ll be trouble.

On the positive side I think we have a new pair in nb5 south. Two birds have been going in and out all morning. It’s the second of my boxes be occupied this season which have their interior’s painted black.

Sunday 28th May

7am. Lovely sunny morning with light winds and a small band of screamers whizzing around the house, just perfect.

The box-swapping pair in nb3 west have done it again. They’ve moved back into nb1 west, lets see how long they stay in this box! We also have a pair back in nb5 north. I know it’s difficult to tell but I think it’s the old pair from last year. The fly into the box without any hesitation and are extremely relaxed with one another, allopreening from the moment they’re together. Unlike new pairs who are a bit cagey when the first enter and take a while to settle down before allopreeening.

Still unable to confirm the number of eggs in nb5 west. They’re so quick when they change over incubating duties it’s impossible to tell what’s in the nest, my guess is 2 eggs but time will tell. For some reason the mate of nb1 north didn’t roost in the box last night. I hope it’s nothing too sinister as there is 2 eggs in there and they’ve be sitting for the last week. I’m hoping it just decided to spend the night on the wing. I’ll keep a close eye on that box, hopefully I’ll see them change over incubating duties sometime during the day.

12.30pm. Another egg has been laid in nb2 south. That’s the box where an intruder entered yesterday and threw out one of the eggs. So back up to 2 in that clutch. Total number of eggs now back up to 12.

Getting a tad worried about the missing bird in nb1 north, still only seen 1 bird in there all morning.

8.50pm. After it’s been missing all day the mate of nb1 north has finally returns, thank goodness. Also we’ve had a newcomer enter nb5 south 3 times today, hopefully it’ll come in to roost later. Still quite a bit of activity so I’ll see what happens over the next 30 minutes or so.

Saturday 27th May

7.30am. Never did confirm the number of eggs in nb5 west. Every time I checked there was a bird sitting tightly, I think I was lucky to even see the one I did. However I did managed to confirm all the birds we have. At the moment there is 19 birds in the boxes, 9 pairs and 1 single. Of these 9 pairs 6 have eggs; North nb1 2, nb3 3 & nb3 3; South nb2 2 & nb4 2; West nb5 1.

I almost 100% sure I’ve lost the pair under the roof tiles. I watched until it was dark last night but didn’t see anything go in. The single bird in nb5 north I believe is one of last years birds and I think it’s also lost its mate. So out of my 20 birds from last year I’m 99% certain only 17 have returned. The unexpected bonus is a new pair in nb6 north who arrived last week. That why the total is 19. I’m also confident the single bird in nb5 north will eventually find a new mate as well. And there’s still plenty of time to attract some non-breeders so I might even beat last years total after all.

3pm. A group of bangers turned up this morning and one of them entered nb2 south whilst the resident birds were out, picked up an egg and threw it out. There’s still one egg in the nest and I hope the resident pair will lay another tomorrow. I suppose the intruder hopes by removing the eggs the female will breed again, who knows, but it was quite a shock to see what happened. Revised the egg total down to 11.

Two swifts entered nb5 north, are they the old pair from last year or are they a new pair? Funny story with this box. The first bird arrived on the 6th May followed by the second two days later, after that it becomes a little fuzzy. Following the arrival of the mate, instead of re-establishing their bonds they hardly spent any time together. Finally on May 13th both disappeared and the box has been empty except for the odd occasion when the pair underneath in nb6 entered it by mistake. It’s not uncommon for birds to move boxes I must admit I thought the original pair from nb5 had re-located to nb6, however it looks like we have a pair in both boxes so that idea doesn’t hold water. They are all out at the moment so the moment of truth will come later when they return or not to roost.

Friday 26th May

Sorry about the absence folks but we had the chance to go to Devon for 3 days, too good an opportunity to miss. It was a difficult decision, swifts or Devon, but Devon won out. It’s so beautiful down there. Saw plenty of house martins and swallows and a sprinkling of swifts as well but I really did miss my own birds! Back home now and will update the blog once I’ve checked the cameras. Swifts are going nuts outside, they just love this hot weather or maybe they’re just happy to see me back home. I like to think it’s the latter.

11.30am. Difficult to tell what’s going on as birds coming and going all the time. However I have managed to confirm the first egg in nb2 south. That makes 8 eggs that I know of but I’m sure there’s one or two more hidden under the sitting birds. Also not sure if we have a new pair as lots of activity in nb5 north.

1.30pm. A second egg has just been laid in nb2 south, that means the first egg was laid 2 days ago on the 24th. That makes 9 eggs so far. A group of bangers has been about all morning, repeatedly going up to and hitting the entrances off all the occupied boxes. I’ve seen birds enter boxes that aren’t occupied at present so it will be interesting to see if any “new” birds roost in them tonight. Turning out to be a fantastic day! Just checked the cameras and found the first egg in nb5 west. Total now up to 10 eggs.

4.15pm. There’s been so much actively today that there’s hardly been a moment when the nest are empty of birds. However I’ve just managed to look into nb3 north and there’s two eggs in there. That’s the pair who throw out their eggs about a week ago. As there are two eggs in there they must have been laid over the last couple of days. Probably the first one on the 24th and the other today. That leaves only one nest to confirm for certain and thats nb5 west. I managed to see one egg in there earlier on but I’m sure there’s probably a second one in there as well. So as it stands there are 12 eggs in total.

Tuesday 23rd May

9am. Well our contrary pair decided nb3 west was the place to be last night and roosted there together. However when I checked the cameras at 8am this morning I found a bird in nb4 north, was this a newcomer? Quickly checking all the other nests I found all the birds were in except you’ve guessed it, one bird from nb3 west was missing. Was this just co-incidence or did it decide to try out this box for size, because when I checked half an hour later both birds were back in nb3 west and nb4 north was empty. All good fun and games!

7pm. It’s starting to warm up and the swifts are going crazy. I think we could be in for a great few days. We might even see the arrival of the non-breeders.

