Thursday, 3 March 2011

Why play the Swift CD?

Posted by: Dick Newell
Swifts in a frenzy, attracted to calls
played through a single speaker
While you can agonise over box sizes, entrance shapes, surface textures, directions, heights and concaves, all of these only have a marginal effect on success or failure in attracting Swifts into a nest box. The nearest thing to a 'silver bullet' is playing a CD of Swifts screaming, typically a duet of two Swifts calling 'sree-ree' to each other. When asked the question of how and when to play the calls, the simple answer is as loud and as long as possible, subject to not annoying anyone. There is an opinion that early morning and evening is best, but any time of day can be effective. It is also best to position the speakers as near to the boxes as possible, some even say in the boxes, but somewhere below the boxes in a window, or on the ground also works.

We know of cases of people getting Swifts into a box within 30 seconds of starting to play the CD; we also know of cases of people playing the CD for 5 years without success, but this is unusual and we suspect that the CD has not been played sufficiently consistently throughoutt the season. In our projects in 2010, in 5 cases where we know that the CD playing was well organised and consistently carried out throughout the season, 4 of these succeeded in acquiring new occupants.

Switching CD players on and off is a tedious chore, but this can be made easier by using a remote infrared switch so that, while sitting in the garden with a glass of wine, you can switch the CD on, when the Swifts come by, without getting out of your chair. However, it is well worthwhile investing some effort in setting up an automated system, driven by a timer. The simplest way to do this is to plug your CD player power supply directly into the mains, then plug the speaker power supply into a timer. Set the CD player to repeat, so it plays 24 hours a day, but the sound emerges from the speakers only when the timer says so. Now, if your CD player is playing for 6 weeks continuously, it tends to thrash the player, so maybe an MP3 player would be preferable.

Alternatively, plug the CD player into the same timer, by using an extension with two sockets, and, hold the play button down with a clamp, rubber band, clothes peg or whatever comes to mind. On some CD players (e.g. Sony Discman), they will start and stop playing as the power is switched on and off. Now, you do this at your own risk, as you would be using the equipment in an unauthorised way, but we are talking about a 4.5 volt system here, which would be hard pressed to cause a fire.
Some ghetto blasters also behave in this way if the play button is held down.

An extreme CD exponent is Brian Cahalane in Crumlin, Northern Ireland. Brian plays his CD from dawn until dusk, from the end of April to early August, through multiple speakers and as loud as possible. The result: he quickly acquired a colony of 22 pairs of breeding Swifts, and many more clambering to get into his boxes.

Now, one doesn't need to go to these extremes, but playing the CD from about the 3rd week of May, when prospecting non-breeders arrive, until the second week of July, every day for at least 2 hours a day will give a better than 50% chance of success (We don't have enough hard statistics to defend this claim).

If your nest-boxes are replacements for nesting places that have been destroyed, then start playing at the beginning of May to show the displaced birds where there are new nesting places.

You can buy a CD from Swift Conservation or Jacobi Jayne

You can also download Swift calls from the Dutch Swift Association
It is suggested that you use the .wav versions for CD players and the MP3 versions for MP3 players:
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POSTSCRIPT 30 Nov 2012: See our latest idea for attraction call playing: the Cheng Sheng player amplifier.

1 comment:

  1. Set the CD player to repeat, so it plays 24 hours a day, but the sound emerges from the speakers only when the timer says so. Now, if your CD player is playing for 6 weeks continuously, it tends to thrash the player, so maybe an MP3 player would be preferable. Satılık Ev elektroniği

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