Sunday 21 October 2012

St Andrew's Oakington

Written by Dick

We installed 8 nest boxes in 2 cabinets on the south side of the belfry in St Andrew's Oakington in 2008. As it is difficult getting access to mains power, we did not play attraction calls until 2011, where our Box of Swifts made this feasible. This resulted in a lot of Swift activity on many days near the nest-boxes, but no Swift succeeded in finding an entrance. We were hopeful that the birds from 2011 would persevere in 2012, but alas no success this year either. There are two pairs of Swifts nesting precariously in crevices on the sides of the louvres in the south and west sides.

St Andrew's should be a great success. Years ago it had a vibrant colony on the south side of the chancel, until roof repairs excluded them.

Fronts and backs of cabinets. The outsides are darkened 
rendering them virtually invisible. Entrance positions
are dictated by the stonework. The 3 chambers with nest
concaves on the west side did not have concaves on the 
south side, and vice versa.
Since the original cabinets, we have learned that Swifts' 1st choice is somewhere near the tops of the louvres, their second choice is somewhere near the bottom. Our original cabinets are in the middle.

So, with the permission of the PCC, we built 2 more cabinets for the tops of the louvres on the south and west sides. The triangular shape fitted the batons that support the bird-proof netting.

We debated whether to put 3 large boxes in each triangle or 6 smaller boxes. As the existing 2 pairs of Swifts nest in spaces very much smaller than this, we went for 6 boxes in each cabinet.

Boxes in the south side. Photo Bob Tonks
The floor area of each chamber is a minimum of 220mm wide by 275mm deep. The headroom in each chamber is 100mm.

Holes were made in the netting by cutting the sides and top of a rectangle with wire cutters, then bending the wire inwards and downwards. This conveniently blocks any small gaps below the entrance.

Boxes in the west side. Photo Bob Tonks
Nest concaves were placed in half of the boxes, in the hope that we can collect more data on Swifts' preference for this facility.

We did not provide inspection doors, as we think that, should we wish to inspect the boxes before the end of the breeding season, we can do that by removing the whole back, then moving it up, left and right to take a peep at the contents.

We intend to resume playing attraction calls in 2013.

St Andrew's, Oakington: Swifts once nested under the eaves on the south side of the chancel
 © Copyright John Sutton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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