Monday 22nd May

7.30am. Our pair in nb6 north returned last night so I’m going to add them to my total. I think they are the pair from the box above, nb5, who arrived around the 9th and then went missing for a week. Not sure why they went missing and why they swapped boxes, but it’s good to have them back. That makes 18 out of 20 back, paired up and in residence.

The other “new” pair in nb1 west decided to spend the night apart, one went into nb1 west and the other returned to nb3 west. They still can’t make up their minds as to which box they prefer, lets hope they do before they start egg laying!

Sunday 21st May

9am. Yesterday was quite a good day for nest building, just enough breeze to help them catch feathers on the wing. My birds spent most of the day bringing in small white feathers. When I checked my cameras at 11pm last night to my surprise the pair from nb5 north had returned, well something like that. One was in nb5 and the other was in the box directly underneath, nb6. Still it’s a start. Hopefully they’ll sort themselves out and pick one of the boxes to nest in. I’ll wait until they roost together before adding them to my total of birds back. So at the moment the total is 16 definitely back, 2 probably and 1 pair still missing ( roof tile pair ) although they might be here and I’ve just not seen them. So getting close to the magic 20, which is all birds back.

All the birds are still in so I’ll check the cameras later as I’m sure there’ll be some more eggs.

10am. Both birds have now entered nb6 north and are allopreening one-another, looking promising!

7pm. A second egg has been laid in nb1 north. That makes 7 eggs in total – nb2 north 3, nb4 south 2 and nb1 north 2.

Lots of screaming activity tonight. I’m hoping that our new pair in nb6 north will return later to roost..

Saturday 20th May

8am. A strange ending to the evening last night. Our new pair in nb3 west decided to roost in nb1 west. I don’t know why they changed boxes but it’s quite common for pairs to box hop before they finally settled down. So it would appear that these two will flit between these boxes for a while longer yet. Only one adult roosted in nb1 south, that’s the box an egg was thrown out of earlier in the day. It’s mate roosted in another box on the other side of the house. It almost like they had a bit of a domestic quarrel and ended up in separate rooms. The good news is that it’s just returned and both seem to have made back up, allopreeening one another with vigour. I also managed to confirm the clutch sizes in nb4 south and nb2 north, which is 2 and 3 respectively. These pairs have now started to incubate their eggs so I’ve pencilled in June 9th/10th for possible hatching dates.

Friday 19th May

9.15am. A beautiful sunny morning but a complete lack of activity which is a bit odd, hopefully it’ll pick up in a minute. Just checked the cameras and found an egg in nb1 north. The other two nests with eggs in, nb4 south and nb2 north, both birds are still sitting so it’s difficult to tell if any more eggs have beed added. My guess is yes but not sure how many. So the total of eggs so far is 4, possibly 1 or 2 more if I get a chance to look into the other two nests.

Our new pair in nb3 west seemed a lot happier last night back in their old box. When I checked the camera at 11.30pm both were cuddled up together on the nest.

Just found a smashed egg under nb1 south. It was laid this morning and for some reason thrown straight out, possibly because it was damaged?

Thursday 18th May

7.30am. Our single bird from nb1 west returned last night but so did another bird. A new arrival in nb3 west. Last year nb3 west was occupied by a new pair for the first time. They laid eggs but unfortunately these where ejected when an intruder entered the box so the didn’t actually raise any chicks. They stayed in the box right in August and were one of the last pairs to leave. I’m wondering if the bird who returned last night is one of that pair along with the other bird in nb1 west. It will be interesting to see whether they stay single or join up and pick one of the boxes, my guess is they’ll end up in nb3 west. I’m going to add both to my total so that makes 16 out of 20 back. Still not sure what’s happening with the pair from nb5 north, hopefully they’ll come back and I still need to confirm if the roof tile pair are here or not.

Noon. Well both birds ended up in nb1 west and not nb3 as I’d thought. They stayed in for several hours, whilst they weren’t fighting I can’t say they looked very happy either. Definitely no allopreening, just looking at one another from a safe distance. It will be interesting to see if they return together tonight.

8pm. Just as I first thought our angry pair from nb1 west have entered to nb3 west tonight. They both seem more at ease with one-another. I wonder if that’s because they’re back in their old nest box from last year and feel more relaxed in familiar surroundings.

Wednesday 17th May

8am. Tipping down with rain again and all the birds are still in, plus we’ve got a new one! Last night around 8pm a group of 3 birds were buzzing the boxes, particularly the ones on the north side. I assumed it was the pair from nb5 north who had returned, however as it got much darker one of them landed at the entrance of nb1 west and clung on just looking around. The other 2 birds disappeared into the night sky, whilst the one clinging to the entrance after 20 minutes or so eventually crawled inside. I’ve just checked the camera this morning and it’s sat on the nest. Whether it is a new bird or one of the old pair from nb5 north remains a mystery. I’ll wait until tomorrow to see if it returns to that box before adding it to my total.

3pm. A second egg in nb4 south. I saw one in there yesterday but it was probably laid on Monday as they lay every other day. That makes 3 eggs so far.

Despite it raining all day I think a small group of newcomers may have just arrived and are screaming around the house. Our new single bird has just left nb1 west to join them. I don’t tend to play the attraction calls much, but as it’s such a horrible day weather-wise I thought I’d brighten it up with a few loud bursts. The newcomers seem to appreciate it regardless of the rain!

4pm. Hot off the press! Hundreds of swifts arriving over Berry Head, Devon and Portland Bill, Dorset today, looks like they’ve finally made. Flying at around 25mph they should be all over the UK by tomorrow.

5pm. The second swift just arrived. However I think it should have gone into nb4 south, but instead it entered the new box (nb5 south) directly underneath. I expect it will sort itself out in a day or two and return to the correct box. That 2 out of 20 back now.

