Swifts log 2022
Sun 1 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 2016. Let’s hope that their partner also returns soon so that they may repeat their past breeding successes: 3 chicks in 2021, 1 in 2020, 2 in 2019, 3 in 2018, 3 in 2017.
Mon 9 May: A second swift arrived this evening, roosting in #2.
Tue 10 May: A big day! A partner has joined the lone swift that has been roosting in #4 for 9 days. A pair has arrived into #3, and a single swift into #1. Five swifts seen flying over Mannings Close this evening. All boxes now occupied – six birds in all, including the single in #2, roosting again tonight.
Thu 12 May: A partner for #1 arrived early this morning.
Fri 13 May: A partner for #2 arrived today, completing our colony of four breeding pairs. On past form we may expect eggs in about two weeks time. Watched about a dozen swifts in the sky this evening.
Thu 19 May: Rather sooner than I expected: one egg in each of #3 and #4. All being well, hatching should begin in about 3 weeks time, around 9 June.
Sat 21 May: One egg in #1, two eggs in each of #3 and #4. None in #2.
Mon 23 May: A second egg in #1, a first in #2 and a third in #3. Total now 2 + 1 + 3 +2 = 8.
Wed 25 May: A third egg in #1. The old-timers (our original pair from 2016) in #4 have been so diligent in incubating their eggs, and so skilled in swapping the duty, that I have been unable to see into the nest since Sunday – until today when they allowed me a glimpse of their 3 eggs; they twice left them uncovered for just a few seconds.
Thu 26 May: A second egg in #2. Total eggs now 3 + 2 + 3 + 3 = 11.
Fri 27 May: The pair in #2 haven’t quite got to grips with the incubation phase. The other pairs are leaving their eggs uncovered for at most a few minutes totalled through the day, but they left theirs for about 6 hours today, and 8 hours on the 25th and 26th.
Sat 28 May: Better incubation performance in #2 today, leaving eggs uncovered for a total of about 90 minutes.
Sun 29 May: The pair in #2 left their eggs uncovered for only about 5 minutes today, long enough to see that they now have a third egg. This may explain why they have not, until now, been too concerned with intensive incubation. Unlike those of other birds, swift eggs can survive chilling for long periods; perhaps this pair have been trying to ensure that all three eggs hatch at about the same time. So – we now have a full house, 3 eggs in each of the 4 boxes – a record for this colony.
Wed 8 June: one egg hatched in #3.
Thu 9 June: The pair in #4 kept the nest covered all day, but a piece of eggshell appeared outside the nest this morning, so there is probably at least one hatchling. The hatchling in #3 was visible briefly and looked lively.
Fri 10 June: It looks as if all three eggs in #3 have hatched – video below. Two hatchlings in #4.
Sat 11 June: Hatchlings: 1 in #1, 0 in #2, 3 in #3, 3 in #4. The pairs in #3 and #4 are taking turns in bringing back food approximately hourly.
Mon 13 Jun: A second hatchling in #1.
Tue 14 June: First hatchling in #2.
Wed 15 June: Second hatchling in #2.
Fri 17 June: Third hatchling in #2. There was a heat wave today, with the outside air temperature reaching 28°C in the shade. In the afternoon, with nest box temperatures at around 37°, I placed a fan in the attic to create a flow of cooler air into the boxes from outside. This did succeed in bringing the nestbox temperatures down a few degrees; they rose again when I turned the fan off too soon, but stayed below the previous maximum; next time I’ll wait until the sun is off the roof. There were news reports of baby swifts “being cooked” in southern Spain where air temperatures exceeded 40°, much higher than here. Last year our chicks survived a maximum nestbox temperature of 42°, but that was in July when they were big enough to move out of the nest scrape and congregate around the entrance tunnels where the air was cooler. In June they are too small to move out of the nest.
Sat 18 June: Much colder today; in fact, after yesterday set a record for being the hottest this year, today has set a record for the lowest, a 12°C minimum. In box #1, the parents kept the nest covered against the cold nearly all the time, but in a brief period of visibility there was no sign of the one remaining egg.
Sun 19 June: I only noticed today that there was just one parent roosting in box #4. Checking back through camera footage, it became clear that its partner disappeared last Tuesday. Yesterday and today the single parent has had to strike a balance between keeping their week-old chicks warm and going out to fetch food. Fortunately it is due to get warmer from tomorrow, but one parent bringing back sufficient food for three chicks is a dodgy prospect, one we haven’t faced before.
