Monday 24 April 2017

Headroom experiment at Greys Farm

Greys, near Royston, Herts is where Edward Darling uses 2 sq km of chalk soil to create a living landscape benefitting many forms of priority wildlife, including a wide range of birds, mammals and rare plants. The BTO Marsh Award to Action for  Swifts lead to Edward enquiring about creating Swift colonies and asked if we would suggest where Swift boxes might be appropriate.

[Update 23rd June 2017 - the first Swift has been seen entering box number 4]

At the highest point of the farm is a water tower, a cube-shaped, steel-clad building containing water tanks. It is somewhat isolated, so not the normal setting for Swifts, but the building itself has boxed in eaves on the east and west sides which are plenty high enough and wide enough for Swift boxes. It also has mains power inside.

So against a background of singing Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats we installed nest boxes on the east side, under the boxed in eaves.

Edward is also Chief Executive of Redlist Revival, a UK based charity working to restore disappearing - "Red-listed" - species identified within the Government's UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Forming part of the country's international commitment to maintaining ecosystems and sustaining a healthy planet, Redlist Revival acts for the public benefit.

We are using this project as an experiment, giving Swifts a choice between boxes with 150mm headroom and 78mm headroom. A single-brick nest box would be 78mm high.

The 12 boxes are all basically the same, with entrances at the left or right end. As we could not decide whether to put entrances facing horizontally or vertically downwards, we used a compromise. The floor area of the boxes is 266mm x 200mm. All the odd-numbered boxes have a removable false ceiling.

We have previously set up experiments like this, including this one which has had some success.

The 12 boxes are arranged in an irregular, but neat pattern. 
This is done to reduce confusion for the Swifts 
All of the boxes are uniquely numbered 
Odd-numbered boxes have a removable false ceiling, painted black