Tuesday 16th May

8am. Opened the front door this morning and found a smashed egg underneath nb3 north. This is the fourth year in a row this pair has thrown out it’s eggs. Perhaps it’s something to do with the male not being certain that the female has been faithful to me, I don’t really know. In previous years they’ve waited until the last egg in the clutch has been laid before throwing them all out. This year they didn’t even wait that long and threw the egg out immediately. The sad thing is another egg is due on Thursday and I expect that one will be dispatched in the same manner as well. Very strange behaviour.

11am. Just had a quick check of the cameras and one egg in nb4 south. The pair in nb2 north are still in so possibly another egg in there as well. As soon as they go out I’ll have a look.

11.45am. A second egg has just been thrown out of nb3 north so that’s probably the whole clutch now. I must have missed the first egg being laid a couple of days ago. I’ve only noticed it now after the second and final egg was laid this morning and both of them thrown out.

1pm. Another egg, this time in nb2 north. The pair who threw their eggs out are behaving like naughty teenagers, screaming around the house at high speed and entering their box every few minutes. Perhaps is some sort of courtship behaviour to encourage the female to breed again?

Monday 15th May

9am. No more arrivals yesterday so still on 7, possibly 8 pairs. I’ll give the missing pairs another couple of weeks to turn up just incase they’re stuck somewhere on their migration route. I’m hoping that’s the reason as lots of birds are missing right across the UK. However if they’re not here after that then I must assume that they won’t be coming. Rubbishy morning, wet and windy, all 7 pairs are still in and who can blame them!

Chance to bring you up-to-date with the other birds in the garden. The sad news first. The magpies have predated the blackbird chicks for a second time, poor things. The gold finches, robin and wren are still on eggs. Whereas the blue and great tits both have chicks. The great tits chicks are much older as they’re being given the odd meal worms or two unlike the blue tits chicks who are still only on aphids. The hedge sparrow chicks are also taking meal worms mixed in with flies picked up around the pond. The bullfinches have chicks but boy, aren’t they messy feeders. Both adults regularly visit the bird-table and chew up the sunflower seeds into a sticky pulp which seems to get plastered all over them.

And finally, a very, very late appearance of toad spawn in the pond almost 2 months after all the rest.

Sunday 14th May

Yesterday started very quiet and remained like that for the rest of the day. I’ve noticed in the last few days their behaviour has changed. Gone is the noisy activity that happens when they first arrive. Those early days spent whizzing around the house, re-establishing their pair bonds and acquainting themselves with their old nest boxes. Now they’ve been back nearly 2 weeks their emphasis has changed. They must now build up their strength to be in the best possible condition to produce eggs. So everyday from now is devoted to feeding. Departing early in the morning and not returning until the evening. No energy is wasted on screaming around the house. It won’t be until the eggs have been laid and the first newcomers have arrived that this activity will be evident again. It’s the same every year, it goes very quiet from now to early June.

Out of last years total of 10 pairs I have 7 pairs back. Another pair, nb5 north come and go; and two pairs, nb3 west and the roof tile pair are still missing. However last night at 9.15pm one bird flew up to nb5 north, peeped inside for a few seconds and left. If the box was occupied the sitting bird would have screamed immediately. I think it was listening to hear if anything was inside and left when it heard nothing. It was probably our single bird checking to see if it’s old mate had returned.

Saturday 13th May

8am. A very quiet start so far, not a single bird in the sky. The plot thickens with nb5 north. After returning yesterday and enticing a mate back into the box, both failed to return last night. I’m unsure what’s going on but I have a theory. I think the bird who returned on May 6th is one the original pair, however the bird who followed it in on May 8th is a new mate. Why it’s gone for a new mate after only 2 days is unusual as they normally wait much longer than that, perhaps it saw its original mate predated? New pairs are first formed in the air. Both birds flying next to one another, even in large groups it’s easy to pick out the individual pairs because they follow each other so closely. This initial pair bonding may take some time, days even. It’s purpose is to give them the opportunity to see if their would-be mate has potential or not. If the answer is yes, then more permanent bonds are formed inside the nest. This is the place where they will spend hours preening one-another, building up such a strong bond that it will last a life-time. This mutual preening called allopreening and is done every night and on days when flying is restricted. The pair in nb5 north have only spent a few minutes together and so haven’t really started allopreening yet. It is likely that they are still in the first stages of bonding, which is flying next to one another even if that means staying out all night. Hopefully in a day or two’s time they’ll return and have another go. So I’m going to revise my total down to read 14 back and 2 maybes. Only when the stay overnight will they be considered to be back for sure.

Friday 12th May

7.20am. Things are never that straight forward. The single bird in nb5 north who’s been here since May 6th and who’s mate has been coming and going since the 8th has left. The box was empty last night for the first time since it arrived which is odd. To complicate matters, 3 birds were whizzing around the house late last night and going up to several boxes including nb5 north but didn’t actually enter any of them. Are these the missing birds from nb5 north or new ones just arrived? They’re here again this morning so things might become a little clearer as the morning goes on. But in the meantime I’ve revised down my total to 14 confirmed and in residence and 2 maybes.

9.15am. Mystery solved. It’s our missing bird from nb5 who’s been trying to attract a “new” mate back into the box again. Let’s hope this time it’s more successful.

10am. Eventually after several attempts both birds back in nb5 north. Back up to 16 out of 20.

Thursday 11th May

Well what a day yesterday. It’s not often, in fact it’s never happened in the last 12 years that I’ve experienced such a perfect weather day and lots of swifts arriving at the same time. I was trying to plant out my tomatoes in the greenhouse, a job which should take only an hour, took all day. Every-time I went to plant one, something happened to draw my attention and it didn’t get done. I only had 10 to plant but but the amount of time I was fiddling about in the greenhouse you could be forgiven for thinking it was 100 I was planting.