Mon 20 June: The remaining egg in #1 was ejected from the nest this morning.
Tue 21 June: Yesterday I sought advice from the Swifts Local Network on what I should do about our single parent in #4. As I expected, the advice was that a single parent has little chance of raising three chicks successfully, or even two. I was also provided with detailed advice on rearing chicks by hand, but the dedication and delicacy required was rather daunting (not to mention the need for live worms). Consequently today we took two of the chicks to Oxfordshire Wildlife Rescue, leaving one (which was much smaller than the other two) in the parent bird’s care. OWR were already rearing one other swift chick, the same size as ours, and we left feeling that they were in good hands. We’ll keep in touch with OWR to check their progress. Interestingly, OWR keep the chicks in an incubator at 30°C, which made me slightly less worried about the warm temperatures in our boxes.
Thu 23 June: The single parent in #4 seems to have been little affected by the removal of two chicks and is dutifully feeding the remaining one. Meanwhile the raising of 2, 3, and 3 chicks in the other three boxes continues routinely, and the parents reward us with a screaming party every evening.
Single chick being fed in #4:
Thu 30 June: The colony is now 7 adults routinely feeding their 9 chicks. I’m a little worried about the runt of the litter in #2; its two siblings are about twice its size. However, we had a similar situation in 2020 when Tiny chick fledged from #3 nearly two weeks after its siblings, so it may turn out OK.
Sun 3 July: The under-developed chick in #2 died today after it was ejected from the nest scrape early in the morning.
Tue 12 July: One of the parent birds is missing from #3 tonight; the chicks are in theory only a week away from fledging, so this is probably not a problem.
Thu 14 July: One parent bird missing from #1 tonight.
Mon 18 July: It looks as if one of the chicks fledged from #3 today. Our first egg of the season was laid in #3 on 8 June, so it could be that one, after 40 days.
Sat 23 July: Only two birds roosting in #1 last night. Yesterday’s camera footage suggests that it was the two chicks. It is not unusual for the parents to leave just before the chicks fledge, though I don’t think I have seen it before. There were also only two birds in #3 last night, and there the camera footage suggests that one of the two remaining chicks fledged yesterday morning. There seemed to be just one chick in #3 most of today, but from 7pm there were frequently three birds in the box, and three roosting tonight. Did the other parent return?
Sun 24 July: Only one bird seen to be roosting in #1 last night; there were two up to about 9.45pm. One of them either went out unusually late in the evening or was roosting out of sight of the camera, which is also unusual. This morning there was only one bird when the cameras came on at 6am, and that one left at around 7.40am. In the evening at dusk, an adult bird appeared in the box and roosted overnight, so I think that both chicks fledged yesterday – certainly by early this morning. Box #3 followed the same pattern as yesterday – one chick alone most of the day, occasionally exercising its wings, and three birds roosting tonight. In #2 the family of four is still together, as are the single parent and chick in #4.
Mon 25 July: The roosting adult in #1 left at about 8am and did not return this evening.
Tue 26 July: #1 empty all day. In #2, one of the chicks was last seen on camera at 10pm. Did it fledge very late in the day (when it was quite dark) or roost in the tunnel? Either is very unusual. In #3 one of the chicks fledged around 8.40am; the remaining chick went into the tunnel at about 8.30pm and presumably fledged, since at 9pm an adult came in and roosted alone. The chick in #4 fledged at about 9.45am; the parent returned at 9.30pm and roosted alone.
Wed 27 July: #1 remained empty. In #2 the remaining chick roosted with both parents tonight. There were two adult birds in #3 at 6am today and roosting again tonight. In #4 the parent roosted alone again.
Thu 28 July: Our last chick fledged from #2 at about 8.30pm. One of its parents returned to roost later on. The adult pair in #3 left together at 7.53am and returned together at about 9.15pm to roost. The adult in #4 left at 7.39am and did not return.
#2: Our last chick of 2022 exercises its wings once more before beginning its life in the sky a few hours later:
Fri 29 July: The roosting adult in #2 left at 7.41am this morning, and the remaining pair in #3 left together at 7.50am. A squadron of about six swifts were wheeling around the house this morning.
Sat 30 July: All boxes empty. In summary, this year we had a full house of four pairs, laying 12 eggs of which 11 hatched and 10 fledged – twice as many fledglings as last year.