Sunday 5 April 2020

Shepcot House Swifts

There is very little research on acceptable parameters for Swift nest boxes, so we have to rely on anecdotes. This is an example of Swifts nesting in a very small space indeed, perhaps giving a lower bound on what Swifts might find acceptable.

We are grateful to Catherine Day for talking about Shepcot House at the Bristol Swift Conference, Nov 2019 and to Mike Priaulx for the pictures and the information below.

Andy Potter - local Swift enthusiast

Shepcot House in Enfield is due for renovation, but it already housed a thriving colony of 27 pairs of Swifts. These birds have lost their nest sites, but 68 Ibstock Swift bricks in the new development have been provided, installed with the guidance of an ecologist (Middlemarch Environmental) during 2019
(see and search for 'shepcot')

The Swifts have been nesting in spaces 4cm high x 6.5cm deep x 26cm long behind the panels. They nested in the slots from the 2nd slot up in the picture on the left. The lowest slots with breeding Swifts are estimated at a little over 4 metres.

One of the slabs has fallen off allowing close inspection of the space behind, as in the pictures below.

Some of the panels have swifts nesting at both ends of the panel. Others are not used, and may have less space behind.

Most of the occupied panels face due south, so the panels must provide a degree of thermal insulation. The south elevation has the most open aspect and the unhindered flight line seems to be a factor.

There seemed to be no record of this Swift colony prior to it being highlighted during the construction works, so it is not known how soon these buildings were colonised after their construction during the 1960s.

There was a planning condition for nestboxes but the new provision by Countryside Properties has been voluntary, based on the ecologist's advice.

Here is a link by the developer:

[Also of relevance is this post about Swifts breeding in a House Martin's nest :]

The Swifts did not nest in this slot, as the front slab had fallen off
Slot height is a little over 4 cm
Slot depth is about 6.5 cm

Saturday 4 April 2020

Face-plate Swift box

Swift boxes are normally thought of as 'external' or 'internal'.  John Crowther of Stroud wanted to retrofit swift bricks into his stone walls.

When John removed a stone, he found that there was no cavity and the space created was L 290mm x D 125mm x H 100mm. First thoughts of fitting an S Brick would have reduced the 125mm depth to about 100mm, which might have been enough space, but a 10cm depth for a bird with 175mm wing-length is a bit of a squeeze, though Swifts can nest in a space this small.

As we wanted to give the Swifts a little more space, and John preferred not to install another external box, we compromised by making 2 face-plates to close off two spaces. At the same time we added 12mm to the 125mm giving an internal depth of 137mm. Though not as unobtrusive as an internal Swift brick, it resulted in a neat solution.

To keep water out of the nest chamber, there is a layer of sealant between the face-plate and the wall

The material, 12mm MgO board, was left over from the stand we shared with Genesis Nest Boxes at Futurebuild - now a 4000-bed hospital.

The following pictures illustrate the concept:

2 face-plates showing outside and inside

One stone removed and face-plate installed