Wednesday 23 May 2012

Swift nest boxes at Shirley Primary School

Alan Clarke suggested to Kirsty Morris, a teacher at Shirley Primary School, Cambridge, that it might be a good idea to install some swift boxes at the school. Kirsty (Mrs Morris to the children) thought it was a good idea too! So, permission was obtained, a suitable location on the school was found and the project was started.

8 boxes ready for painting and installation
We decided to make 8 boxes similar to those erected at Milton Road Primary School and at Lackford Lakes in Suffolk - these are easily adapted to any odd-shaped eaves. All of the eaves at Shirley school are sloping one way or another.

It was decided to copy Martin Grund's idea in Germany to get the children to number and paint the boxes before installation. As swifts have excellent colour vision and as it is a good idea to have distinctive marks on the boxes for the swifts to recognise them, this seemed a good plan.

The school has an 'Eco Group' of 12 children, made up of 2 children from year 1 to year 6 (6 to 11 year olds). So, on 2nd May, the children gathered around, paint brushes in hand ready to paint the boxes.

Exquisite artistry by Jean Wutchaiyatamrongsil

Colourful artwork by Emily Cooper
8 boxes installed together with sound system
Clarke admiring 4 of the 8 nest boxes
The painting was supervised by Vida Newell and Alan Clarke, together with teaching assistant, Marjory Calamel and student teacher, Sally Worthington.

After painting the boxes, the children stuck sterilised pheasant feathers onto MDF nest concaves. As swifts are very unlikely to find pheasant feathers, we will easily be able to recognise any feathers added by the swifts themselves, typically pigeon feathers.

After gluing the nest concaves into the boxes, they were ready for erection. Here we were joined by Clarke Brunt, who has his own swift colony in Milton, and the 8 boxes were quickly installed under the eaves. While installing the boxes, we spent a lot of time looking up, and we saw several swifts flying over. We finished  off by installing a Box of Swifts attraction call-playing system.

Shirley Primary School is now one of a very small number of schools in the UK with Swift nest-boxes.

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