A quick summary of what happened yesterday; 3 more birds arrived and to my surprise a small group of prospecting newcomers, which is a tad early for them. The mate of nb5 north went missing overnight again. I’m beginning to think perhaps it’s not her “real” mate but interloper(s) who turn up for a short time and then leave. If I count the “missing” mate of nb5 north then we have 15 back out of 20, which is pretty good. Of these, 7 are pairs; nb2, 3, & 5 north; nb 5 west; nb1, 2, & 5 south and a single in nb1 north. I’ve not yet seen any sign of the pair who nest under the roof tiles, but without a camera it’s very difficult to tell when they’re back. It usually takes me a few weeks to notice them and then, it’s only by chance as one flies in whilst I’m out in the front garden.

9pm. A very quiet day compared to yesterday’s roller-coaster, however just checked the cameras and the mate of nb1 north has just arrived. There is also a small group of screamers still whizzing around so possibly another 1 or 2 might pop back into their boxes later on. Total so far 16 out of 20.

Wednesday 10th May

6am. Up early this morning to check out nb1 south to see what happened after the fight last night. Great news, the 2 resident birds are cuddled up on the nest and no sign of the intruder. Not sure when the fight ended but it was still going strong at 10.30pm. However I don’t think that’s the last we’ve seen of the intruder as I think it will be back again today. I hope it remembers which box it should be in (nb2 south) and enters that one rather than following in the pair next door otherwise we’ll have a repeat of yesterdays fight.

For all you who are missing house martins a huge passage reported over Portland Bill yesterday.

A quick update on the colony numbers; there are 11 birds back in residence, plus another 2 unaccounted for, the intruder and the mate of nb5 north. Making up the 11 are 4 pairs; nb1 & 5 south & nb2 & 3 north. Single birds are in nb5 west, nb1 north and nb5 north.

7am. A single bird has just arrived. Flying around the house repeatedly but not really sure where to land. Will keep watching to see where it goes.

10am. It’s developing into quite a morning! The single bird in nb5 has been trying to attract its mate in again, time and time again it’ll enter the box hoping for the following bird to come in as well, but to no avail. The intruder in nb1 south has found the right box and entered nb2 south so hopefully no more fights. Finally at least 2 possibly 3 newcomers banging all the boxes.

11am. Finally the single bird in nb5 north has managed to entice its mate back in, after at least a dozen attempts!

12 noon. The intruder who got into the fight yesterday and finally found the correct box earlier this morning has just returned with it mate, plus there are still 3 or 4 newcomers whizzing about as well. What a morning. Still trying to work out what’s going on but as far as I can tell we have 14 back out of 20. Quick update; pairs in nb2, 3 & 5 north; nb1, 2 & 5 south; singles in nb1 north and nb5 west.

5pm. Large group of swifts 40 plus, flying low heading north, my swifts very excited as they pass over.

8.45pm. Another arrival, the mate of nb5 west has just arrived, that 15 back out of 20. There are also a couple of newcomers still flying about so it will be interesting to see if go into an empty box or disappear into the night sky.

Tuesday 9th May

8am. The mate of nb5 north who arrived yesterday morning didn’t roost in the box last night. I’m not sure why but some birds take a while to re-adjust to life inside a box and some take several days to finally roost together. What their mate must think, who knows! My other 4 pairs are all ok and are still in their respective boxes this morning as it’s a tad chilly outside, as is the single bird in nb5 west.

For anyone who has a moment to spare the RSPB would like to know about swifts sightings in your area. I’ve attached a link to their survey page, it only takes a couple of minutes to fill out.

9.30pm. What a night!

Lots of screaming activity from 7pm onwards, a new arrival in nb1 north and a big fight going on in nb1 south. At around 9pm a third bird followed the pair back into nb1 south. A ten minute fight ensued before the intruder was finally evicted. 10 minutes later it returned and a second fight has just started. Fights like this have been known to go on for hours. The strange thing is one bird (the female?) is sat on the nest preening whilst the other two birds are fighting only a couple of inches away. I think the intruder is one of the new pair who occupied the box adjacent to nb1 south last year and has entered this box by mistake. Only time will tell and once the fight has been resolved which box it eventually decides to go in tomorrow. It’s 10pm and the fight is still going on. My hunch is it’ll go in nb2 south.

No sign of the mate of nb5 north tonight either, it turned up yesterday at 10am, stayed for about an hour and hasn’t ben seen since. So at the moment we have 12 birds back, possibly 13 if nb5 north eventually decides to return.

Monday 8th May

7am. Although the weather was brilliant last night it didn’t really encourage the swifts to put on a show. There was a few fly-bys but generally most of my re-entered their boxes quietly and without any fuss which was a shame. However checking all the cameras late last night I found another arrival. The mate of nb2 north was back. That makes half the colony home, 10 out of 20.

On May 2nd I report around 3000 thousand swifts crossing over from Holland into Belgium. There is a counting station on the banks River Scheldt in Zeeland and it’s a bit of a migration hot-spot. May 6th was a truly exception day for swifts with over 21,000 crossing on that day alone and heading this way. They should be reaching us anytime about now. Keep watching the skies!

10am. The mate of nb5 north has just arrived and both of them are sat on the nest preening one another. That’s number 11 back.

3pm. A moderate easterly wind has created perfect nest building conditions and our 3 pairs have been hard at it. They have been returning ever half hour or so carrying little white feathers in their beaks, however the star pair without doubt is nb1 south who brought back 6 feathers in under an hour.

Sunday 7th May

6.30am. Woken by a screaming party whizzing by, pulled the curtains back and at least half a dozen swifts flying around the house. Quickly checked the cameras and 6 are still inside their boxes so it looks like some have just arrived.

