Sunday 28 April 2013

Nest concaves out of fibre-board

by Dick

Fibre-board is a cheap, easy to work material which has potential for making Swift concave nest platforms

[Postscript: Although Swifts seem to like soft fibre board, both House Sparrows and Great Tits like to chew it into small pieces.  We now coat the concaves in dilute PVA glue, which we hope will solve the problem.]

I do not usually look in people's dustbins for cigarette ends or old bacon rinds, but I do rummage around in people's skips looking for useful offcuts like MDF for making concaves. This is how I have sourced most of my MDF - but I have run out.

A friend is putting up 4 boxes, so I thought I would make him some concaves. I went along to my local building merchant, Ridgeons, to see if they had any MDF offcuts. They didn't, but what they did have was a broken off piece of fibreboard 12.5mm thick. So I decided to give it a go.

Nest concave made of two layers of fibre-board
Click to enlarge
I made my friend 4 concaves,with an indentation about 10mm deep. I also made one by sticking two pieces together (I used Pritt, but any glue would do), giving a concave 25 mm thick, and a deeper indentation.

As I see it, there are a number of advantages to this material in that it is soft and easy to cut. Although I used a lathe to create the concave, you could probably scrape it out with a spoon! The material has excellent thermal properties, it is used for insulation, and the resulting surface is soft and Swift-friendly.

For other posts on concaves, see here.

Here is an example of what a pair of Swifts added to such a concave:
Photo Judith Wakelam

Friday 5 April 2013

Flashing tape for water-proofing

Swift nest-boxes need to last a long time, as, once occupied, the same pair of Swifts may occuply them for many years. Thus any way of defending a nest-box from the ravages of the weather is to be welcome. Here is an idea contributed by David Makin.

The most vulnerable part of a wooden nest-box is the roof.  Sun, rain and frost will all destroy a wooden roof eventually. Decking oil is a good defence, as is roofing felt, but here is another idea by using Denso flashing tape. The Denso website describes it as "a tough, but conformable, grey aluminium laminate coated with a high melting point bitumen adhesive. The new foil laminate gives greater puncture resistance, improved tensile strength, elongation and tear strength"

Coating the roof of a nest-box may well suffice in keeping both the sun and rain off a box. If the box is kept dry, then frost should cause no harm.

Here, David has used Denso flashing tape to cover the whole box, which, in this case incorporates a double roof, suitable for a south-facing aspect.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Cambridgeshire Swift Survey

This is a preliminary announcement of a survey that starts this year, 2013. It will take over from the survey that was undertaken by the Cambridgeshire Bird Club in 2008/2009 and, it is hoped will include records from that survey. We may well expand this post with more details as we gain experience and feedback from using the survey website.

Cambridge City Council in partnership with Action for Swifts and CPERC are seeking records of breeding swifts in the City, towns and villages of Cambridgeshire. CBC members are encouraged to note the address and exact breeding site details of all breeding pairs, colonies  and screaming parties located in 2013 (or old records) and record them via the Living Record Cambridge Swift Survey website:

Screen-grab of Living Record location input
Please note you will need to join Living Record which is free and tick 'Swift Survey' on the options page. Then open the Records page and follow the notes on how to add new records.

This website allows detailed descriptions and precise map based plotting of nest site locations. It is hoped that these records will build on our knowledge of the distribution of the species in the County. Allowing local authority officers to identify nest sites at risk from planning proposals and seek appropriate retention or mitigation.

Contact:   for further info.