The 2009 Nestbox Diary

July (part 3)  

Go to the last entry on this page   .......,,,..  Go to previous entry

16 July - A bright start, with a peppering of medium and high level cloud. The Swifts in STle left first, the female at 6.55am and her partner four minutes later. It was 7.23am when the pair in SWup left. At 8am I could see a group of ten high overhead.

The boxes were quite busy during the morning. At 9.06am A Swift entered SWup and the female entered STle. She was followed in by the male less than half a minute later, while the second bird arrived in SWup a minute after its partner. The pair in SWup left together at 9.26am. However, In STle the pair stayed much longer. The female left first, at 10.32am with 'White-Spot' going half a minute later.

The Swifts were soon back into SWup, one bringing in down at 9.32am and its partner arriving a minute later. This time they again left together, at 10.04am. One of them visited SWup again at 11.23am and stayed until 11.32am, by which time Stle was occupied again.

Swifts - Male Swift ('White-Spot') leaves STle


This time it was 'White-Spot' at arrived first at 11.29am, with the female entering the box at 11.31am.

I decided to set up my camera during this visit, and the picture shows the female as she left at 11.34am. I only managed to catch a wing tip as the male left six minutes later.



I was still outside when SWup was again visited by its pair, arriving together at 12.26pm.

This time I decided to try something a bit more adventurous. I set up my second camera directly below the box and used a wireless remote while I waited with the telephoto lens at the other end of the driveway.

Swifts - A Swift leaves SWup - 1


The pair left in quick succession but this time I did manage to capture images of both birds from both viewpoints!

This is the first to leave. It was already climbing again within a couple of feet of the box.


Swifts - A Swift leaves SWup - 2



In contrast, the second bird dived away from the boxes and passed within a few feet of the ground before heading up again.


Swifts - The pair of Swift leaving SWup



In this composite of the two birds you can compare their very different attitudes at approximately the same position relative to the boxes.

Also you can see the loudspeaker box enclosure to the left of the boxes.


The birds in SWup always seem to approach the box from the direction of the street at the front of the house, and also leave towards the street. In contrast, I see the pair from STle entering from both street and garden directions, although when leaving they usually take the garden route.

While the street provides the nearest open space to the front of the house, it isn't without its obstacles as there are telephone wires. If I look down the driveway from the garden I can see seven cables (all at around eaves height ) that radiate out from a telegraph post a couple of houses away.

During the afternoon the boxes fell quiet, at least until the female paid a visits to STle at 4.14pm, staying for just over 20 minutes.

Rain clouds roll in during the evening

As the evening progressed the skies turned dark prematurely as lower cloud rolled in from the south-west and brought a shower at 8pm, and there was a rumble of thunder and more rain soon afterwards, which looks as though it will continue for a while (there is a weather warning out for heavy rain right through the night!).

Despite this and with heavy rain now falling and more thunder, there is no sign of the Swifts heading for cover as of 8.20pm.


The first of the Swifts to return tonight was the female from STle, arriving at 8.35pm, well ahead of the others. Next to arrive was one of the SWup birds at 9.08pm. 'White-Spot' returned at 9.14pm and the second bird from SWup arrived at 9.16pm. It must have called before arriving as I saw the bird already in the box move from the nest to look out of the entrance moments before that second bird entered the box.


17 July - A miserable day weather wise, although we didn't get the heavy overnight rain that was suggested by the forecast. There were a few brighter spells during the morning, but also periods of drizzle and the occasional heavier shower, with the temperature remaining below 18C all day.

In STle the pair started moving about at around 7am and as usual the female was the first to leave, going at 7.07am. 'White-Spot left at 7.22am. Over in SWup the birds started moving about and looking out of the exit by 6.30am, but in the end the pair stayed in the box until they left in quick succession at 9.24am - I think the latest start yet (I'll have to check back through the diaries to confirm that).

One of the pair returned to SWup at 10.26am, with the second bird joining it at 10.38am. This time they left at 11.09am. AS the afternoon started there were visits by individual birds at 12.03pm (staying for 14 minutes) and 12.42pm (staying for just 4 minutes).

The pair visited SWup again just after 2pm (arriving at 2.03/2.06pm) and stayed for much longer - not leaving until 3.34pm (there was heavy rain during this stay).

Over in STle, the earlier start was followed by several individual visits during the morning, all by the female bringing in down (at 8.39 to 9.26am; at 10.49 to 11.10am and then just after noon at 12.12 - 12.20pm).

At 12.22pm 'White-Spot' entered STle. While he was still in the box, the female arrived at 12.40pm. The pair involved themselves in lots of mutual preening. It turned into a long stay, with the female eventually leaving at 1.42pm but her partner staying another 10 minutes.

