Tuesday 26 March 2013

First Swift Tower in the Netherlands

News of another Swift tower which has been erected in the Netherlands. Thanks to Astrid van den Broek for supplying information about the project, and to Fred van Vliet for permission to use his photographs.

[UPDATE July 2017 by Fred van Vliet 2017-07-15: The Den Helder Swift Tower was erected in July 2012 (see below), and its first full season was 2013. Attraction calls were played throughout the season, as far as we know, but no Swifts occupied any of the nest boxes. 21 of June 2014 5 Swifts hung on and entered different nest boxes and stayed the night. In 2015 and 2016 we only saw Swifts flying around the tower. The first of June 2017 we saw Swifts flying at the entrances. On 8 of July we saw 4 Swifts entering 2 entrance holes and calling from the swift boxes, so we have our first breeding pairs in 2017!]

16 nest-boxes on a 10 metre pole
The Swift tower is located in a city park in Den Helder, it is the first tower to be erected in the Netherlands. The tower contains 16 nest boxes. It is covered by a double, insulated roof to avoid heat problems in the boxes.
Distribution of the 16 nest cavities

The tower is located on top of a 10 metre high pole, which is collapsible: the top part of the pole can be folded down. This enables later adjustments to be made, and checking for occupancy after the breeding season. 

Solar panel for attraction calls
Several speakers, powered by solar panels, have been installed to play Swifts calls.

Local children helping to put up the tower

The tower was put up in July 2012 and attracted attention from swifts this first year. From November, Starlings have been using the boxes, which is a promising sign that when the Swifts return from late April 2013, they will start using the boxes.

The tower was designed by Fred van Vliet and built by the local birders' group (Vogelwerkgroep Den Helder). The tower was financed by the city council of Den Helder and Zeestad, and the association for durable energy, De Eendragt, in Den Helder.

Editorial comment:
Congratulations to all who contributed to this project. About the pole itself, one or two points occur to us. The pole is quite tall and slender, so it would be advisable to keep an eye on it during windy periods to see how stable it is. We note the hooligan barriers around the nearby trees, which  suggests that similar barriers might be needed around the pole. The access holes seem a tad large, certainly large enough for Starlings to gain access. The best advice is that the access hole of a Swift box should be no more than 30mm in height. Width is less critical, 65-75mm being adequate.

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