Tuesday 8 March 2011

Milton Road Primary School

Update 30/05/2012: The breeding pair from 2011 returned late on or about 25th May. Also all 4 of the original boxes seem to be occupied this year. This is brilliant progress.

Update 2014: All 6 boxes are occupied this year. An extra camera has been added, and pictures have been broadcast online.

Contributed by Dick Newell, Photos Helen Hodgson

The school entrance
This is the story of a Swift project at a primary school in Cambridge, UK in 2010. The school was interested in doing a biodiversity project and so approached Guy Belcher, Nature Conservation Projects Officer for Cambridge City Council.

The school quadrangle with 4 nest-boxes installed
Guy involved Cambridge Swift enthusiasts which resulted in the installation of 4 Swift nest boxes.
The location chosen was a south-facing gable, and so the boxes were designed to minimise the amount of sun falling on them. It is important that the nest boxes do not get overheated.
Gluing feathers to a nest concave
The children were given a Powerpoint presentation about Swifts, the problems that they face and what can be done to help them. A team of 6 children were chosen who prepared four nesting concaves by coating them with feathers. Swifts prefer to find a ready made nest when they arrive in a new nesting place, they are more likely to breed.

Temperature data logging
They also ran a temperature monitoring project with a max/min thermometer placed in one of the boxes. This confirmed that the temperature inside the boxes remained within acceptable limits. With the help of the school caretaker, Julian Blakeman, they played Swift calls throughout the summer. Swifts are slow to find new nesting places, unless they are given a clue to a suitable location, such as Swifts already calling.
Feathers added by Swifts to feathers glued by children
The happy result of this project was one pair of Swifts occupying the left most box. If you look closely at the nest that they made, they added pieces of grass, seed heads, crow feathers and a lot more pigeon feathers to the feathers originally glued to the nest platform by the children.
It is now the intention to place a webcam in this nest box for 2011. Further projects will be undertaken by the children including feathering more nest concaves for the Cambridge City Swift Tower and making Swift mobiles.
If you would like more information on this project then contact actionforswifts@gmail.com.

Article in Cambridge News 20/7/2011
click image to enlarge

Postscript 2011:

In 2011, the pair of Swifts that occupied one of the boxes in 2010 returned to breed. Fortunately, we had installed a CCTV camera, so the children could see the nesting Swifts on a TV screen in their library. After more CD playing, Swifts were seen entering all 4 boxes. We ran another workshop where all of the children made Swift mobiles, and we also added 2 more nest-boxes bringing the total to 6. The project featured in the local newspaper, the Cambridge News, in July.


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