Swifts 2020

A bird flying in the sky

This page logs the progress of a small swift colony of four nestboxes in Sibford Ferris. Come back regularly to see progress! If you want more information about swifts in Sibford, please contact me at swifts@thesibfords.uk

You may also be interested in the log for last year, or a peek into their lives via the nestbox webcams.

Would you like to know more about swifts? Read this fascinating article about The Greatest Bird On Earth.

Swifts have been declining in numbers – by over 50% in the last 20 years in the UK – but you can help by putting up nestboxes designed for them, as several Sibford residents have done. There is good guidance for doing this at swift-conservation.org

Tim Huckvale

 

Wed 29 April: What are probably the first three swifts of the season were sighted in Sibford Ferris.

Sun 3 May, nestbox #4: Arrived this morning, almost certainly one of our original pair who have been back every year since we opened the boxes in 2017. Let’s hope that their partner also returns soon so that they may repeat their past breeding success.

A close up of an animalWed 6 May: Nestboxes #2 and #3 are newly occupied with one bird each today.

Thu 7 May: The partner has returned to #4, although they did not stay for the night. #2 was also empty tonight.

Fri 8 May: Partner returned to #3.

Sat 9 May: Not a lot happening on camera. It was such a lovely day that they were all out hunting and screaming.

A bunch of items that are on displaySun 10 May: A full house for the first time this year, as one of the pair that bred (unsuccessfully) in #1 last year has returned, and the juvenile has reappeared in #2.

Tue 12 May: The partner has returned to #1.

Thu 21 May: Our three pairs have been cuddling up together every night, but #2 has been empty for a week or so. Outside, there seems to be fewer swifts around altogether than at this time last year.

Fri 22 May: one egg in each of boxes #3, #4.

Sat 23 May: an egg in#1, 2 eggs in #3.

Mon 25 May: 2 eggs in #4. The egg in #1 has been moved out of the nest to the side – probably by accident – but it looks as if there is another egg still in the nest.

Wed 27 May: A lone swift dropped in to the empty box #2 for a brief visit today, but didn’t stay the night. One egg has been moved out of the nest in #4. A strange episode late tonight when I spotted a swift peering out of the entrance to #4, staying there for at least an hour with little sign of movement; meanwhile the camera showed a pair of swifts moving around inside the box. An intruder? A friend visiting? Anyway, it flew off at around 10pm.

Sun 31 May: Another egg has moved out of the nest in #1; the parent is still sitting on the nest, but is it now egg-less?

Sun 7 Jun: It’s still hard to tell if there is an egg remaining in the nest in #1. A lone swift has been staying overnight in #2 since Thursday 4th. The pair in #3 have been so diligent in their incubation that I have not caught them off the nest to check the number of eggs in the last two weeks, but none are visible outside the nest, so there are probably still two in there. There is clearly only one egg in #4. The incubation period for swifts is about 20 days, so we may see hatchings before next weekend.

Sat 13 Jun: It turns out that there were three eggs in #3 – we saw three hatchlings being fed today – see the recorded video on the SwiftCams page. There is also at least one hatchling in #4. No change in the other boxes: the pair in #1 is still dutifully incubating, and the lonely singleton is still over-nighting in #2.

Mon 15 Jun: An extraordinary fight captured on video this morning in #3; it looks as if a parent of the three new-borns was fighting off an intruding swift. There is a newly laid egg in #1.

A bird sitting on top of each otherTue 16 Jun: It’s delightful to see that the lonely swift in #2 has acquired a mate!

Sun 21 Jun: The pair in #1 are incubating two eggs.

Wed 24 Jun: The 11-day old chicks in #3 are growing fast and roaming their nest boxes. This evening a parent in #4 fought off an intruding swift; it only took a few seconds.

Thu 25 Jun: Tonight we had a great aerial display from a screaming party of 8 swifts until, within about 15 seconds, all 8 popped into our 4 boxes to settle down for the night.

Sat 27 Jun: It has been very hot this week, Tuesday to Friday, with a record high of 41 degC in box #1 on Thursday. Today the high is back to a more normal 25 degC.

Interior of nestboxTue 30 Jun: It’s hard to tell from the photo, but I rather think there are eggs in #2, laid within the last 10 days or so.

Thu 2 July: Captured videos in #4 of the chick defecating and its parent cleaning up. Also of the chick exercising its wings.

Fri 3 July: I went up into the loft and took a proper look inside #2 – and saw that there are no eggs.

Sat 4 July: All this week I have not seen the #3 chicks out of the nest, so I think that last week when they were roaming the box they were trying to cool down in the very high temperatures.

Wed 8 July: The two eggs in #1 have hatched! These chicks are about 4 weeks younger than the 4 chicks in #1 and #3. The latter are roaming their box, sometimes exploring the tunnel entrance and occasionally exercising their wings, getting ready to fledge in the next two weeks or so.

Thu 9 July: There are new videos on the SwiftCams page taken over the last two days. The addition of sound reveals interesting details of swift life, including strange calls from the adult birds that I’ve not heard outside. It becomes clear that one of the chicks is much smaller than the others; it seems to be finding it hard to compete in the feeding frenzy that follows the arrival of a parent.

A bird in a nest box, with eggFri 10 July: The lovey-dovey couple in #2 have definitely laid an egg, some time in the last 7 days.

Nest with two eggsThu 16 July: I received a report of two eggs in #2 from someone who had been watching the SwiftCam on Monday; but the parents have been so attentive to their incubation duties that I have only been able to confirm it today from a time-lapse video that snapped a photo every minute.

Empty nest boxWed 22 July: Fledgling day! Box #4 box is empty this morning, and there are just two chicks in #3, which must mean that two of our chicks have fledged, both about 6 weeks old. Perhaps they will return in a couple of years with the hope that the lovely people of Sibford have created new nesting places.

Sun 26 July: A second chick fledged from #3 either yesterday or today.

Interior of nestboxWed 29 July: The two eggs in #2 were due for hatching later this week, but this morning we can see that one has been ejected from the nest.

Interior of nestboxFri 31 July: Sadly, it is now clear that both eggs in #2 have been ejected, one on each side. Throughout yesterday and today, all four nestboxes have seemed to be empty, probably because it has been so hot in the loft (up to 39degC today) that the chicks have moved out of camera range and into the entrance tunnels to find cooler air.

Sun 2 Aug: Boxes #2 and #4 are empty tonight for the second night running. It seems that the adults have begun their return to Africa. Meanwhile the parents are still dutifully feeding their two chicks in #1; it is still at least two weeks before they will fledge. And Tiny chick in #3 is still being fed, over a week since his siblings fledged.

Fri 7 Aug: Box #3 is empty tonight: Tiny, the third chick, fledged this afternoon at 15:11. I can be precise because I was taking time-lapse photos 30 seconds apart; at 15:10:54 the box is empty but there is a shadow in the tunnel, and at 15:11:24 the tunnel is brightly lit. So all that remains of our colony this year is two chicks in #1, not due to fledge for another 12 days and, I think, just one adult feeding them.

Tue 11 Aug: All gone! The two 5-week old chicks in #1 fledged this evening, possibly encouraged to leave by the very high temperature (41 degC) in their box today. All four boxes are now empty.

Last year, although we had three egg-laying pairs, only two chicks resulted. This year was a distinct improvement, with eggs in all four boxes and a total of six chicks fledged from three of the boxes.