8.30am. The mate of nb3 north has just arrived, that makes it eight back safely now. Quick update; 2 complete pairs back, nb5 south and nb3 north and 4 singles, nb1 south, nb5 west and nb2 & 5 north. It normally around 10 days after the mate has returned that the first eggs appear so around the 16/17th May I would expect to see eggs in these 2 boxes. One note of caution, in the last 3 years the pair in nb3 north have thrown out their first clutch and relaid a second a few days later. I wonder if they’ll do the same again this year?

9.30am. Another arrival. The mate of nb1 south has just returned. That makes 9 out of 20 back, 3 pairs and 3 singles.

4.30pm. Lots of activity high up in the sky. I can hear them but hardly see them at all, just tiny black specks. I managed to count at least 12, probably more, fingers crossed a few of them are mine and will return later tonight. Beautiful blue sky, warm and no wind it could be the first really good display later on. Time to get the comfy chair out and a glass of wine poured in anticipation for tonights show! Whilst I’m getting ready for the show my little friends, the blackbird, robin and wren are keeping me company, hoping for a handful or two of meal worms, which of course they’ll get in a moment or two.

Saturday 6th May

7am. No more arrivals last night so it finished at 6, but oh what a day! I’ve never known a day quite like it in the past, when swifts appeared en masse all over the UK. Most of my colleagues either had some swifts return or at the very least saw them flying overhead. I’ve just had a quick look at yesterday’s blog from Portland Bill and again it reported a strong passage of swifts of well over 1000 coming into the UK.

7pm. Number seven has just arrived and entered nb5 north. There is another bird flying up to the boxes on the south side, I think it’s one of the new pair that occupied nb2 south for the first time last year. It hasn’t landed yet but has been banging all the boxes on the south side. At the moment that’s 7 out of 20 back so far.

Friday 5th May

Quite a flurry of activity yesterday afternoon as a result of the first big arrival of swifts to the UK. In the end no more of mine turned up but I did see my first screaming party at 8pm when 3 whizzed over the house. To hear them again was just fantastic. Both birds have now gone out leaving me gazing at the blue skies in high expectation that some might arrive at any moment. The blackbirds second clutch has just hatched and the male bird is going to and from the nest with its beak full of mealworms.

1pm. Thought I’d take a ride out to Chew to see for myself what’s happening, wasn’t disappointed, hundreds of swifts and house martins there, lovely to see. I also wanted to hear my first cuckoo of the year, alas no joy, although there were dozens of reed warblers singing which made up for it. Just as I arrived home at 1pm a screaming party of 5 flew over the house, going to watch them now from the garden to see if the newcomers are mine.

2.30pm Third swift back. The mate of the second swift back who went into nb5 south by mistake yesterday has just arrived. This time though both of them found the correct box, nb4 south and went in together. both are sat on the nest preening one-another. And the good news is there’s still 2 or 3 flying around so possibly a couple more will find they way back into their boxes later on.

8pm. Three more arrivals. Lots of activity all afternoon, between 5 – 7 swifts whizzing around and very difficult to tell if mine or not. Just checked my cameras and to my surprise 3 more have sneaked back in. One in nb5 west, another in nb2 north and the final one in nb3 north. So that makes 6 back out of 20. One complete pair (nb4 south) and 4 singles. Will check again in an hours time just in case some more might have sneaked in unnoticed. A good day all round!

Thursday 4th May

Still only the one back, thought you’d might like to see a picture of him/her taken yesterday morning.

4pm. Hot of the press! Hundreds of swifts arriving over Berry Head, Devon and Portland Bill, Dorset today, looks like they’ve finally made. Flying at around 25mph they should be all over the UK by tomorrow.

5pm. The second swift just arrived. However I think it should have gone into nb4 south, but instead it entered the new box (nb5 south) directly underneath. I expect it will sort itself out in a day or two and return to the correct box. That 2 out of 20 back now.

Wednesday 3rd May

Yesterday was a good weather day, light winds, warm and reasonably sunny but even that didn’t encourage any more swifts to arrive. A few more sightings are being reported here and then but I think the vast majority still aren’t with us yet. For the next week the wind will be blowing from the north-east which isn’t a brilliant direction so I think it could be a little while before their numbers increase significantly.

Our single bird returned at 9pm last night and went straight in to NB1 south. Checking my records for that box has revealed some interesting facts. It was first occupied in 2010 and has been used ever since. One of the pair (I think it’s the same bird) has always been my first swift back except for 2016* when it was beaten into second place by NB1 north, who arrived 3 days earlier on April 26th. So this is the 8th year in a row that it’s been used. What makes things a bit more intriguing is I think the original bird (the one that turns up first each year*) has lost least one if not two mates during that time. Checking my records both birds usually arrive within a couple of days of one another. Except in 2015 it’s partner was almost 3 weeks late, was this a new mate? And last year both birds disappeared in early July (7th/8th) forcing me to foster their chicks only for a “new pair” to take over the box about a week later (July 15th). I think one of the adults died and the remaining bird (our early bird) deserted the nest and went looking for a new mate. Duly found one and returned to reclaim it’s box. And now in 2017 it’s the first one back again. If I’m correct then that makes that bird at least 10 or possibly 11 years old (they don’t usually breed until they are 3 years old). No way of knowing for sure if my theory is right but the evidence certainly points that way.

Tuesday 2nd May

7am. A beautiful morning just as the sun is beginning to rise, clear blue skies and no wind, perfect swift weather. Just checked to see how our new arrival is doing and it appears quite content, sat on the nest preening itself. I got a good feeling a few more might turn up today if it stays like this.

A fellow enthusiast in Holland reported a big increase in swifts heading our way over the weekend. There is a migration count post at the mouth of the River Scheldt in Zeeland, Holland near the border with Belgium. On Saturday they counted 14, Sunday 2586 and yesterday 569, all crossing the river into Belgium. I expect they are heading to Calais before crossing the channel into the UK.

Monday 1st May

9pm. First one back. Out of the blue my first swift has just returned. No fuss or messing about it either, straight in first attempt, NB1 south. Amazing!

