Friday 26 February 2016

First deployment of Model 30 Swift boxes

Since 2008 John Stimpson has made and sold nearly 7000 over 40,000 Zeist Swift boxes. The Zeist design is suitable for positioning under broad eaves. In exposed positions, with its flat roof, it would allow predators to perch and, made of plywood, will not last if exposed to sun and rain. Thus, we have provided him with a design suitable for a wider range of situations. John is now also supplying boxes made to this design.

The new model is called the 'Model 30' - as all angles in it are 30°. It has borrowed an idea from Maurice Wilkinson, who made his DIY Swift boxes out of PVC, commonly used for fascia boards. With its double thickness PVC/plywood roof (21mm of material in total), with a slippery white reflective surface,  the Model 30 should make life difficult for predators and it reflects sunlight.

The design is available as a flatpack, so it makes an ideal gift. All it requires is a cross head screw driver to insert the 14 screws needed to hold it together.

We are now making our first deployments of these boxes in more exposed positions.

John Stimpson contact details: 

The first 4 Model 30 boxes installed on an exposed gable end in Fulbourn, Cambs
[Update: one of these boxes was first occupied in 2017]
[Update 2018: 3 of these boxes are occupied]

Model 30 as a flatpack

2 boxes assembled

UPDATE 2016:

An attractive arrangement of Model 30's installed in 2016.


Wednesday 17 February 2016

Maidenhead, Marlow and Cookham Swift Group

Another heartening example of a local initiative to provide more accommodation for Swifts.

by Jan Stannard

This month has seen the start of our area’s Swift box initiative, with the first boxes made locally by volunteers, along with attraction call systems, bought as components and assembled. So far we have agreement for about 40 sites to install boxes.

These are mostly families with suitable houses in areas where we know there are existing Swift breeding sites. These are clustered in streets within the three towns so that they should form ‘loose colonies’. We have already surveyed every single location to make sure it is suitable for swifts in terms of flight path, predator access, aspect and overall height.

On residents’ houses we are installing external boxes because people regard internal boxes as too difficult and too costly to put into their houses. The design is based on Mark Glanville’s twin design, and are sold at cost price (£25 for a twin box). 
Mark Glanville's twin compartment box
WoodStone® Swift Nest Box
In some locations, for example where a cherry picker will be used, we have recommended Woodcrete swift boxes from CJ Wildlife for extra durability.

The property owners have readily agreed to have a sound system, which we are providing ready to use at a cost of £26 (cost price). This comprises a mini amplifier, a tweeter, an SD card with swift calls, a power supply and a suitable length of audio cable (see here).

In addition to domestic properties, we have persuaded the clergy and wardens of two local churches to put in 4-6 boxes in their towers. 

Lastly, we have two new large colony installations: Swift House by McCarthy & Stone (28 internal boxes) and Premier Inn Maidenhead (20 internal boxes).

In total, there will at least 120 swift nesting places if all goes to plan.

The Maidenhead, Marlow and Cookham Swift Group was founded in July 2015 and now has 80 members.

Our website [], 
Facebook page: here.
Installing 2 double boxes

Sunday 14 February 2016

Swift Nestboxing in Tashkent

We report regularly on the activities of our friends, Elena and Pavel, in Tashkent (Uzbekistan}, for they do so much, not only in the field of rehabilitation, but generally to raise the profile of wildlife conservation in their city and country. To this end, they decided to take part in a nestbox scheme in the city - nestboxes, especially external ones, are highly visible and make a public statement.

A local building firm, Murad Building Company, had already produced nestboxes for various species as part of a local conservation initiative. Elena and Pavel had a meeting with Murad and proposed that they should add a Swift nestbox to their suite of boxes. 

Of course, this was virgin territory for everyone, and we were happy to provide information on materials, design and construction for an external Swift box. The key points were to ensure that the boxes were proof against sun and rain, and that the optimum size should be floor area roughly 17cm x 30cm, height, 15cm.

As to materials, we all held our breath, but the results are spectacular. The boxes have now been delivered by Murad. They are made from good quality planed timber and of a thickness that gives them good insulation.

After a couple of false starts, Murad came up with the goods. They produced a 100 boxes in quick time!

The next step is the mounting of this first batch of completed boxes. Elena and Pavel met with Roman Kashkarov of the UzSPB, and got agreement for boxes to be placed on the UzSPB building, which is high and suitable for Swifts. This will be done ceremonially as part of the Society's "Common Swift Year 2016".

Their next step is to find as many local people as possible who would like to have Swift nestboxes on their property.

What is really heartening about all this is the recognition that our friends are getting for their work. They are now in the process of constituting themselves formally as the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wild Birds in Uzbekistan, and have an application in to the GEF Small Grants Programme, which was established in 1992, the year of the Rio Earth Summit. 

Elena and Pavel, we wish you well!

UPDATE: The following pictures show the boxes installed:


Saturday 6 February 2016

More swift boxes in Milton, Cambs

We already reported on Clarke Brunt's Swift boxes, where he had 6 breeding pairs of Swifts in 2015. Our recent successes with installing internal nest boxes in roof spaces convinced Clarke that he could do the same. Although there are no new ideas here, this is another example of a well executed installation.

by Dick

The location is perfect, right on Milton High Street and opposite the Lion & Lamb public house, where people sit out on summer evenings. The Lion & Lamb can expect increased custom from Swift nuts this summer and all future summers!

The project is very similar to what we did in Newnham. Again it was a Victorian solid wall, where removing a header was an easy way of making a hole through the wall. The same cast moulded concrete inserts were used for the entrances.

This time the boxes were made with hinged doors on the back, but were constructed so that these can easily be replaced with perspex backs if so desired.

This project was implemented by Bill Murrells and Clarke himself, with a bit of help from me.

The following pictures are self explanatory.

[UPDATE 2018: 4 of the 6 boxes are occupied]
The view from the Lion & Lamb
3 entrances on the right hand side
Detail of a single entrance
6 boxes neatly installed
3 boxes on left side of gable
Close up of a single box


Friday 5 February 2016

Swift nest box 1908-09 style

The February 2016 issue of British Birds magazine contains a fascinating letter by Richard Porter and Graham Madge about the value of nestboxes to bird conservation (Brit. Birds February 2016).

by Dick Newell

The letter references a leaflet published by the RSPB over 100 years ago, in 1908/09, which includes nest box designs for the usual tits, woodpeckers, flycatchers, and Wrynecks (now extinct in the UK) and also a very nice looking design for  Swifts!

Swift box cropped from the leaflet below

In those days, you could buy a Swift box for 2 shillings (10p then, £10.75 in todays money).

Recorded bird calls had not been invented then, so one wonders what success rate they had with these boxes.

The BB article asks the question whether nest boxes have had any conservation impact on various species? The 3% per annum decline on a Swift population of 87,000 pairs (in 2009) (Musgove et al 2012) could mean that ~2600 pairs of Swifts are being lost each year. As the 87,000 is almost certainly an underestimate, and given likely occupancy rates, then 3 or 4 times 2600 nest boxes may be needed just to stand still.

If the mass house-builders get on board with the idea of incorporating nestboxes in every suitable gable end, then this should be doable.

The inspiring RSPB leaflet, published in Bird Notes and News 1908/09 is here:

Musgrove A., Aebischer N., Eaton M., Hearn R., Newson S., Noble D., Parsons M., Risely K. and Stroud D. 2012.
Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. British Birds 106 * February 2013 * 64-100
Porter R.F. and Madge, G.  2016. Boxing Clever: the value of nestboxes to bird conservation Brit. Birds, Letters, 109: 122