I hoped to take advantage of this visit to STle to get some more pictures as the birds left. As soon as I saw the female arrive I positioned a camera directly below the nest box,  pointing vertically up, with a battery powered tv to monitor cctv feed from the box as I sat at the end of the drive.

It was a long but interesting wait. While that pair stayed put (and there was a visits to SWup)  there were several periods of noisy Swift activity outside, with birds investigating the eaves of our and our neighbours' houses, the House Martin boxes, the loudspeaker enclosure, and there were even several attempts to enter the House Sparrow boxes. Despite this activity the pair showed no interest in joining the other Swifts.

For me, my wait came to a disappointing end when it started drizzling quite heavily (not good for image quality when your camera is pointing skyward!). The first of the pair left as I took the camera back under cover....

A Swift brings a feather into SWup despite the rain outside

As we moved into the evening a Swift entered SWup with a feather (I know that I've said it before, but how do they find things like this in these wet conditions?). The partner arrived six minutes later, and the pair have stayed put, snuggled up together in the nest cup.

It is approaching 9pm as I write this and it really looks as though they have settled for the night, although at the moment it is a little brighter than it has been for many hours.


In similar fashion, the female from STle entered that box at 5.46pm and she too has stayed ever since. If she remains in for the night it means that she has been on the wing for just over 8 hours today (in the box for nearly 16 hours out of the 24 hour period starting at 9pm last night).

A bit of brightness sneaks under the clouds at sunset


As the sky in the north-west turned red, 'White-Spot' joined his partner at 9pm, and I have just been watching the pair a couple of minutes later.

He was vigorously preening his partner while she held a bit of down in her beak - curious, considering that she had been in the box for over 3 hours at that point.


At this time of year, and if the sky is clear, the boxes on our north wall are bathed in sunlight. Although that isn't quite the case tonight, the brightness of the sunset seems to have tempted at least one of the pair in SWup to at least take a couple of looks outside since 9pm. However, neither bird has left.

Looking back over the last 24 hours since, 9.20pm yesterday, this pair has now been in the box together for some 17hr 44min (the box has also been occupied by a single bird for an additional 39 minutes).


18 July - A sunny morning with few clouds in the early part of the morning.

The bright start prompted an early departure for the female in STle. She headed out at 6.41am after spending nearly twelve hours in the box. Her partner, 'White-Spot', left six minutes later.

He was back in with some down at 7.12am, and was still in the box when the female brought some in at 7.36am. She left at 8.24am and returned with more down six minutes later. She left once more at 8.42am and 'White-Spot' followed four minutes later.

The female brought in a feather at 8.57am and this time stayed for just nine minutes.

At 9.30am 'White-Spot' was in with down, and again he stayed until his partner arrived at 10.09am (more down). These were their final visits to STle this morning, and they left at 10.33/10.34am with the female going first, as usual.

Over in SWup things were a lot quieter during the morning. While the pair started looking out by 6am, it was 6.49am when they left in quick succession.

It was 9.57am before one returned with down, with its partner arriving with a feather at 10.10am. The pair stayed in the box until 10.30am when they left after their only visit of the morning.

There were no visits during the afternoon, by which time the skies had turned grey once more. Then at 5.37pm a Swift entered SWup and stayed until 6.43pm. Three minutes later  (6.46pm) and a bird entered with down. This time it spent a while working on the nest cup before settling down, and it is still in the box at 8.40pm, although as I write this it is looking out of the entrance.

Swifts and a House Martin at 8pmAt around 8pm I decided to go outside to watch for Swift activity in the air. There was a group of at least twenty Swifts, all flying high overhead -  the largest group I've seen this season.

Sharing their airspace was a solitary House Martin, the first that I've seen for weeks. I only saw it briefly and so could only manage a fuzzy picture, but enough to confirm its presence.


At 8.42pm the female arrived in STle. The final arrivals of the day came at 9.04pm when the second bird entered SWup, and 9.06pm when 'White-Spot' joined his partner in STle.

On a technical note, I hope no-one has found themselves confused by the incorrect time on the webcam. I'm afraid that the old laptop that runs the webcam sometimes loses track of time (I guess it needs a new battery to be inserted) Fortunately, the glitch does not affect the images, and the clock is now correct, at least for the time being!

Also, The large images are now available for the last few days.


19 July - A  mild Autumnal day - at least that's what it has felt like, with the temperature struggling to reach 20C and a strong breeze from the west, with gusts over 35mph. Cloud cover has been almost complete, with just the occasional glimpse of blue, although they have remained moderately high (around 3000ft).

This morning there was once again more activity in STle than SWup.

The pair for SWup left the box at 7.41am and up until 5pm there had been just one visit to the box, taking place at 9.59am when down was brought in and the Swift remained until 10.13am.

