Thursday 19 March 2015

More Swift boxes in St Neots church

In 2007, we installed 12 Swift boxes in the north side of the belfry of St Mary the Virgin, St Neots. Most years, attraction calls have been played and in 2014, 9 of the 12 boxes were occupied. With the help of generous funding from 'St Neots in Bloom' we have now added 32 more boxes, 16 in the east and 16 in the west.

[Update July 2015: 2 pairs occupied the new boxes on both the east and west sides and the occupied boxes in the north increased from 9 to 10 pairs]
[Update 2019/2020 We have added another 16 boxes in the north, bringing the total to 60 boxes of which 40 were occupied in 2020]

by Dick

West side of belfry, the boxes are just
visible half way up the louvres
The louvres in this church are enormous, and it was not possible to follow our usual advice of putting boxes behind the highest louvres first. We therefore went for putting boxes behind the openings half way up. Even so, it was quite a feat of engineering to erect boxes 15 feet above the floor of the belfry. We thought that entrances here would be more obvious to the Swifts compared to entrances behind the louvres.

We had 2 choices for the colour of the boxes, black or stone. We chose stone (Sandtex 'Mid Stone') to provide a better contrast for the entrances. Whether this contributed to the success of the first 12 boxes we cannot say, but it worked.

Battens were affixed to the stonework each side of the louvres, by screwing into the soft mortar. No holes were drilled in the stonework. The boxes are secured to these battens.

8 of the 16 entrances on the west side.
The original 2 cabinets contained 6 boxes each. This was done at a time when we thought that Swifts required a larger space. Since we have discovered that Swifts readily accept smaller boxes, we increased the number of boxes to 8 per cabinet, we could not have got any more entrances in the limited size of the openings in the stonework. The floor area of each nest box is 20cm x 29cm.

4 completed cabinets, ready for installation
The inspection doors of the earlier cabinets were a simple flap rotating about a single screw. This wouldn't have worked in the new cabinets because the flaps would have collided, so we went for a simple hinge and a catch.

Many people contributed to this phase of the project, not least, Alison Pearson of St Neots in Bloom with their generous funding and encouragement, but also Jake Allsop, Bill Murrells, Bruce Martin, Bob Tonks, Judith Wakelam, Alan Clarke, grandchildren Katie, Lucy and Benjamin Thompson (who got paint all over his shirt). Lastly, we would like to thank the Vicar, the Reverand Dr Paul Andrews, and PCC for their permission to do this project as well as Catherina Griffiths, David Griffiths and George Bonham for their help with access to the church.

We hope that residents and visitors to St Neots will enjoy a magnificent Swift spectacle for years to come.
The original cabinets on the north side installed in 2007
New cabinets on the west side installed in 2015.
The cabinets on the east side are similar