Friday 18 May 2018

Trumpington Meadows Nature Reserve

Trumpington Meadows is a spacious expanse of flowering meadows, riverside, woodland, hedgerow and parkland. 

According to their website:

"... this expansive nature reserve and country park sits alongside the River Cam and Byron’s Pool Local Nature Reserve, straddling both sides of the M11. Created for wildlife and for people, it is a place to discover and enjoy nature, explore diverse habitats and wander by the river and through flower-filled meadows. There is a Wildlife Trust office and garden, allotments, and a range of interpretation features and hand-carved nature sculptures throughout the site. "

Trumpington Meadows is managed by Beds, Cambs and Northants Wildlife Trust

Action for Swifts was approached to see if it might be possible to increase the biodiversity of the site by installing nest boxes for Swifts. Initially, a Swift Tower was considered, but given that the offices on site included a high gable, it was decided to build a 10-box triangle colony box instead.

At the same time, in the year of Swift Awareness Week, Nature Picture Library was looking for a Swift project suitable for sponsorship. So what better, a high profile location on the outskirts of Cambridge with an ideal building for installing Swift boxes, and a benefactor looking for a Swift project to support.

Nature Picture Library makes a regular contribution to a small charity or specific project which is making a difference. They choose a different charity every three months. You can read about them here: and about some of the projects that they have supported here:

AfS has previously implemented triangular colony boxes containing 3, 5, 6 and 9 nesting chambers. With its shallow roof (30°), we decided to go for 10 nest chambers this time. It is a proven concept as most implementations so far have nesting Swifts.

We used this project as an opportunity to progress our attempts to determine whether Swifts prefer a dark or light interior. Half of the boxes are painted black inside.

Having carefully assessed the risks and devised a safe method of work, the body of the cabinet, weighing nearly 20kg, was installed by 3 people lifting it up 3 ladders. The central ladder had a reinforced standoff platform, which was raised every time the cabinet was raised. Finally, the middle person climbed the middle ladder to put the screws in while the 2 on the sides held it in place. The screws were carefully positioned in line with the internal timbers Then the front was screwed on. It all went very smoothly. 

A camera is installed in the top chamber, as this is the most likely to be occupied first, and all of the other chambers have been prepared for cameras if and when Swifts move into them. A tweeter for attraction calls is installed out of the weather under the box.

[At the time of writing, Swifts have already been seen approaching the boxes]

Front removed, ready for installation. Half the nest chambers are painted black.

A good height in a northerly facing aspect
Frontal view
Oblique view

Tweeter, installed out of the weather, and the AV cable.

[UPDATE June 2018: Swifts have been seen entering the bottom left box and the middle box
Further update July 2018 - a chick was seen peering out of the middle box]
[UPDATE October 2019: On inspecting the boxes, we found evidence of Swifts in all chambers, 5 contained a Swift's nest and 4 had obviously bred. In addition there was a pair of Swifts in the Starling box on the same gable, so 6 pairs of Swifts in all.]


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