The 2009 Nestbox Diary

July (part 2)  

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6 July - What a difference a week makes - a week ago the temperature reached 32C, but today it struggled to pass 20C as clouds raced over, driven by a strong south-westerly wind and bringing some heavy showers, and not a scream (from the Swifts) to be heard all day!

Daytime activity has been very quiet in the boxes. In SWup the pair didn't leave until 9.16am and haven't returned as a pair all day, although there were three visits by individuals.

The first bird to leave STle was the female, departing at 7.06am. The male stayed a whole hour longer before going out at 8.06am.

A feather is brought into the upper Swift box


The first visitor to SWup was at 11.05am when a Swift brought in what I think was a feather. It caused a bit of confusion for me as the bird appeared to have a white spot at the back of its head, and I hadn't previously noticed any light mark on either of the pair using this box.


A Swft brings a  feather into the left hand Starling box



It was still in that box when 'White-Spot arrived in STle with a feather at 11.07am.

Both birds remained in the boxes for a while, the individual in SWup leaving at 11.20am and 'White-Spot' at 11.23am.



Another feather was brought into SWup at 3.19pm (no spot seen this time!), and into STle at 4.28pm by the female. The only other daytime visit was to SWup at 4.34pm when a Swift (bringing in nothing this time) stayed until 5.55pm.

Tonight it was the female from STle that returned first, arriving at 8.50pm. The pair from STup arrived at 9pm and 'White Spot' turned up in STle at 9.04pm.

The House Sparrow stayed away from these boxes today.


7 July - An overcast start, with cloud below 2000ft, but I can see bright blue skies way to the north of us, and it is around 16C at 9.15am.

The first departures of the day came from STle when the female left at 7.55am, followed by her partner two minutes later. The pair in SWup looked as though they would leave at 8.14am, but after ten minutes at the exit they returned to the comfort of the nest cup. They finally left at 8.57am.

There were just two Swift visits all morning. At 10.56am the female arrived at STle and spent 20 minutes in there (not having brought anything in this time), and just before noon the pair turned up in SWup, also staying for about 20 minutes.

A Sparrow removes a feather from the upper Swift box


In the Swifts' absence the male Sparrow has made some appearances. He made five short visits to SWlo between 11.34 - 12.42am, but at 12.45pm he entered SWup.

He spent a couple of minutes looking about before he detached one of the feathers brought in by a Swift and removed it as he left six minutes later. He re-entered SWlo immediately afterwards, but had obviously dumped the feather outside first!


At approaching 2pm the skies over us are blue as we get a respite from heavy showers that have been passing over us during the morning. I have just spent ten minutes outside, and in that time could see just two Swifts.

Having said that, at 2pm a Swift has just brought a feather into SWup! By the time it left, four minutes later, the skies were dark once again as the breeze picked up and another shower approached.

A Swift returns to the upper Swift box this afternoon


At 2.30pm there was another feather delivered, just as rain started once again, and shortly before thunder rumbled in the distance.

The shower turned out to be the heaviest of the day so far, and the Swift stayed until the rain had passed, leaving at 3.19pm.



Swift - 'White-Spot in the Starling box this afternoon


At 5.23pm 'White-Spot' brought the first feather of the day into STle, and stayed until 5.42pm.

Over the last few days I've noticed that when it arrives with a feather it doesn't put it down straight away, but seems to pause for a minute or so before adding the feather to the nest.


Swift - 'White-Spot , showing one of its deep-set eyes

He was back in with another feather at just before 6pm, and it was a case of good timing as moments later we had a long, very heavy shower.  He stayed in the box until the rain had more or less stopped, at 6.25pm.

I wonder how they manage to find feathers up in the air in the present weather conditions.

While he waited, the light entering the box emphasised the deep-set eye, protected by the bird's plumage in an arrangement that forms part of the Swift's streamlining.



The visits continued into the evening  as one of the SWup pair arrived at 6.39pm. The preening that followed suggests that it was quite wet. Its partner arrived at 6.52pm, as did the female in STle. At around the time of their arrival the skies were getting noticeably darker as more rain arrived - at 7pm the local airfield was reporting a cloud base of 1200ft, the lowest so far today. These cannot be good conditions for a bird that hunts insects in flight.

While it has remained cloudy, light levels seemed to improve a bit for a while after 8pm and one of the pair in SWup left at 8.12pm. It returned at 8.59pm and the pair have settled down for the night.

