Thursday 26 May 2011

Swifts and Churches in the Cherwell District of Oxfordshire

Contributed by Chris Mason

In April nest boxes were installed in the tower of St Swithun’s Parish church Merton, on the edge of Otmoor near Oxford. The work was done by members of the Cherwell Swifts Conservation Project which is publicising the decline in our Swift population, and the reasons for it, in the towns and villages of North Oxfordshire.

St Swithun’s Merton already has one or two pairs of Swifts, which nest under the eaves of the nave, and as the church is thought to be the last remaining nest site for Swifts in the village, the Parochial Church Council readily agreed to the installation of the nest boxes. We are hoping that the boxes will help add to their number.

The Cherwell project has recently forged a link with the local Diocese. There are still churches around the district which have nesting Swifts, but as elsewhere these are at risk when repair work has to be done on the church building. The Diocese has now agreed to consider how a system can be established to ensure that traditional Swifts’ nest sites are taken into account when repairs are being planned. This is not just to fulfil the legal obligation not to disturb nesting birds, but also to make sure that advice is obtained about undertaking ‘out of season’ repairs in a Swift-friendly way. 
The Diocese has also helped to publicise the idea that Swift nest boxes can be installed in church towers. Recently the Bishop of Dorchester visited the tower of St Mary’s church in Kirtlington near Oxford, where some years ago Action for Swifts installed nest boxes

This photograph was used in a feature article encouraging other churches in the Diocese to consider installing Swift nest boxes. It appeared in the March edition of The Door (the local Diocesan newspaper).

Chris Mason

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Cambridge Swift Tower - varnishing

Painting 221 boxes with 1 coat of stain and 3 coats of varnish is quite an undertaking. However, if you get enough volunteers on the job, it is surprising how quickly it gets done.

Here is a picture of Dick Newell with granddaughter Katie with paintbrush in hand:

Saturday 21 May 2011

The Tesco Swift Tower, Crumlin, Northern Ireland

Contributed by Brian Cahalane

We asked Brian if he would write a piece about how he went about the Swift Tower in Crumlin, telling us of the challenges and successes along the way - here it is:

The Crumlin Tower is erected
I wrote to Sir Terence Leahy, CEO of Tesco PLC. explaining the plight of the swift throughout the British Isles and to ask if he would consider the erection of a Swift Tower at Tesco's new store which was due to open in my home town, Crumlin Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Only a short time elapsed when I was delighted to receive a letter from Sir Terence, who was sympathetic to my proposals.

Discussions began with Mr Lewis Carlish (Property Services Store Manager) who was extremely helpful from the start, and Mr Gerard Crosbie the store manager. A few concerns such as height of the tower and materials were quickly resolved and so the project began.

Friday 20 May 2011

CCTV monitoring of a Swift colony

Contributed by Dick:

One of the Swift cabinets on my house, with 9 chambers (on the left), overlooks my neighbour's garden. I cannot see it from my own property. Last year, I would stand on her lawn for over an hour at a time to monitor what was going on.

This year, I have installed a CCTV camera (from a disused tit box) that has all 9 entrances in its field of view. Further, I have bought SecuritySpy motion detection software for my Mac. I can now review several hours of elapsed time in a few minutes. This clip shows a two hour session in the evening with all 10 birds coming in to roost.

I am quite impressed with SecuritySpy, When it detects motion, it records a specified number of seconds before and after the event. I have set this to 1 second.

The only problems that I have encountered are such thing as spiders wrapping their webs around the camera, moving shadows as the sun shines through the leaves of the trees onto the box, and the occasional video glitch. The last of these is greatly reduced by shutting down everything on the computer, except for the video capture software.

I have used Quicktime to edit the results to remove these unwanted parts of the recording - it is very easy to use.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Herringswell Church, Suffolk

Contributed by Dick Newell, photos by Judith Wakelam

We were asked by Robin Upton, local farmer, Swift enthusiast and church supporter to come and advise about Swift boxes in the belfry of St Ethelbert church, Herringswell. The belfry looked less than suitable, as there are no louvres, however, the eaves under the roof of the south transept looked an ideal opportunity.

John Stimpson, of Wilburton was commissioned to make 4 boxes, based upon the Zeist box, custom built to fit between the joists extending beneath the eaves. Swift call playing equipment has been installed by Robin inside the church behind the boxes.

In any nest boxing scheme, such as this, it is important not to affect the external appearance of such an old building. This has been achieved.

[UPDATE 2014: the boxes have been increased with an additional 12 boxes under the chancel eaves]
[UPDATE 2018: 2 of the 12 boxes under the chancel eaves are occupied]


Friday 13 May 2011

Cambridge Swift tower erection!

The Cambridge City Council Swift Tower support structure has arrived on site ready for erection.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Cambridge Swift Tower - steelwork

Contributed by Guy Belcher
More progress - this is a picture of the steel framework which will hold 221 boxes, about 100 available for Swifts and 10 for bats.

The steel framework is now being sent to Corby for galvanizing.

Replacing a lost colony in Potton (Beds)

Contributed by Jake and Helen
A building in Potton which had a Swift colony was pulled down recently. The young woman in the photo, Tracey, agreed to have a couple of Zeist-style boxes on her property, which is close to the site of the lost colony. Seeing that breeders will arrive shortly and find their homes destroyed, she hopes to draw their attention to the new homes in the two boxes by playing the CD lure, starting right away.
If Tracey gets a good response, we have agreed to increase the accommodation, either with more single boxes, or more probably with a multi-compartment cabinet. Tracey's neighbours will also be watching.  If her nest-boxes are successful, at least one has expressed interest in putting up  boxes on her own house.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

St Mary, Longstowe

Contributed by Dick, photos by Bob

Before installation
We were asked to look at St Mary by local resident Anthony Clay because a colony of Swifts had been inadvertently destroyed in the vicarage nearby.

The slate louvres were quite deep, so we decided to build boxes behind the openings above the louvres. We thought this quite a good place as Swifts often explore possibilities high up in the louvres first.

For the first arch, in the west, we tried fitting the shape of the arch from measurements and photographs and it took a number of iterations to get it right. We now know that it is far easier to get a large sheet of paper trimmed to the arch and then to mark out the positions of boxes and entrances, as one can see the shadows of the openings through the translucent paper. This we did for the second arch on the north side.
One of the boxes, proudly held by Bob

Here is a picture of Bob Tonks holding the final masterpiece.

The boxes are made of 12mm Far Eastern plywood, which is weather proof. Marine ply has become extremely expensive in recent months, and right now, there is none in stock anywhere.
Boxes on the west side

Here is a picture  of the boxes on the west side in their final position. If and when the boxes become occupied, we will then insert inspection doors in the back. As it is now, the boxes can only be inspected at the end of the season, when the Swifts have gone, by taking the whole back off.
A view of the boxes on the north side.
Photo anthony Clay
You can just see the 4 boxes at the top of
the louvres in this west elevation