Wednesday 13 February 2013

New nest boxes at Ely Maltings

UPDATE August 2013. The pair of Swifts in the original 10 boxes returned to breed and 1 additional pair occupied one of the 10 new boxes.

UPDATE 2016: 5 pairs bred this year.

UPDATE 2017: on 1st July, Swifts were seen entering 9 boxes: 8 into the original 10 boxes and 1 into the new boxes

UPDATE 2018: 3 more boxes were found with breeding Swifts this year, so 11 occupied boxes in all.

All 3 of these boxes, were occupied in 2018

UPDATE November 2019: 16 more boxes added at the west end, bringing total boxes to 36.
UPDATE 2020: 14 boxes occupied

We reported previously on our inspection of the first 10 boxes installed by Bill Murrells at Ely Maltings, Cambridgeshire, where Swifts once bred on top of the wall under the eaves, then nest-boxes were installed as compensation for the loss of nest sites when the building was renovated. Although only one pair of swifts has occupied the nest boxes so far, we have now added 10 more boxes, together with an attraction call player with speakers. The team this time included Bob Tonks, Jake Allsop and Bill Murrells. 

Written by Dick

Ely Maltings. The nest-boxes are out of sight under the eaves. In the foreground is a
Richardson's Goose Branta h. hutchinsii, and 2 members of one of the only two self-sustaining
populations of wild Muscovy Ducks Cairina moschata in the UK. Photo Bob Tonks

Ely Maltings is an attractive Victorian building not far from Ely city centre. It is used for events, such as weddings, concerts and film shows. In the summertime, there is a bar and restaurant, where people can sit out and enjoy the riverside setting. All that is now needed is a vibrant Swift colony, but it is essential that nothing is done to compromise the appearance of the building.

This was certainly achieved with the first 10 boxes which were tucked up well under the eaves and painted black. The entrances were in the bottom of the box, away from the wall, with a vertical 'landing platform' attached adjacent to the entrance. In other projects under eaves we have used a sloping entrance at the front of the box e.g. [1]. [2]. [3]

Successful nest boxes at Rutland Water with entrances
next to and parallel to the wall. Photo Tim Collins
For more pictures see SMSWW photos- requires login
This time we thought we would try something a little different and simpler by placing the entrances next to the wall. Our initial concerns that the swifts may not like an entrance so close to the wall, because of perceived difficulties in manoeuvring when entering and leaving were allayed when we found plenty of examples of successful nest boxes like this. For example Tim Collins project in Rutland (picture left).

Entrances parallel and perpendicular to the wall
We followed Tim's example of not having a back to the boxes and we did away with a roof as well.

There is still a question whether the entrance should be parallel or perpendicular to the wall, there are successful examples of both.

We decided to make 5 of each.

The pictures at left illustrate the simple idea we came up with showing both entrance configurations. [the real boxes were painted black and were not possible to photograph]
Swift's view of entrances

The spaces between the joists varied between 28cm and 34.5cm, so each box had to be tailor-made. The distance from the wall to the front of the boxes was 25cm. The boxes were made of 12mm weather-proof ply.

The boxes were installed by removing the bottom, screwing the sides to the joists, then replacing the bottom.

Two tweeter speakers have been installed ready for playing attraction calls in May (See Cheng Sheng player).

Some of the new boxes in 2019
We have added another 16 boxes bringing the total to 36. All of the new boxes have a landing platform next to the entrance and every other box is painted black inside as a continuation of experiments to determine whether Swifts have a preference.
By July 2019, 3 of these new boxes were occupied, bringing the total to 14 occupied boxes.


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