In STle the female has stayed in the box all evening, and as I write this at 9.25pm it looks as though she will be alone tonight.

'White-Spot' is preened by jis partner after his late arrival this evening


Scrub that! At 9.27pm 'White-Spot has just crashed in through the entrance to join his partner.

And it seems that the female was very glad to see him! For the couple of minutes, while he was more concerned with his own preening, she didn't stop preening him around his head and neck.




8 July - Another cloudy day, but although the skies darkened occasionally it stayed dry.

For the Swifts it has been a quiet day. The female left STle at 8.03am and a minute later both 'White-Spot' and the pair in SWup left.

At 10.48am a feather was brought into STle by the female (stayed 12 minutes) and she returned with another at 12.18pm (this time staying 5 minutes)

SWup also received two feathers, the first at 10.49am (bird stayed for 10 minutes) and 1.01pm (bird stayed 13 minutes). It also had a single Swift visit ay 7.54pm, this time staying 16 minutes.

At 8.23pm the pair returned to SWup. One left again at 8.38pm and its partner followed less than a minute later. They actually returned for the night at 9.15pm, with one arriving a half minute after its partner.

The female returned to STle at 8.37pm, but she had to wait until 9.14pm before her partner, 'White-Spot', returned for the night.

There was no sign of the House Sparrow in the boxes today.


9 July - A better, brighter start to the day. The cloud cover is broken, and much higher than the last few days.

The improved conditions seen to have encouraged the Swifts in STle to make an earlier start, with 'White-Spot leaving at 6.40am and his partner going four minutes later.

In SWup it took a bit longer for the pair to leave. They were going back and forth to the entrance from 5.30am onwards but it was 7.03am before they left. One returned at 7.37am and stayed until 8.03am.

By 9am there was sunshine, and that seemed to trigger what turned out to be a quite active morning.

A Swift entered SWup at 9.02am and stayed for 10 minutes and at 9.03am the female entered STle, with 'White-Spot' following in less than a minute later. They stayed until 9.45am.

While that pair were still in their box, the other pair entered SWup at 9.25am and left together at 9.41am

At 9.51am one of them returned to SWup (staying for just four minutes this time) and at the same time the female once again entered STle. She was joined once more by her partner at 10.04am. This time the female left at 10.22am, the male going two minutes later. 

SWup received another Swift visit, at 10.17am. At 10.20 a Swift entered SWlo and stayed until 10.33am. Two minutes later one (the same bird?) joined the Swift already in SWup, bringing in what appeared to be a short length of straw. The pair remained in the box until 11.28am. During that stay there was another visitor to SWlo - a House Sparrow male which stayed for around five minutes.

During the afternoon the boxes became quiet. The only visit to STle was by the female at 12.28pm (staying for 9 minutes), and it was 5.32pm when a Swift brought in the only feather of the day and stayed for just 4 minutes.

At 6.51pm one of the Swifts from SWup returned with a beakful of plant down (possibly thistle).

The day ended in SWup when one bird returned to roost at 8.42pm and its partner arrived at 8.48pm, at the same time as the female returned to STle. At 9.09pm 'White-Spot' was the last to arrive.


10 July - A bright, sunny morning with hardly a cloud in the skies over us. The pair in SWup were the first to leave their roost, following each other out at 7.04am. Similarly, the pair in STle left at 7.09am, the female leaving first.

Compared with yesterday's activities, this morning was very quiet, and although I heard a scream for the first time in several days no bird appeared at a box at that time.

There were just two visits to SWup during the morning, at 9.02am (staying for just four minutes) and 11.18am when the single Swift stayed for 10 minutes. On both visit the bird brought in more plant down.

In STle there were also just two visits during the morning. The female visited at 9.41am, leaving at 10.12am, and 'White-Spot' appeared at 11.20am and stayed for 11 minutes. Neither bird brought anything into the box.

There were no visits during the afternoon, by which time the skies had clouded over, and the next Swift to appear entered SWup with another beakful of down at 7.53pm.

The female arrived in STle at 8.21pm and 'White-Spot' at 8.53pm - an early end as drizzle fell outside.



11 July - A dry start to the day, but with the skies overcast (cloud base around 1000ft) the Swifts were a little slower to get going this morning. The pair for SWup left together at 7.38am and those in STle headed out at 8.02am.

There were no visits between those departures and when I checked the recording of the day so far, up to 2.45pm.

