Swifts log 2023
Sat 6 May, nestbox #4: Our first swift of the 2023 season arrived this evening at 7.27pm, followed by another in #3 at 8.35pm.
Sun 7 May: A swift returned to #1 at 8.53pm.
Mon 8 May: A swift entered #2 at 5.29am, joined by its partner at 7.15pm. Two swifts entered #3 together at 10.43am; unfortunately the camera was not working for a while overnight, so all I can say is that the partner must have arrived last night after 7pm or earlier this morning.
Tue 9 May: Two swifts in #1 from 8.46pm.
Wed 10 May: Only one swift roosted in #3 last night and left at 8.37am this morning. A pair entered at 9.04am and left together at 9.18am; they reappeared together at intervals up to 9pm, but only one was visibly roosting overnight.
Thu 11 May: The unusual behaviour of the pair in #3 continues. After being absent overnight, the partner returned for a cuddling session at about 7.30pm for an hour or so but again did not stay the night. Still no sign of a partner for our first 2023 swift in #4.
Fri 12 May: Same behaviour in #3 as yesterday: a second swift came in for an hour’s cuddle at about 7.30pm, but only one stayed the night.
Sat 13 May:
Sun 14 May: Only one swift roosting in #1 last night, but the partner returned before 7am this morning. On the other hand, the partner who had been missing from #3 for the previous four nights roosted there last night and was gone before 7am this morning.
Wed 17 May: The pattern of pairs in #1, #2 and singles in #3, #4 roosting overnight continued until last night, when the only single was #4. At about mid-day today a pair came into #4 together and cuddled for half-an-hour, but there was again only one roosting. However, it does mean that the colony probably now has its full quota of four pairs.
Thu 18 May: I wondered why the pair in #2 stayed in their box all morning on such a nice day, but at 12:42 all became clear when they went out together, leaving our first egg of the season in the nest. No doubt I’m being a tad anthropomorphic, but it’s nice to think that the male stayed in to support the female at the “birth”.
Fri 19 May: Last night there was a roosting pair in each box for the first time this year.
Sat 20 May: Drama! An intruder entered #2 at about 7pm and, it appears, pushed the egg out of the nest. But within a couple of minutes it was seen off by the resident pair after a violent fight lasting 3 minutes. The timelapse video below, with frames 10 seconds apart, captures the event.
Sun 21 May: A second egg in #2; the first one remained outside the nest until I put it back while the pair were out at 5.30pm this evening.
Mon 22 May: an egg each in #4 and #3.
If you have been following this (b)log, you may be interested in an evening event in Stratford-on-Avon on Saturday 17 June: Swifts and the Story of Life on Earth at which “Eminent authors & artists celebrate Swifts, explain their decline, & the way they symbolise the connections underlying all life on Earth.”
Fri 26 May: Egg counts last night in boxes 1 – 4: 1, 3, 2, 2 – eight in all.
Sun 28 May: Full complement of three eggs in each box after a third egg appeared in #1 today.
Tue 30 May: All four pairs were very dutiful in their incubation duties today, keeping their eggs covered at all times and through parental changeovers, so that I got no more than an occasional glimpse of an egg when reviewing the camera footage. See the video below for an example changeover.
Fri 9 June: There’s not been anything significant to report for the last couple of weeks of dutiful incubation, but today saw the hatching of two eggs in #2, 22 days after that pair laid our first egg. They allowed us a brief glimpse of the chicks in the evening:
Sun 11 June: Hatched today: the third egg in #2 and the first in #3.
Mon 12 June: Hatched today: second egg in #3, first two eggs in #4.
Tue 13 June: First hatching in #1, third in #4.
Wed 14 June: Hatched today: second egg in #1, third in #3. Great excitement too when we observed swifts entering a box in our new swift “hotel”. For the last couple of days we’ve seen swifts “banging” on the entrances to our occupied boxes: they approach an entrance, briefly hang on and depart at the sound of a call from inside – a sign that they are new birds looking for a nesting site. The hotel is around the corner from the occupied boxes, so we started playing recordings of swift calls just below it in the hope of attracting attention – apparently with success.
A video of hatchlings being fed in #3:
Thu 15 June: The photo below shows a swift entering a box in the new hotel. I heard it having a conversation with another swift already in there; it is possible that they will breed this year, but we’ll only know by careful observation, since it is a private hotel – no cameras or microphones inside. The hotel faces west; it has seven boxes for swifts and space at the back for roosting bats, who can enter via the broad ramps and slots.
Fri 16 June: The newest chick to hatch in #1, either yesterday or today, was kicked out of the nest this afternoon. I noticed it late evening and put it back while the parents were out, but I don’t hold out much hope for it, as it was less than half the size of its two siblings. Sadly there are signs that one of the chicks in each of #3 and #4 are also falling behind their siblings in growth, though not as much as in #1. Perhaps the parents are not finding enough food to feed three chicks?
Thu 22 June: The runt hatchling in #1 disappeared last Saturday or Sunday, presumably removed from the nestbox by one of the parents. Today the remaining 11 chicks all appear to be thriving; the smaller hatchlings in #3 and #4 that I observed last week are certainly getting their share of food. This evening there were about 20 swifts flying around here, the most I’ve seen his year, with plenty of “banging” activity.
Wed 12 July: Routine feeding of our 11 swiftlets has continued without interruption for the last three weeks.
Tue 18 July: At nearly 6 weeks old, the swiftlets in #2 are likely to fledge later this week. The photo and video below shows one of them doing press-ups to strengthen its wing muscles.
Fri 21 July: There have been many more swifts around this week – up to 20 wheeling above us, indicating that the non-breeders are back, looking for nesting sites for next year. We have seen some “banging” on occupied nest-boxes – they fly right up to the entrance and hold on for a few seconds before flying away. It’s a good time to play swift call recordings to attract them to new boxes. We think that at least two of the boxes in our new 7-bed “hotel” have been used for roosting by non-breeders recently; no cameras, but we have heard them responding to fly-pasts.
Sat 22 July: Four of our eleven chicks have fledged in the last two or three days.
Mon 24 July: Two more fledgings yesterday – five to go.
Tue 25 July: One of the two chicks in #1 fledged yesterday. Just the adults roosting in #2 for the last two nights. Still two chicks in #3 and one in #4.
Thu 27 July: Our final chick fledged today. A record year of 11 fledgings for the colony.
Sun 30 July: Last night there was one adult roosting in #4 and the pair in #3 whose chick was the last to fledge on Thursday. Boxes 1 and 2 were empty overnight for the first time since their season began.
Wed 2 August: All our swifts are now gone. The pair in #3 were the last to leave, yesterday, after roosting together every night since their third chick fledged seven days ago. There has been discussion on the Swifts Local Network about why the parents would remain after all their chicks have fledged. Were they resting before migration after their hard work in raising the chicks? Are they staying to defend their nest site while there may still be prospecting non-breeders around?
This has been our most successful year for fledgings – 11 in total. It’s been gratifying to see that our new “hotel” has also attracted at least two swifts who we hope will return next year to breed.