Sunday 17 June 2012

St Rémy Church, Molenbeek, Brussels

Contributed by Martine Wauters, words by Dick

St Rémy Church with one cabinet installed
This is an interesting story about how to provide accommodation for Swifts, in a most beautiful building, without any obvious way of hiding nest-boxes behind louvres or in a window. Martine Wauters approached me (Dick) in Berlin to suggest ideas. After a number of unsatisfactory attempts, we eventually came up with the idea of a louvred cabinet of nest-boxes placed at the bottom of the large openings on each side of the tower. It is important that the boxes were painted in a colour that matches the stonework.

In the final analysis, we think we have achieved our goal of providing quality accommodation for Swifts without offending the beauty of the building, even though the cabinets are fully visible from the outside.

As is normal with almost any project like this, there are always problems. In this case, the original idea was to have the lowest box entrances outside the wall of the church. On installation, this was found to not be possible, so the boxes were raised to allow the Swifts to enter these lowest entrances. The gaps below the cabinets probably need to be blocked. More serious, the boxes were originally a little too wide, so "adjustments" were needed.

The execution of this project has been exemplary, in particular, the carpentry by Philippe Jacob is most professional. It is refreshing that church officials can accept and support an idea like this. One cannot wait for the sight of Swifts circling this wonderful tower.

The pictures below tell their own story of how the project was conceived, the boxes built, and the installation accomplished. Click on any picture and you will see them all enlarged.

Google Sketchup model of cabinet

The team with completed carpentry, from left to right:
Marie-Christine Séron & Jacques Vanneck (church council representatives)
Jan Gypers (alderman in charge of the environment), 
Martine Wauters and Chris Mallia (ringer & neighbour, project initiator)

Exhausted after climbing the tower

Installation in progress

Both cabinets installed

Close up of one cabinet

A Swift's view from the tower

Sunday 10 June 2012

More boxes under eaves

UPDATE 2018: On returning to the house after 6 years away, Sean & Moira found 7 pairs of Swifts in residence!

UPDATE July 2015 
An inspection of the boxes found that 2 were occupied by Swifts.

UPDATE 8th July 2012
A pair of Swifts has been seen entering and roosting in the box to the left of the drainpipe.

UPDATE 20th June 2012
This demonstrates that the Box of Swifts attraction call playing is working:

This unfortunate prospecting swift has fallen into the drainpipe funnel. There was no way it was going to get out of here unaided. The bird flew off strongly the following morning. In hindsight, we should have spotted this hazard. The funnel is now covered.

Contributed by Dick
These tailor-made boxes were installed in Chippenham, Cambs at my son and daughter in law's house. This is another example of eaves with joists, this time supporting a fascia board.

2 single and 2 double boxes. The Box of Swifts speaker is
installed on the double box next to the drainpipe
The gap between the fascia and the wall was 225mm, plenty wide enough to accommodate a Swift box. At the top of the wall there was a narrow ventilation grill, so the backs of the boxes do not extend to the top to avoid blocking the ventilation. A single box was placed between two joists 460mm apart, but most gaps between joists were 550mm.
4 boxes (6 nesting places) before installation

So for three of these 550mm gaps, we built two double boxes and a long single box. The dimensions of the double box nesting places were 255mm x 210mm, which should be big enough. The separating wall in the double boxes does not extend to the top, allowing light from one entrance to shine through to the opposite box.

All of the boxes were installed by removing the bottom, a single screw into each adjacent joist, then replacing the bottom.

The installation was finished off with a Box of Swifts.


Monday 4 June 2012

Sparrowhawk attack!

Written by Dick

This sort of thing can test one's sympathies for Sparrowhawks.

However, one starts to wonder what can be done to make life more difficult for the Sparrowhawk. If the problem persists, I may be tempted to extend the louvres by about 25mm, so that the Swift can get out of danger as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, both Swifts in this box have survived so far.