This afternoon we had continuous drizzle with the cloud even lower than earlier in the day.

At shortly after 5.15pm I heard the only screams of the day, and at 5.23pm a Swift returned to SWup, its partner arriving ten minutes later. At 5.53pm the female arrived in STle with what looked like a bit of down in her beak. I can't imaging how she found that in the damp conditions outside, and which I understand are widespread over the area. She remained in the box for the rest of the evening, being joined by 'White-Spot' at 8.36pm as the drizzle turned to rain.

The pair in SWup left individually at 6.43 and 6.48pm, although one returned just six minutes later.  Its partner must have been flying with 'White-Spot' as they both returned within a few seconds of each other at 8.36pm.


12 July - After a very wet night, today has started with just a couple of wisps of cloud in otherwise bright blue skies.

This morning's departures were all within a few minutes of each other, with the pair in STle leaving first, at 7.16am, followed five minutes later by the birds in SWup (at 7.21am). This means that the female in STle spent some 13hours 23 minutes in the box overnight!

At 7.58am 'White-Spot was back with a feather to add to the nest in STle, staying for sixteen minutes.

At 9.21am the female brought a feather into STle and was joined by her partner (with what looked like plant down in his beak) at 9.28am. They remained until she left at 9.51am. 'White-Spot' followed her out some two minutes later.

One of the birds from SWup brought in plant down at 9.49am, staying for 7 minutes, and again at 10.48am, this time in the box for eleven minutes.

There was further activity in STle, with this pair of Swifts arriving within a minute of each other, also at 10.48am, each bringing in down. This visit ended some ten minutes later when they left at 10.59am. The female then returned with a feather at 11.30am (staying for 7 minutes) and again at 12.30pm with down this time - this time staying for 12 minutes.

By the end of the morning the blue skies had given way to cloud for the afternoon, sometimes threatening, but it stayed dry until after 4pm when we had a shower.

Shortly before that rain there was another visits to SWup with more plant down brought in at 3.54pm, this visit only lasting three minutes.

This evening's activities began with the female entering STle with down at 7.11pm. She was joined by 'White-Spot' at 7.15pm. She stayed until 7.32pm and he left at 7.47pm. When the female returned to roost at 8.58pm she had more down in her beak, but once again, when her partner arrived at 9.07pm he was 'empty-beaked'.

I happened to be outside at 8.15pm when one of the birds from SWup arrived at the entrance with a scream. It went on to spend24 minutes in the box. The last bit of sown was delivered as the first bird returned to SWup to roost at 8.59pm, and its partner at 9.09pm.


13 July - A mixed day, with short periods of sunshine  and a couple of short showers during the morning.

A bright start encouraged both pairs of Swifts to leave early. The pair in SWup left at 6.23 and 6.25am, and in STle the female left at 6.24am and her partner two minutes later.

There were just a couple of visits to STle today. 'White -Spot' turned up at 9.51am and stayed until 10.24am. During this visit, the female also arrived, bringing in plant down. She arrived at 9.59am and left at 10.14am. She visited again at 10.48am with more down and left at 11.15am.

One Swift arrived in SWup at 9.53am and stayed for eight minutes.

Swifts - courtship behaviour in SWloThen there was an interesting variation. At 10.03am (while STle was occupied) a pair of Swifts entered SWlo and stayed for twelve minutes.

While still by the entrance, one of the pair was the recipient of courtship preening around its neck.

When they shuffled across the box, one of them took a passive role to receive further attention. A couple of times it raised its wing and rolled its body to one side as its partner 'probed' gently with its beak, behaviour I've seen just once in STle.

Swifts in SWlo this morning


When the attention was over the pair moved back across to the entrance where they stayed for a while before leaving at 10.14am



Two minutes later and a pair of Swifts entered SWup and stayed for about twenty minutes. Was it this pair that had spent time in SWlo?

There were no visits to any of the boxes during the rest of the morning and afternoon and at 8.40pm I am still waiting for the first evening visit.

Tonight also had a slight deviation to the normal. The first arrival was the female into STle at 9.15pm, with her partner entering the box at 9.22pm. At 9.21pm a Swift entered SWlo. At 9.23pm one entered SWup and I watched with interest to see where the next arrival would end up. However, at 9.21pm the Swift in SWlo left the box, and at 9.30pm the second bird entered SWup to end the activity for the day.


