Saturday 7 May 2016

An idea that has not worked (yet)

In 2010, we installed 3 Swift boxes in St John's Church, Bury St Edmunds. While we all like publicising our successes, it is probably informative to publish the odd failure as well. Despite playing attraction calls every year, with Swifts showing interest and banging the nest box entrances, by 2015, we still have no boxes occupied.
[UPDATE JULY 2016: I suppose it was tempting fate giving this post its title, as the re-engineering described below has resulted in 2 pairs of Swifts raising 2 chicks each]
[UPDATE JULY 2017: the boxes were increased to 12 this year, all of which show some evidence of Swift activity: 4 had chicks, 2 had eggs and 1 well feathered when last inspected] 
[UPDATE JULY 2018: a further 48 boxes were added bringing the total to 60 boxes. When inspected, the number occupied was 25 - a major increase]
[UPSATE JULY 2021: 40 boxes are occupied by Swifts!]

The west side of St John's, the boxes are
near the bottom of the right side
The church has a very high tower, but the windows are not louvred, they have a trellis pattern with a  large number of diamond-shaped holes, with netting on the inside. The entrance to each nest box is an equilateral triangular tunnel, with sides 65mm. This should be enough for a Swift to enter, but clearly they don't like the look of it.

Despite our attempts to make the entrances stand out (literally), it could be that the profusion of holes confuses the birds.

We have decided to re-engineer the entrances, by removing the floor of the triangle, so that the birds have a whole diamond available.

We have also added a small ramp below the entrances to the boxes (see last picture below).

If we could get Swifts into these boxes, the potential of this church is enormous. The pictures below show what we have done.
3 entrances, before re-engineering. The 'ladders' below the entrances were added later.
Close-up of 1 entrance

The 3 boxes rest on the floor

A re-engineered entrance with the entrance
floor removed and a ramp below the box.
The re-engineered entrances reinstalled

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