The 2011 Nestbox Diary

May (part 1)

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2 May - With the strong winds continuing to blow from the wrong direction it seems that the arrival of the Swifts (and House Martins?) is still on hold here. I have seen no individuals of either species over the last few days, not even those that arrived before the wind.

At least the wind has swung round slightly and is now close to being easterly, with the prospect that come Wednesday it may even swing round to a more southerly direction.

In the meantime, the only nest box activity to report on since my last entry is that last night a male Sparrow chose to roost in Martin nest 1. Tonight all the boxes are empty once more.

The image problem (mentioned in the previous entry) that affected the Martin nest images has been sorted by replacing the multiplexer.



3 May - The first of our Swifts has returned!

It was mainly cloud-free again, the winds moderated somewhat (13 - 18mph), and coming from an easterly direction all day.

During the day there was still no sign of either Swifts or Martins, and the skies remained empty while I watched between 7.30-7.50pm.

First Swift arrives, 3 May


I had just settled down to process a few photographs for the garden diary when at 8.03pm a Swift entered box SW-up.

This was the first box to be occupied last year, and I guess that this is likely to be the same bird.

It remained in the box for about 20 minutes, left for 17minutes and finally returned for the night at 8.40pm. No other Swifts arrived this evening, and all other boxes remain empty.



4 May - Webcam now in operation

A day on which the wind direction swung from being ENE at 7am to SSE by 2pm, with wind speeds down below 10mph for most of the time, and with mainly blue skies.

And it is clearly making a difference. At around noon I heard my first screams of the year when a trio of Swifts flew the length of our shared driveway at high speed.

For our first arrival the day started  at around 5.30am when it started to move about the box, although it didn't decide to leave until 6.16am, returning six minutes later. It went out for another 25 minutes at 7.26am, and finally left for the day at 8.31am.

The webcam is now up and running. As usual, it is running via my old Win98 laptop and is intended to be available to just about any old computer, so that amongst other things I can monitor the four boxes from my mobile phone!

cctv quad image, 4 May


This picture shows the order in which the boxes appear on the webcam.

While at this stage the boxes are likely to remain empty for most of the day, anyone watching this afternoon will see that a male Sparrow has decided that today is a good time to lay claim to SW-ri and is spending time just inside the entrance, looking out and calling!

It has also been checking out the other three boxes.


Swift in SW-up, 4 May



This evening, soon after 8pm the Swift returned to SW-up.

Just afterwards I spent a while outside looking up towards a high level and rather featureless blanket of high level but didn't see any other Swifts over us.





5 May - Swift #2 arrives -

The wind direction has finally become southerly at 1pm, having started the day blowing from the east north-east. It's been a steady breeze of around 10-12mph and by 1pm the temperature outside was 18C.

The Swift from SW-up left just after 7am and was back in half an hour later. In the meantime SW-ri was once again being visited by a Sparrow.

Secind Swift arrives, 5 May

At 10.33am a second Swift made its return, this time to SW-le. This image was captured a short time later, giving me my first opportunity to confirm that we now have two Swifts here.

Next to arrive should be the partners of these birds.

As the month progresses I will keep my fingers crossed that we will also see the other two boxes occupied for the first time.




6 May - And then there were four, for a short time at least!

A Swift visits SW-ri, 6 May


The day had a surprise start when at 6.32am a third Swift appeared on the scene, or more precisely in SW-ri.

The Swift in SW-up left its box at 7.40am, and the new arrival departed at 7.40am. It didn't return to the box again today.

It was 8.28am before the Swift in SW-le decided to leave.



Both pairs of Swifts now in their boxes, 6 May

The Swift from SW-le made just a single visit over the next hour, and then at 9.47am two Swifts entered the box. A minute later a pair entered SW-up and it seemed that our two pairs from last year had made a safe return from their fantastic journey.

The pair from SW-up left at 10am and the others eight minutes later.



SW-up - morning and evening, 6 May


During the day the SW-up pair returned several times, and tonight they are roosting side by side.




SW-le - morning and evening, 6 May


However, once the pair from SW-le left  the box this morning only a single bird visited during the rest of the day, and tonight it is roosting alone.

Both SW-lo and SW-ri remain empty tonight.




7 May - Heavy rain around dawn.

Sparrow visits Swift boxes, 7 May



A mixed up sort of day in the boxes. First, after the three Swifts left in the morning it seemed that the Sparrows had decided to choose SW-up as their nest site, although with some attention also given to SW-lo.


Sparrow pair consider nesting in SW-up, 7 May


In SW-le I saw a couple of instances of the 'swop-over' behaviour I watched numerous times last year, and in which the male gave up his position in the nest cup as the female approached him across the nest.

I wasn't able to monitor the boxes as much as I would have liked, I don't think that the box was visited by the Swifts during the day.


Sparrow and Swift 'shuffle' in Swift boxes, 7 May



That wasn't the case in SW-le which saw numerous visits by just a single Swift. On several occasions I even saw her(?) performing a shuffle, behaviour also undertaken by one of the Sparrows in SW-up.



At the end of the day the status quo was restored in SW-up with the return of both Swifts. However, after having Swift visits during the day, SW-le remained empty after dark.


From this point onwards while we were in Cornwall, entries were written on the basis of webcam images downloaded onto my mobile phone, usually twice each day, in the morning and then after dark.


8 May -

Swift pairs in residence tonight, 8 May



After failing to return to SW-le last night, that pair of Swifts have returned and are back in residence tonight.




9 May -

Swift pairs in residence tonight, 9 May



and both pairs are here again tonight.





10 May -

One of the Swifts is absent again tonight, 10 May



Tonight we are back to three Swifts again - so what is going on?




12 May - The confusion continues.

The Swifts in SW-le this morning, 12 May



This first image shows both Swifts present in SW-le this morning,



Only 3 Swifts in residence tonight, 12 May



but only the one again tonight.





13 May - And the pattern seems to have been repeated again today,

A Swift from SW-le missing again tonight, 13 May


with both birds in SW-le when I checked this morning, but only one in there after dark.

In the meantime the pair using SW-up are both present every night.




- Click on the images to see larger versions -

2011 Nestbox Diary Index .......... .......................................................  ..May (part 2)