Tuesday 11 August 2015

Swift boxes in the sun - by Clarke Brunt

The normal advice for Swift nest boxes is to avoid south-facing walls. The real issue is to not subject breeding Swifts to a high temperature. South-facing walls are fine with the right kind of nest boxes.

by Dick

When Clarke Brunt moved into his house in Milton Cambs in 2006, he found some strange looking nest boxes on the south wall of his house. He eventually discovered that these were Swift boxes modelled on boxes installed on The Hirsel in Coldstream, Scotland by Major Douglas Hume, the naturalist, in 1950-54, with a modification designed to exclude House Sparrows. Clarke converted them back into something looking more conventional as well as adding a number of other boxes of various designs.

5 of Clarkes boxes. The first box occupied is the one on the left,
before it was painted white. He also has Swifts nesting inside
entrances in the eaves. Photo Clarke Brunt
This year, 2015, Clarke had 6 pairs of Swifts breeding successfully, 2 of which were in holes in his eaves, but 4 of which were in nest boxes exposed to the mid-day sun.

The main characteristic of these boxes is that they are painted white and some are made of wood 15mm thick. The Zeist boxes are made of 12mm plywood. This is sufficient to keep the temperature within acceptable limits on this east of south-facing aspect.

Clarke's house, just left of centre.
The Swift boxes are on the east of south-facing wall
I first became acquainted with Clarke as I used to cycle past his house on the way to Cambridge, and I heard Swift calls being played. It took some time before we eventually connected, and since then I have been intrigued by the progress of his colony.

Clarke's garden is a haven for wildlife with regular hedgehogs, newts in the pond, tame Starlings perching on Clarke's hands for food and a wonderful display of plants and beehives and, of course, a great Swift spectacle through the summer.

Clarke's Swifts have been online for the last 3 years, with 3 chicks being raised in both of his camera boxes this year.

So, as we have said before, south-facing walls are fine, provided the walls of the box are thick enough and they are painted white.

You can read more about Clarke's Swifts on his website.


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