Saturday 3 August 2019

Crumlin Swift Tower, a history

For a while now, we have been cautious about encouraging people to put up a Swift tower, because they are relatively expensive and there are so few case studies demonstrating success. Our thoughts are summed up here. So we very much welcome this contribution from Brian Cahalane of his experience with a Swift tower in his garden and how he made it a success.

Paddy and Sean arrive with tower from Stonyford Engineering
In 2017, having designed the Stoneyford Swift Towers a few years previously, I decided to install a mini one in my back garden.

I wanted to find out for myself how useful they would be, and was it really as difficult to attract Swifts to nest in one as some people think. 
Camera  and speaker cable runs down the pole
then ducted underground to the garage

I did, I suppose, have the advantage of a large colony at my house as well as mains power close at hand.

I began playing calls in late April of that year and by the middle of May, single birds were going into some of the boxes. This was the pattern for the rest of the season. 

In 2018 I revamped the roof, the internals, and the entrances as I wanted the tower to look more aesthetically pleasing.

By the middle of May four pairs had taken up residence, two pairs were not in camera boxes so I couldn’t be sure of breeding until later on when I saw the parents going into the boxes with food. The other two pairs in the camera boxes were breeding, single birds were going into other boxes all season. 

In 2019 I installed extra cameras and 7 pairs have bred, all the other 5 boxes now have pairs and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were twelve pairs breeding next year, I didn’t play any calls this year, however I did for the previous two years, the calls had no affect on the breeders at my colony even though the tower is only 30 metres away. 

What have I learned?

Calls need to be played, ideally from 4.00 am to 9.00am and from 9.00pm to 11.00pm in
May, June and July.

Towers need to be monitored to ensure this. A timer is essential.

[Eds: As sunrise and sunset change with latitude and longitude, maybe the simplest way of describing Brian's timings in a location independent way is:
From dawn for 5 hours and for 2 hours until dusk
You can find the times of dawn and dusk from websites such as:
A reasonable compromise date for the whole season is 1st June ]

Top floor of 3 floors. The tower is 19" square, each nest chamber is L 12" x W 6" x H 6"
The central square holds cables for the tweeter and cameras

For protection of entrances, we used Marshall Tufflex half round gutter 114m from Amazon

Revamped tower
TV screen in the garage with MP3 player on the shelf
The single egg laid on 29th May resulted in a fledged chick on 29th July