Midday My wife says she saw a swift on Saturday night. It didn’t return yesterday so I’m still waiting for my first arrival. I’m still hopeful one might appear anytime, but it’s starting to cloud over and heavy showers are forecast this afternoon which isn’t ideal. Checking my records over the last 12 years my first swift has arrived in April 7 times against only 5 times in May. So this is now one of the later years for their arrival. The latest ever date recorded for my first to arrive was May 6th back in 2009, since then it’s nearly always been in April other than 2013 (May 1st) and 2015 (May 2nd).

Sunday 30th April

I think my first swift returned late last night and tried to enter one of my boxes. My wife caught a glimpse of something flying up to a box at 9pm. Unfortunately I think it failed to enter because of the very low light levels but I’m up early this morning in case it comes back for another go.

A lot of noise and commotion at the bottom of the garden, magpies and robins going berserk. When I’ve investigated the magpies have found the robins nest and eaten all the chicks. That’s the first clutches of both the blackbirds and robins they’ve predated. I know that’s what happens in nature but it does upset me the amount of nests the magpies destroy. Hopefully they’ll both be more successful with their second broods and the magpies less fortunate.

Just before my birds return heres a brief summary of my set-up and fingers crossed, what I’m hoping will happen in the next few weeks. I have 17 nest boxes (NB) in total. 6 each on the north and west sides of my house and 5 on the south. 9 NB’s were occupied last year, so hopefully all 9 will be re-used again this year. The boxes in question are as follows; South NB1, 2 & 4; West NB3 & 5; North NB1, 2, 3 & 5.

Saturday 29th April

Nothing yet but it’s getting close, today maybe tomorrow who knows, but my adrenalin is starting to rise.

Apart from the few hundred already at Chew I think the majority are still down in North Africa or Spain. This may seem like a long way away but it’s nothing for a swift to fly over 500 miles in a day, so if they are still there it’ll only take them 2 or 3 days to return. Yesterday the wind went round to the south so if they were waiting for that to happen before departing on the final leg of their journey they should be with us either tomorrow or Monday.

Friday 28th April

Checked the cameras late last night and again this morning, nothing yet. However I did see another 3 swallows yesterday afternoon. They were flying low over the garden just above the tree line, heading north. Just for a split second I thought is was my swifts returning, but alas not this time.

The goldfinches have just started nest building this morning. They’re picking up hair and feathers from my nest material cage and disappearing over the hedge into next doors garden. I think they’ve chosen a huge clump of flowering montana clematis to build their nest in. The robins eggs must have hatched. They’re both started taking mealworms away in the direction of their nest at the bottom of the garden.

Thursday 27th April

With the arrival of several hundred swifts over Chew I checked my cameras late last night and again this morning just in case one had sneaked back it, alas nothing yet. I still think it will be over the weekend before one actually returns although I will continue to check the cameras on a daily basis from now on.

We are delighted and overwhelmed by the number of swift boxes that have been built across the UK and Ireland using our designs. We’d like to say a big thank-you to all the people who have sent us their photos. In fact we are so impressed that we have added a new page to our website see Photos of your swift boxes. We hope you like the photos as much as we do and if it encourages you to build your own, please send us a photo so we can add it to our collection. More importantly we hope your local swifts like their new homes so much they move in immediately. We love to hear how successful they are so please let us know how you get on.

Wednesday 26th April

Despite this cold northerly wind and much to my surprise over 200 swifts arrived yesterday over Chew Valley lake in Somerset. Local birder Derek John Angell reported over 200 mixed in with a large flock of hirundines. I must admit I wasn’t expecting to see such numbers not until the wind direction changed, however it’s a welcome surprise never-the less.

Whilst waiting for my first swift to appear I’ve managed to get up to date with the other nesting birds in the garden. I’m convinced that the blue tits who have just moved into a box by the pond are the same ones who first built a nest back in March under the conifer tree. The great tits are on eggs in the box in the large apple tree and complain loudly when I’m in that part of the garden. The Robins are on eggs and take turns visiting me for a handful of meal-worms. The hedge sparrows have just finished nest building and the blackbirds have started a second clutch in a neighbours garden. And finally the bullfinches are on eggs. For the last 3 weeks they would visit the bird-table together but in the last couple of days they come individually to feed. I think they are taking it in turns to incubate their eggs, whilst one feeds the other is sitting.

Tuesday 25th April

Trying to anticipate exactly when the swifts will arrive is always a bit hit and miss. One thing is for sure you won’t see many when the wind is blowing from the north. Unfortunately that’s what we’ve got for the next 2 days, before it turns more to a west,north-west direction on Thursday, again not ideal for migration. However on Saturday it’s forecast to turn towards the south and that’s just perfect. I’m confident the first big wave will arrive this weekend. Even if mine don’t appear I’m sure someone else’s will, my money is on Sunday.

Monday 24th April

Still only a few isolated sightings of swifts across the UK whereas my fellow enthusiasts in France, Belgium and Holland report their numbers steadily increasing on a daily basis. One short hop across the channel and they’ll be here. Although it seems odd to me that just as the swifts are about to arrive I’m having to cover up all my tender plants to protect them from the weather, how bizarre.

Sunday 23rd April

Two swallows flew over our house late yesterday afternoon heading north. Clear blue skies, warm and sunny a perfect swift day, unfortunately the only thing missing was the swifts! Hardly any have been spotted over Chew which is a good indication it’s still a bit early for them. My money is on the end of next week after this much talked-about cold snap has gone through, however 1 has been seen over Eastfield park in Bristol which means some are already here, just not mine.

