Wednesday 30 November 2016

Guests of Summer

In 2013 we publicised Enric Fusté's research on diets for rehabilitated Swifts. Despite this, advice continues on various websites and in publications advocating diets that are harmful to Swifts.

Most recently, the otherwise highly regarded book about House Martins, Guests of Summer, by Theunis Piersma contains a short chapter on Swifts again advocating inappropriate practices.

As the book is published by the British Trust for Ornithology, they, the BTO, will do as much as they can to include in their publications, online and in print, advice not to use the information in the offending chapter.

The following words have been drafted for inclusion in all future books sold.

Guests of Summer - vital information for Swift rehabilitation

It has come to our notice that the chapter titled ‘Swifts’, pages 86-88, in the book ‘Guests of Summer’ contains much erroneous and misguided information on Swift rehabilitation and should be ignored.

Contrary to the information given, we now know that Swifts are difficult to care for and require specialist expertise.

Of special note:
Swifts are insectivorous birds, so they need to be fed only on insects. Diets based on any meat, cheese, cat food, or other non-insect food are ultimately fatal (Fusté 2013).

Swifts should not be thrown into the air; the technique for releasing a Swift safely is to find a large open space in still, fine weather, hold the bird in the palm of your hand, raise it high and it should go of its own accord.

If you find a grounded Swift and it refuses to fly, put it in a box on some fabric, and keep it quiet, warm and dark then find someone who is a specialist in this field.

There is a list of people who can rehabilitate Swifts in the UK here:

Basic advice is here:

More comprehensive advice is here:

The RSPCA or your nearest wildlife hospital may be another source of help, but make sure they know that Swifts are insectivores.

Friday 25 November 2016

St Vigor's Belfry

The roof on St Vigor's church, Fulbourn, containing 4 Swift nest sites under the eaves (described here), needed repairing. Although the nest sites could be preserved, it could not be done without the Swifts losing the 2016 breeding season. It was therefore decided to install nest boxes in the belfry for the displaced birds.

Before the 2015 season, we installed 8 boxes on the west side of the belfry. Attraction calls were played throughout the summer, and birds were seen investigating the boxes but no pairs became established.

However, in 2016,  2 pairs of Swifts raised chicks and a third box contained a small amount of nest material and an unhatched egg.

Following this success, a further 10 boxes have now been installed in the south side.

In both cases, only the top two louvres are accessible from the inside, the lower louvres being obstructed by a wall.

In most belfries,  a simple box cabinet with a vertical front wall is used. In the case of St Vigor's it seemed better to angle the front at 45° over the louvres.

David Gant, church warden lead the project, ensuring that the attraction calls were played consistently in both years

The following pictures show how it was done.

The south side - view from the inside
Computer model showing how cabinet fronts relate to louvres
2 cabinets before installation. The upper cabinet abutted against the vertical wall,
and the lower cabinet fitted below the top louvre
10 boxes installed. Photo David Gant
The entrance positions are dictated by the stonework resulting in larger central boxes

Sunday 20 November 2016

Sedbergh School makes Swift boxes

Thank you to Tanya & Edmund Hoare and Sedburgh Community Swifts for this story.

Our Sedbergh Community Swifts group was delighted when the Design Technology department at Sedbergh School in Cumbria approached us about a project to make swift boxes. This was a project with a difference however: Firstly, the pupils would make boxes based on the Stimpson design but then dismantle them and repeat the process as a production line exercise, to demonstrate efficiency.

Pupils developed skills using several different machines and techniques, including a table router, bandsaw, pillar drill with Forstner drill bit, jigsaw and bobbin sander.

They incorporated two design features:
1. A recessed concave made using 3D CNC machining: a separate base slots in so that the top of the cup is flush with the floor.

2. An acrylic housing under the box for an amplifier's loudspeaker, to keep it shielded from rain.Staff and pupils really liked the project, it was very different from what had been done before, and they are going to repeat it next year.

The boxes have been donated to Sedbergh Community Swifts so that they can be put up around town. We are choosing prominent places around the town so that the pupils, and everyone else, can monitor what happens.

This picture shows the pupils proudly holding their boxes.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Jane Goodall's Video Message for Swifts

It is not often that we reblog something, but we thought this was a particularly good video clip to promote Swifts and what we can do to help them. Thank you Martine Wauters for showing us this.

You can read about Jane Goodall's work here: