Sibford Swifts

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 logs for 2020 and 2019, or a peek into their lives right now 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 Bristol Swifts.

Tim Huckvale

2021 Swift log

Sun 25 April, nestbox #4: Arrived in the last couple of days, 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.

Sun 2 May, nestbox #4: Our early resident has been roosting every night, and spending some of the days foraging for nesting material, but there is no sign of any other swifts. There is now a high resolution camera in nestbox #4, giving a clearer view.

Swift on nestSun 9 May: Single swifts returned to boxes #1 and #3 today.

Tue 11 May, 11:45: Just a small squadron of three birds (probably our three), but the first screaming party of the season just swung by.

A bird sitting on top of a half pipeSat 15 May: after nearly three weeks of lonely roosting, the patient bird in #4 returned to the box in the early evening with a partner in tow; however when I shut down the cameras later, there was just one bird in the box. #1 also acquired a partner today, roosting together tonight. #3 is empty tonight.

Mon 17 May: Last night the pair was roosting again in #1, singletons in #3 and #4, but there is a pair again in #4 this morning. Five birds in total? The group wheeling around in the sunshine at 10 am numbered just four. Tonight: pairs in #1 and #4, other boxes empty.

Wed 19 May: Late last night there was a single swift in #3, but this morning there is a pair. Pairs roosted in #1 and #4 last night. At 10pm there are pairs in all three boxes. The camera also caught a brief visit by a single bird this evening to box #2.

Thu 20 May: Wet and windy day, with all three pairs spending most of the day cuddling up together in their boxes.

Fri 21 May: Switched on the cameras this morning to find a singleton swift in #2 again. Otherwise much the same as yesterday, with occasional forays outside when the rain let off – presumably for food.

Sat 22 May: A sad day. All the birds took advantage of the sunny morning to go out and feed up – except for one in #3. I became suspicious when the camera showed that it had not moved all day, and when its partner returned and cuddled up to it in the evening it showed no signs of life. This is the first time in our five seasons that we’ve had to deal with a death.

A close up of a fishSun 23 May: When its partner had gone out, I removed the dead bird from #3 to be buried in the garden. There is a chance that it’s partner may find a new mate and breed this year.

Wed 26 May: Turned on the cameras this morning to find two birds in #3; apparently our bereaved swift has found a partner, although it didn’t stay for the night.

Fri 28 May: After dark last night there were two birds in #3, none in #2. This morning at 7.30am there were none in #3 and two in #2. I shall have the cameras on timelapse today to seek confirmation of my suspicion that the bereaved #3 swift has shacked up with their neighbour in #2 – and they haven’t yet decided which box to call home.

First egg of the season

Sat 29 May: There’s an egg in #1. We had some great flypasts this warm and sunny afternoon. Had a couple of bangers round at 21:15, knocking on #2 and #4. Tonight at 10pm #3 is empty and there is a pair in each of the other three boxes.

Sun 30 May: I watched #2 and #3 at around 9am. There was a little dance going on with a single bird moving around in one of them before leaving; a few seconds later a bird (the same one?) entering the other box; later a bird in each box, who then departed almost simultaneously; a few seconds later, two birds entering #3 in quick succession and settling down together on the scrape (see video below). Around 9:30 they left the box. During the rest of the morning there was once or twice a single bird briefly in one or other of the boxes. I have never seen more than a total of two birds in the two boxes since the death last weekend, so I think it is pretty clear that the bereaved partner has taken a shine to their neighbour in #2 and the pair have not agreed where to stay. Perhaps an egg will settle the matter before long. Tonight they are together in #2.

Mon 31 May: An egg in #4. The #2 #3 “pair” were roosting in their separate boxes at 10pm.

Tue 1 Jun: There may be a second egg in#1. While my focus on the last few days has been on #2 and #3, the pairs in #1 and #4 are dutifully minding their eggs.

Wed 2 Jun: There was a pair in #2 at 10pm last night. At 8am this morning there was again a pair in #2, but also a singleton in #3. At 10am there is a small (3 or 4) squadron of bangers testing the nest box entrances. A second egg in #4 today.

Thu 3 Jun: Definitely two eggs in #1 – possibly three. This afternoon there were about a dozen swifts flying around the colony, in addition to the four in the boxes. The “second wave” has clearly arrived.

Fri 4 Jun: An egg in #2 this morning, but it had disappeared from camera view in the afternoon; I opened the box while the parents were both out to find that the egg was cracked open and discarded at the other end of the nest box.

Three eggs in #4

Sun 6 Jun: In a rare moment, I caught #4 with no bird on the nest and could see three eggs.

Tue 8 Jun: A fresh egg in #2.

Fri 11 Jun: A second egg in #2. So we now have 7 eggs in total. Incubation takes about 3 weeks, so we may expect our first hatchling, in #1, before Saturday 19th.