Saturday 22nd April

Still waiting for my first bird to return. A quick summary of what I’m hoping will happen in the next few weeks. Last year I had 9 pairs in boxes and I pair under the roof tiles, that makes 20 birds in total. The normal mortality rate is somewhere around 1 in 6, so 16 or 17 should make it back ok. However working out who’s made it back is very hard indeed, but a reasonable assumption can be made if the old boxes are re-used. In a swifts life possession of a nesting site is the most important thing and will always be re-used even if one of the pair has died. The only time a site is totally abandoned is when both birds fail to return which unfortunately sometimes happens. As the partners of missing birds soon find new mates, working out who’s new or not is almost impossible. Sometimes you can tell as one bird seems unusually nervous, whereas with established pairs they seem more at ease with one another but it’s very difficult. The only thing I know for sure is the first bird to re-enter each of last years 9 occupied boxes is definitely an “old” bird who has returned home. The only way to tell for sure would be to ring all the birds and re-catch them as the enter which I am not prepared to do. It’s been proven that some birds will desert after being handled and it’s a risk I won’t take.

Friday 21st April

Back in 2014 this is the day my first swift arrived back although I don’t think it will be equalled today. Here are the arrival dates for the last 12 years; 2005 -May 2nd;  2006 – May 1st;  2007 – April 29th;  2008 – April 26th;  2009 – May 6th;  2010 – April 23rd;  2011 – April 29th;  2012 – April 25th;  2013 – May 1st;  2014 -April 21st;  2015 – May 2nd; 2016 – April 26th.

Thursday 20th April

I was half expecting to see my first swift yesterday afternoon as the weather was just right, alas I didn’t see any but I did see my first house martin. Strangely though, it was flying north to south but at least it was heading in the right direction of the local colony on Sea Mills Station. Blue tits have started building a nest in the box by the pond, what I can’t work out is whether it’s the same pair who have a nest in the box on the conifer or a new pair. I’ve counted more than 2 blue tits in the garden so perhaps it’s a second pair, more investigation needed.

Wednesday 19th April

As the sun moves onto the patio at the back the red mason bees are prompted into frantic action. There’s a group of 3 or 4 males who are jostling one another around the bee hotel. They are anxiously waiting for the females to emerge and at the same time fighting off rival suitors so they’ll be first in line. The pair of hedge-sparrows are continuing nest building this morning. Only the female builds the nest whilst the male chaperones her back and forth keeping a watchful eye over her.

Tuesday 18th April

A sunny but cold start to the day with a hard frost forecast tonight, I hope my swifts don’t turn up or they’ll be in for a nasty surprise- not springlike at all. However it hasn’t put of a pair of hedge-sparrows (dunnocks) who have been busily nest building all morning. The nest will be built mostly of moss and dried grass and lined with soft feathers. They’ve chosen a site in the beech hedge which has a dog rose growing up through it, nice and prickly to deter those pesky magpies.

Monday 17th April

The first Swift was spotted over Chew Valley lake yesterday along with 500 plus Swallows by local birder Dave Nevitt.

Yesterday I helped my son fit 2 of my corner boxes to his new house in Easton-in-Gordano. There’s a big swift colony in the local area so we’re hoping they might be occupied fairly quickly. The corner boxes are designed to fit snuggly under standard 8″ (200mm) eaves and they look really good, lets hope the swifts think so also.

Sunday 16th April

The first Swift arrived yesterday over Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland. It’s the Irish equivalent of Chew Valley Lake and it’s the place where they head for first, congregating in their thousands. It gives them a chance to feed and pair up before dispersing back to their traditional nesting sites in a few weeks time. If they’ve been seen over Lough Neagh then our Chew ones won’t be far behind.

Friday 14th April

The Blackbird is nest-building again which means the young have been predated, probably by Magpies. There is a pair of local Magpies who are very cunning. One will perch high in a near-by tree whilst the other one darts in and out of all the hedges and shrubs in the adjacent gardens. When a sitting bird is flushed out the Magpie who has been watching from afar swoops straight in to the exact spot from where the sitting bird has exited. I expect this is how they found the Blackbirds nest and young.

Thursday 13th April

Some doubt about the reports from Newark yesterday, seems now that they were probably Swallows and not Swifts.

My first Blue Damselfly has just emerged from the pond, a good two weeks early.

Wednesday 12th April

First sightings of swifts in the UK. A small group were seen yesterday flying over Newark in Nottinghamshire. I had a quick check of the latest birding reports from Chew Valley to see if any are there, nothing doing, only a few Sand Martins flying about.

Tuesday 11th April

A swift friend from Toulon in France has just emailed me to report 15 swifts seen over the city last Friday.

Monday 10th April

Just got back from a few days in East Devon, unbelievable weather, we also managed to get in a spot of bird-watching at the same time. No sign of any Swifts yet, however we did see our first House Martins, a handful of Swallows and a pair of Sand Martins.  All the best sights and sounds were to be found in the woods and banks along the River Otter. The top singers, numbering in their dozens were Chiffchaffs closely followed by Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Wrens and Robins. There was also a sprinkling of Blackcaps, Blue, Great and Coal Tits as well. Top of my birding tick list was a solitary Dipper a Reed Bunting and a “singing” Nuthatch. Unfortunately if the Blackbird and Blackcap songs warrant being in the premier league, the Nuthatch was at best, only worthy of Division two. Still it was a very welcome birding tick and regardless of it’s quality, very much appreciated.

Thursday 6th April

It’s been a fantastic year for frogs and toads. Spawn first started to appear in mid-February and is still going, yesterday there was a late pair of toads mating in the pond. To-date I’ve counted over 60 clumps of frog spawn and 30 strings of toad spawn, needless to say the pond is teeming with tadpoles far too many for my back garden. So the good news is I’ve managed to seed several local ponds with the excess tadpoles and still have plenty left in mine. Most have gone into 3 new virgin ponds which were dug about a couple of years ago in Bennet’s Patch & Whites Paddock, a new nature reserve near me. The hope is some of these tadpoles will eventually return as adults and new breeding colonies will be formed in them.

Wednesday 5th April

The first Red Mason Bees have emerged from my bee hotel. They are small solitary bees that nest in holes in buildings. It’s the males who appear first. They’ll hang about near-by waiting for the females to emerge in a few weeks time, ready to mate with them immediately.