14 July - On a bright but showery morning there was a very early start for the Swifts in STle. The female was out of the box at 5.43am, and her partner at 5.51am.

The birds in SWup were still there when the female returned to STle for her first visits of the morning at 7am. She stayed until 7.35am. It was 7.04am when the pair in SWup decided to leave together, although they had been going back and forth to the entrance for a while before that happened.

A bird returned to SWup twice in the next couple of hours, at 8.43am, for a ten minute stay, and 8.59am for a stay lasting half an hour. STle was visited again by the female at 8.42am (she left at 8.58am).

On none of those early visits was anything brought into the boxes. However, when 'White-Spot' arrived in STle at 10.37am he did have a small amount of plant down in his beak. He remained in the box until 11.05am.

While SWup stayed quiet right through the rest of the morning and the afternoon, STle received a number of visits. The pair were in again around noon, the female brought in down at 11.57am, with the male bringing down in at 12.02pm. The female left first, at 12.09pm with her partner following less than a minute later.

They arrived together at 12.26pm, again with down. This time it was 'White-Spot' that left first, at 12.36pm, with his partner staying for another four minutes. During the afternoon the female made two further deliveries of down, at 1.21pm (out at 1.41pm) and 3.01pm (out at 3.13pm).

After that the boxes remained quiet until 8.58pm when the female in STle was the first to return for the night. The pair in SWup were next to arrive, at 9.03 and 9.06pm. 'White-Spot' saw last to turn up, entering STle at 9.13pm.


15 July - Compared with the other birds that I have followed over the last ten years, the Swifts seem to be the least predictable when it come to morning departure times. On a bright, if mainly cloudy morning the first to leave was the female from STle. She departed at 7.16am. It looked as though one of the Swifts in SWup would leave at the same time, but it then clambered back to join its partner. Next to leave was 'White-Spot', at 7.54am, 38 minutes after his partner.

Finally the pair in SWup left a minute apart of each other, at 8.19/8.20am. One of them returned at 8.56am with a feather and stayed for a further 56 minutes. There was just one more visit to SWup during the morning - at 12.06pm (leaving at 12.17pm).

Over in Stle there were three visits before the end of the morning, with the female bringing in down at 10.08am (and staying until 10.34am) and 11.17am, when she left at 11.39am. Between those visits the male visited ust once, bringing in a feather (and possibly down) at 10.40am, staying ten minutes.

I think I've mentioned it before, but I find it fascinating how, when a Swift returns with down or a feather it hardly ever deposits it straight away. It seems to work its way around the rim of the nest cup as though trying to find the best place to put the material, and often it is over two minutes before the feather/down is released from the beak.

For the rest of the day the skies over us were largely clear of Swifts, with just the occasional individual off in the distance. This extended into the evening, and it wasn't until approaching 9pm that I could see up to ten flying about, still quite high in what had become clear skies.

The first signs that the days was coming to an end came when the first Swift did a screaming pass down the shared driveway, flew a loop around a couple of houses and then crashed in through the entrance of SWup at 9.18pm.

A pair of birds flew screaming low overhead before STle had its first arrival as the female entered with a bang. Just afterwards a Swift entered my neighbours' roof space. At 9.25pm 'White-Spot' returned to STle. Just after that, a second Swift also entered my neighbours' roof.

Then, a Swift crashed its way into SWlo.

While the pair settled down in STle, in both SWup and SWlo the Swifts spent much of the next couple of minutes perched just inside the entrances.

Swifts - composite image showing bird in SWlo with straw in beakThen, curiously, while the Swift in SWup spent a few moments in the nest cup, the Swift in SWlo shuffled across the box, picked up a short length of straw, shuffled back to the entrance and left at 9.28pm.

I have tried to highlight a part of this composite image to make the straw a little clearer. By next year I will have much improved the lighting in the Swift boxes.


Swifts - a length of straw is brought into SWup


The Swift already in SWup moved back to the entrance to look out, and a minute later a second Swift entered SWup with a short length of straw in its beak, confirming that it was the bird that had just been in SWlo!

Its partner remained over by the entrance as the straw was worked into the nest. Eventually it shuffled over to join its partner at 9.33pm and they settled down for the night.


By now, the other Swifts seemed to have also headed for their roosts as I could no longer see any flying around the neighbourhood.


- Click on images to see larger versions -

2009 Nestbox Diary Index...........Start of the Year..........  ..July (Part 3)

The arrival of the Swifts