Tuesday 24 April 2012

Ludlow Swift Conservation Group

This is a fine example what a local group can achieve when they put their minds to it. 
Contributed by Peta Sams

The Ludlow Swift Conservation Group was launched in January 2011 at the AGM of Ludlow 21 with the support of Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Shropshire Ornithological Society. Swifts are an important part of the Ludlow skyline in summer and many residents and visitors look out for them and enjoy their company each year.
Midway Motors bell tower, Ludlow
However there has been no systematic surveying of these birds to understand where they nest or any assessment of their numbers to see whether they are thriving or struggling to maintain numbers. The aims of the group in its first year were to:
- Get an idea how many birds there are in and around Ludlow
- Find where they nest and how successful they are at raising young
- Plan what can be done to preserve and create new nest sites

Monday 23 April 2012

Swift nest cups in MDF (fibreboard)

Contributed by Lyndon Kearsley

Having read Dick Newell's pieces on nest cups (concaves) and armed with his excellent technical drawings, I decided to try making nest cups using left over off-cuts of 2 cm thick MDF. I cut it up into 12.5 cm squares and marked up the centers using converging diagonals. Turning the cups to 1.5cm deep on my lathe proved easy, and quite a quick job. I then angled the sides on the table saw and beveled the top outside edge with a hand plane. A later improvement was to round off the inside edge of the cup for added comfort.
I smeared wood glue around the rim and decorated with a few feathers donated by my chickens. Hopefully the ready and waiting nest box furniture will tempt some new tenants this year.

Caution: it is not a good idea to breath the dust from MDF, so if you try this, you should preferably do it outside and wear a mask.

Saturday 21 April 2012

Getting provision for Swifts into churches

If you wish to embark on installing Swift nest-boxes within a church building, then there are a number of rules, guidelines, procedures and officials that you need to be aware of. These guidelines apply to the Church of England.

Contributed by Jake Allsop and Bill Murrells

St Mary's Longstowe
There are several individuals and entities that you might have to deal with when trying to make provision for Swifts in a church building. The person responsible for the fabric of the building is the Churchwarden. His or her concern is that any work carried out to provide accommodation for Swifts, such as a louvre cabinet, does not conflict with any regulations provided by the Church authorities.

The rules governing the care of churches are the concern of the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC). These rules are known as the “De Minimis Rules”, and are in two parts or schedules:

Schedule A relates to activities that can be carried out, usually by the Churchwarden, without consultation with the DAC.

Schedule B to activities that require DAC approval. This approval comes in the form of a “Faculty” or permission to carry out the work. A Faculty is issued by the Chancellor of the diocese on the recommendation of the DAC after they have accepted plans submitted by the Churchwarden, the Church Architect(s) and other professionals.

Fortunately, most of what we want to do in church towers and belfries are Schedule A activities, with the following caveats:

- avoid screwing or nailing directly into the fabric, or, if you do, go into the mortar joints, not into the stone or brickwork;

- where you are using the wooden frame of a louvre window to attach your nest boxes, remember that louvre windows are vulnerable to strong winds, and you should therefore ensure the strength of the frame.

Even if the proposed work comes within Schedule A, i.e. does not need a Faculty, you might still need to present your case to the Parish Church Committee and be ready to answer some questions, for example:

Q: Will this let birds or bats into the church
A: No, the space occupied by bird netting is occupied by the front of the box
Q: Do the birds make a mess
A: No, Swift droppings are minimal, with very little "whitewash"
Q: Do the nest boxes need clearing out each year
A: No, Swifts use a very small amount of nesting material
Q: Will bell ringing disturb the breeding Swifts
A: No, Swifts nest successfully within a few feet of bells which are rung

If the church has a bell-ringing group, you also need to be sure that the Bell Captain is happy. It is also a courtesy to talk first to the Vicar or Curate to get them on side. In all these encounters, Churchwardens are your best allies: they have the ear of the vicar and sit ex officio on the PCC.

Monday 16 April 2012

Box of Swifts - update

Back in June 2011 we described our Box of Swifts for playing calls to attract Swifts into nest-boxes. As a result, we have been somewhat overwhelmed with demand, to the extent we cannot accept any more requests. 

The BoS greatly reduces two sources of hassle:
1. Installing bulky speakers near to a nest-box 5 metres from the ground and supplying mains power to the speaker power supply. The BoS uses a small Car Tweeter with a single piece of low voltage speaker cable to it.
2. An automated system driven by a conventional timer to play calls at chosen times, using a player not designed for this sort of thing. The BoS starts or stops playing when the power is switched on or off, and it comes complete with Swift calls.

So, in order to try to mitigate any disappointment, we suggest here an alternative which is fairly easy to put together yourself. This alternative solves 1, and to some extent 2.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Antrim Borough Council makes space for Swifts

This is a good example of a building enhanced for Swifts without detracting at all from the building appearance. Contributed by Rodney Monteith

The Oriel Gallery: Eleven Ibstock bricks on this facade
As part of a major restoration project Antrim Borough Council in Northern Ireland has provided new homes for Swifts.

Click to enlarge
 In 2011 a total of 11 Ibstock Swift bricks were included in the renovation of one of its properties. The red brick construction of “The Long Barn” means that the Ibstock boxes blend in perfectly and now renamed “The Oriel Gallery” the building will provide permanent homes for swifts for many years.

The Oriel Gallery is situated within Antrim Castle Gardens which were first laid out in the 17th century and retain many of their original features.
For more details on the project please visit www.antrim.gov.uk

Thursday 5 April 2012

Boxes under sloping eaves

Pictures by Kerry Vaughan

[UPDATE July 2017: Swifts have occupied 2 boxes on the west side]

Sloping eaves can be a bit awkward, because, in general no standard box will fit nicely. We had a similar situation at Milton Road Primary School a couple of years ago, and the design used here at Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Lackford Lakes is essentially the same.

The box is installed by removing the sloping front, 2 screws through the back into the wall, then replace the front.

The end result looks rather good and in keeping with the building. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust has done a great job. AND Swifts have already been seen over the lake - on 5th April!

More pictures and design drawings:

click for larger pictures

Actual dimensions will depend on the angle of the roof slope

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Swifts nesting in an open church loft

This is another situation where Swifts have access to each other's nests. 
Contributed by Lyndon Kearsley

"Onze-Lieve-Vrouw" (Our Dear Lady)
Last year, on 5th July, I was invited by Jaak Brosens to visit a church in Kalmthout to the north of Antwerp. The brick and stone church has a number of nest bricks inserted into the main roof. In the church tower the wooden steeple construction forms an open loft above the level of the belfry (just above the clocks).

The last row of stone has a lot of mortar missing between the blocks where the wooden steeple takes over and swifts are able to get into the open loft through these cracks. They nest next to an entrance hole and the loft is 15 x 15 meters. There are more than 20 nests and some quite close to each other.

We found that well grown young were visiting neighboring nests and very inquisitive. We also controlled a couple of ringed adults; one ringed as a chick in the same tower 10 years before to the day 5th July 2001, another was ringed as an adult bird (age unknown) on 2nd July 2004.

I hope to visit again this season.