Tuesday 4th April

I saw my first Small Tortoiseshell butterfly of the year this afternoon whilst out walking along the banks of the river Avon. It was on it’s own, feeding on a patch of yellow dandelions and flew off just as I approached it. It was a welcome surprise indeed as the main purpose of my walk was to see how many Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were back. Even though the trees are bare they’re still very difficult to see, however I managed to hear 5 Blackcaps and at least a dozen Chiffchaffs singing in an hours walk.

The male Blackbird has been coming into the garden all day and picking up as many meal worms it can carry, sure sign it’s eggs have just hatched. The Bullfinches also put in a brief appearance again which was a nice bonus.

Monday 3rd April

A sight I don’t see that often in the garden a pair of Bullfinches on the bird table.

Sunday 2nd April

A tad early but I had to take advantage of the weather, warm and sunny with virtually no wind, perfect conditions to refit my boxes. It took me most of the day going up and down the ladder by all 17 are now in place and ready to go. Although I’m tired I’m very happy they’re all up and now I’m celebrating with a small glass of red wine to cap off a good days work.

Saturday 1st April

It’s here, it’s the month the Swifts return. I’ve been ticking off each day since they left in August, all through September, October and those long dark days of winter. Then in January the first Snowdrops appear. The light begins to return. February fills the pond with frogs and toads and March brings clumps of yellow Primroses nestled together on sunny banks. Then it’s April turn, fruit trees covered in blossom, coupled with the first really warm days and hints of even better things to come. And at the end of the month the icing on the cake for me, the returning Swifts. I love this time of year with all it’s unrealised potential and promise. It reminds me of the words from “Leisure”  by the Welsh poet W.H Davies. He wrote about how important it just to stand and stare. It’s a really lovely poem. I’ll definitely be finding some time to do just that.

The good news is the missing Robin has returned. However I think they’re nesting somewhere else and for some strange reason half-built a second nest in my box. Still they’re both alive and well which is good. Both continue to follow me around the garden hoping for a few meal worms, they’ve even been joined by a tame Wren who picks up any they leave behind.

The Blackbird has nested a few gardens away. The female pops in every now and then for a quick feed and then promptly disappears again, sure sign she’s sitting on eggs somewhere else.

I didn’t see any Hirundines at Chew on Wednesday although I know they are there. Local bird-watchers saw dozens of Swallows, Sand and House Martins a few days earlier. I think another trip is required.

Wednesday 29th March

I heard my first Chiffchaff on Saturday and now the woods next to the River Trym are bursting with them. There must have been at least 5 singing together with a couple of Blackcaps and a lone Song Thrush, a beautiful dawn chorus.

The Robins started nest building yesterday in an open-fronted box behind a thorny pyracanthas next to the house. I watched them all day bringing in beaks of dried leaves, but then late in the day one disappeared. I’ve not seen them together since and nest building has stopped. There is a male Sparrowhawk who regularly visits the garden and I’m started to fear the worst for our missing Robin.

Off to see an old work mate from Bristol Water later today, meeting up in a pub near Chew Valley Lake. Will take my bins as I’m hoping to see my first hirundine if I’m lucky.

Saturday 25th March

The first couple of House Martins arrived yesterday at Portland Bill.

This morning on the way to the paper shop I heard my first Chiffchaff singing. Its familiar tink-tank call coming out of the scrub next to the river Trym, a favourite place nesting.

More signs of spring back in the back garden, a pair of Blue Tits and Wrens have just started nest building. The Blue Tits have chosen a box on the conifer tree whilst the Wrens have picked a dense woody bush. It seems a bit back to front this year as it’s normally the Blackbirds who are the first to start nesting, followed by the Robins, then the Blue Tits and Wrens.

A large garden queen Bumblebee (Bombus Hortorum) has moved into one of my bee boxes. I saw it enter it for the first time a few days ago and yesterday it was still going in. It’s an old bird box of mine which I have stuffed full of straw and placed on the ground near to the patio.

Monday 20th March

The first Swallows have just arrived at Portland Bill. A group of 4 were seen on the 16th.

More and more summer migrants are coming in each day. Mostly Chiffchaffs, Wheatears and Black Redstarts, whose numbers were all in double figures, but also mixed in with them a sprinkling of Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Yellow Wagtails.

Sunday 12th March

An Alpine swift was sighted flying over Cork in Ireland on Friday, which is way too far north. Its normal habitat is the southern countries of Europe, mainly Spain, Italy and Greece and as its name suggests the lower regions of the Alps.

The last few days have been really spring-like and with it has brought a few welcome guests. I saw my first Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies yesterday and at least a dozen queen bumblebees. There’s been a pair of Blackcaps in the garden for about a week with the male singing it’s beautiful song from deep inside a thick pyracantha bush. And our pond is full of mating frogs and toads, much to the Herons delight who is a regular early morning visitor.

News from Portland Bill; the first Wheatears are just arriving together with a handful of Chiffchaffs and Black Redstarts. I normally hear my first Chiffchaff around the 3rd week in March so not long now to wait.

Sunday 26th Feb 

News from Israel, the first swifts are BACK.

Amnonn Hahn who lives in Givatayim a small town on the outskirts of Tel Aviv reports his first pair of swifts returned today. The first one arrived at 8.38am followed by it’s mate later that day at 8.39pm. Follow their progress via a live webcam link here.

Swifts always arrived in Israel first, usually in the last week of February. Unfortunately it’ll be another 8 or 9 weeks before they reach us. Still that’s plenty of time to think about putting up a box or two.

Reminder – if you want a free swift MP3 attraction call just email me via the contact page.


Here is an excellent booklet on swifts The Breeding Behaviour of the Swift by David and Elizabeth Lack. Use arrow on pdf to rotate it, in order to read.


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