Contributed by John Willis
The Fulbourn Community Swift Survey was organised by the local swift group, which was formed in 2011. Our focus this year was on the 'Swifts Development' where an estate of 1960s system built houses is being demolished and replaced by a higher density of new homes in a phased programme. These old buildings had become the home for a large colony of swifts and provision is being made for both internal and external swift nest boxes in the new houses. You can read background information in Swifts in Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire and this RSPB case study.
|Old houses with stopped up nest sites|
where the panel joints meet the roof boards
We met on site every Wednesday evening from 9 May to 15 August. Individuals made observations on other evenings during the summer, especially when the weather was warm! One of the residents was a regular member of our team and many other local people approached us on survey evenings to ask about the swifts. We often received useful reports of birds using specific boxes and all feedback about the swift project was very positive.
Potential nest sites on several blocks of old houses, which had been used for breeding in 2011 (20+ nests reported by Applied Ecology Ltd), had been sealed with foam prior to the arrival of swifts. However, one remaining block of 5 houses (2 nest sites recorded by Applied Ecology in 2011) will not be affected by re-development, and the nest sites there were available to swifts this year.
With 157 swift boxes already installed on the site it was quite a challenge for us to adequately monitor all areas. The boxes are of two types; internal custom made wooden boxes (111) incorporated in the house timber frames in gable ends, and external Schwegler 1MF double boxes fitted on gable ends in phase 1 and on front/rear elevations in phase 2.
|Internal wooden nest boxes are |
built into the house timber frames
In phase 1 of the building development, which comprises phases 1a and 1b referred to below, 40 out of 63 internal boxes were used at some point in the season by swifts compared to 4 out of 22 external boxes. Of these, 26 internal boxes and 1 external box were used regularly enough during the season for us to suspect nesting activity.
We observed regular use of 15 out of 18 internal boxes in phase 1a, which has been colonised by swifts since 2009, whereas the corresponding figures for phase 1b, which was completed prior to summer 2011 but with no confirmed nesting, were 11 out of 45. The one regularly used external box was also located in phase 1a. It is encouraging that swifts now appear to be colonising the more recent phase 1b and hopefully the numbers there will increase over the next few years.
|These unmodified Schwegler 1MF boxes|
are very popular with starlings
Prior to installation, we modified the external Schwegler boxes in phase 2 to restrict the entrance size to deter starlings, but we did not observe any birds using them. You can read more about the background to this in Fulbourn Update.
Early in the season a group of swifts were observed flying close to the four internal boxes on a recently completed house in phase 2. Subsequently, site workers reported that they had seen swifts enter boxes nearby. However, despite observation of these locations over the summer on a good number of evenings we never managed to record a swift entering a nest box in that area. There were often swifts overflying this latest phase of the development, so hopefully some of the 72 swift boxes (including both types) already installed have been ‘checked out’ for use in the future.
The one remaining old block of houses was a focus for swift flying activity throughout the summer and we regularly observed birds accessing 5 nesting sites under the boards on the edge of the flat roof and occasional activity was observed at 2 other locations.
|Swifts started using internal boxes in the|
narrow gaps between some of these new houses
During the summer there was a very positive response and useful input from the residents of the site and we aim to build on this for the 2013 Community Swift Survey.
We would like to thank Rob Mungovan, South Cambridgeshire District Council Ecology Officer, for his support and encouragement.
If any Fulbourn residents reading this would be interested in putting up a nest box or taking part in the 2013 survey, then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.