In STle the female left at 6.51am but her partner waited until 7.18am before leaving. Then there was an almost familiar pattern of visits. At 9.46am the female brought in some down and remained for nine minutes.

Ten minutes later, at 10.05am, 'White-Spot' arrived with down. After placing the down he seemed to be waiting for his partner, approaching the exit a couple of times before she arrived with down at 10.15am. The couple remained together until the female left at 10.23am and the male followed a minute later.

The same sequence was repeated when 'White-Spot' brought more down in at 10.37am. This time he had to wait until 11.02am before the female arrived with down. The pair left at 11.20am with the female going first, followed by her partner half a minute later, and didn't return for the rest of the morning.

Neither box was visited during the afternoon.

Swift pair with down this evening


This evening it was once again SWup that received the first visitor - in fact the pair from that box arrived together at 6.24pm, both with down in their beaks.

A minute later the female arrived in STle, also with down, and at 7.15pm all three birds stayed in the boxes for the rest of the evening.


Their arrivals coincided with the brightest spell we had seen all day. By 7pm it was grey again, with the wind that hasn't eased all day moving the clouds over us very quickly.

At 8pm there was no repeat of yesterday evening's high flying group of Swifts, just a single bird at medium height - 'White-Spot'?

At 9 and 9.15pm I could still see just that solitary Swift overhead, and then at 9.16pm 'White-Spot' returned to STle. Afterwards the sky was 'Swiftless'!


20 July - A much better day - brighter, and with just a gentle breeze. This evening it's becoming more overcast and we may get rain tonight.

This morning it was again the birds in STle that left first, with the female leaving at 6,52am and 'White-Spot' going two minutes later. The pair in SWup left just over an hour later, at 7.58am.

There was a long gap before the first visits of the day - The female arrived in STle at 10.23am and a bird entered SWup two minutes later. The two left, more or less at the same time at 10.27am. There were no more visits to SWup during the rest of the morning and afternoon.

At 10.54am female returned, bringing down into STle. She left at 11.07am.

Swifts - The male greets his partner


At 11.08am the male arrived and when his partner appeared a minute later she was greeted with quite a bit of courtship preening before the female left again at 11.12am, and the male at 11.15am.

Note how the white spot on the male (in the foreground) is far less pronounced now.


Swifts - The male launches himself from the nest box



During that sequence I set up a camera to make another attempt at photographing the pair as they left. Unfortunately, this is the only image I managed to capture, moments after  'White-Spot had launched himself from the hole.




Rather than waiting for the bird to actually emerge, I use a small tv to monitor the Swifts inside the box so that I can operate the shutter as I see it preparing to leave. Unfortunately (and carelessly!) on this occasion I had chosen to use the wrong camera. Canon 5D's continuous shutter rate of 3 frames per second was too slow. The speed at which a Swift leaves its nest site is so fast that it was able to move out of frame in the gap between consecutive shutter operations. Next time I'll remember to use my 20D with its 5 frames/sec continuous shutter mode.

The morning ended with another meeting of the pair. This time it was 'White-Spot' that arrived first, bringing in down. When the female arrived four minutes later it appeared that she may have had an insect ball in her throat, and I'm not sure if she passed some food to her partner - I need to look again at the sequence when I end the recording later this evening. As usual, the female left first, at 12.08pm with her partner following four minutes later.

I have checked the recording tonight and it appears that I was wrong. I had watched the visit live on a small screen, but looking at it again on a larger screen it was clear that the light coming in through the entrance must have emphasised the light throat patch. The only time that her throat was actually enlarged was when she called during the encounter.

After that there was just one more visits during the afternoon when the male brought in a large amount of down at 12.38pm, leaving again five minutes later.

The evening's activities started with the female bringing down into STle at 6.30pm (she left again at 6.50pm)  and down being brought into SWup a minute later. This Swift left at 7.07pm and was back in the box ( or was it the partner?) at 7.19pm.

I went outside at 8pm and could see just one Swift high off to the south of us - no sign of the group that was here two evenings ago.

The female arrived in STle at 8.52pm and 'White-Spot' joined her two minutes later - he's early tonight!

Across in SWup, the only Swift there at 9pm had been looking out of the exit for most of the last half hour, and left the box at 9.05pm. A Swift (the same one?) entered the box a minute later, and its partner arrived at 9.12pm to complete the 'set'.

With the white spot on the male in STle now much more difficult to see, today it has meant me making a couple of mistakes in the initial entry that I made, although these have now been corrected).


- Click on images to see larger versions -

2009 Nestbox Diary Index...........Start of the Year..........  ..July (part 4)

The arrival of the Swifts