At the end of June, Bill Murrells and I were called to a site in Ely where a terrace of three cottages was being reroofed. On removing the tiles at the gable end, one of the workmen uncovered a nest with three young nestlings in it, which turned out to be Swifts. As the builders had done the right thing by reporting the nest, we did not wish to force them to delay the work.
Our first idea was to put up a nestbox as close to the original nest site as possible and to transfer nest and nestlings into it. The chicks had probably not been fed for maybe twenty-four hours, something Swift chicks have evolved to handle. We decided to give it another twenty-four hours to see if the parents would take to the box. Evening and early morning vigils confirmed that the adults were not going into the box. With the benefit of hindsight, this idea may have been a mistake, as mitigation nest-boxes are known to sometimes work before breeding has started, but not afterwards.
|One of the chicks on the day it was taken into care|
|One month later, 3 chicks ready for release|
|An enchanted Bill Murrells with Swift ready for release|
|Ready steady ......|
The second and third fledglings eventually launched themselves into the air, and were also joined by other Swifts, once they had gained height and distance. Mission accomplished.
Lessons of the story:
2. Respect the builders who were good enough to report the nest they had disturbed. Do everything you can to avoid causing a delay to their work. Only use the law as the very last resort.
3. It's also good PR to keep them informed. We took photographs of the rescued birds, showing how they were progressing, and then reported back that they had been successfully released.
4. Use a competent rehabber. Swifts need specialist treatment, and there aren't many people like Judith with the skill to do the job. If you don't know a rehabber, contact us through email@example.com or call 01353 740540 for help.
4. If you are launching a bird yourself (eg an adult that was simply grounded or winded), take it to an open space, hold it high on your hand, facing into the wind, and be patient: the bird will go when it's ready.
Also see our advice page: If you find a grounded swift