The 2012 Nestbox Diary

June (part 1)

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A reminder of the monitored nest boxes on our house at mybitoftheplanet - 

The original Swift boxes at the eastern end of our north-facing wall. Only the upper box has been used for nesting. Both boxes are equipped with cameras and microphones

Attached to the boxes is a speaker enclosure used to broadcast Swift calls and designed to deflect most of the sound upwards away from my neighbours' house.

Later this year I may replace these nest boxes with a neater side by side arrangement.

This pair of Swift boxes is at the western end of the wall. The boxes were originally put up for Starlings. Both boxes are equipped with cameras and microphones.

New for 2012 this group of Swift boxes is on the front of the house, facing East. They will not have cameras installed permanently but in boxes 1 - 3 there is a small hole into the loft to allow for a microphone or small camera to be used on a temporary basis when nesting takes place.

Also on the front way is this trio of artificial House Martin nests. Not used since a complete brood died of starvation during bad weather in 2007. However, the boxes are equipped with cameras and monitoring continues each year.


4 June - A rather miserable start to June, with damp weather and cool temperatures (max 13C today) and no new positive news from the nest boxes. In fact, the news from SW(ri) is rather disappointing.

The daytime relationship between the resident of that box and a second Swift was still on course on the 2nd. However, over the last two days there has been only a single bird in the box. Does this mark the end of the relationship, or will the 'partner' return when/if the weather improves?

Meanwhile, in SW(le) incubation continues without incident.

5 June - Perhaps it was the weather that kept the second Swift away - this morning the 'partner' has reappeared in SW(ri), making a brief appearance at around 4.40am when the resident Swift returned from its first flight of the morning at 4.40am.

Swift pair in SW(ri) this morning, 5 June 2012

The pair returned to the box again soon after 6am and this time they stayed for over two hours.

During that time a great deal of mutual preening went on and the noise emanating from the box suggested that at least one of the pair was happy to have the other about!

It's a bit frustrating that now I have some high quality microphones available that could be used to get a better recording, but incubation going on in the other half of the double nest box rules out any attempt to install one in SW(ri).

I've been at my woodwork challenge again today under the shelter of our veranda while the rain has fallen almost constantly since the late morning. By the end of the afternoon the main water butt is full and the water is now being diverted into the big pond, although it will need a couple more hours of rain to get that back up to its 'high water mark'. In the morning the temperature got up to 13C, but with the arrival of the rain it had fallen back to a miserable 10C by 4pm.

Swift nest boxes after 5pm this afternoon, 5 June 2012

During the time I spent outside I didn't hear any Swift screams. In fact, I haven't heard any for the last few days.

However, there is a spark of hope as afternoon turns to evening. As I write this at 5.25pm we have two pairs of Swifts in residence - fingers crossed that it remains this way when dusk falls!

The webcam will be out of action for a while this evening as I replace our modem and router. Hopefully the process will be painless and quick ...... It would have been, except that the call centre that would activate the new kit is closed for the bank holiday! The webcam is back in operation and I'll try again tomorrow.

Swift pair in SW(ri) tonight, 5 June 2012

And finally, the pair in SW(ri) are together in the box tonight. Perhaps now they will get on with the business of raising a family!

6 June - I've been too busy to watch the Swifts today, but tonight I see that we are back to just one bird in SW(ri), so the frustrating situation continues.

8 June - The confusing behaviour by the birds in SW(ri) may be showing signs of sorting itself out. Last night both birds stayed overnight, and tonight they are both in the box again, with a several feathers having been brought in during the day.

Today the weather has been rather miserable, with light rain or drizzle for much of the time and quite strong wings for the south-west, although nothing as strong as the forecast suggested.

Weather like this sometimes tempts me to wonder why Swifts don't just up sticks and head back to warmer climes. Since 2010 the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has been carrying out a study of the migration behaviour of Swifts by fitting some adults with geolocators. These devices were retrieved in 2011 and the BTO have published a summary of their initial results on a page that contains a map that I can only describe as an amazing record of a Swift's travels when it leaves its nest in the UK - well worth a look.

12 June - The weather has continued poor since that previous entry with constantly grey skies and dampness, and some periods of heavy rain.

For the Swifts (and the other garden birds) this is a period of survival as much as anything, with precious few flying insects to be seen.

Swifts (and eggs) in our nest boxes tonight, 12 June 2012Despite the conditions, SW(ri) has now had a pair of Swifts in residence for the last five nights. Last year this box saw similar behaviour, with a pair not settling in the box until 11 June and not producing their first egg until 2 July. It will be interesting to see if/when eggs are produced in SW(ri) this year.

In SW(le) the count-down to hatching is underway. It isn't possible to know how much the weather conditions will have affected the  development of the eggs, but under similar conditions last year the eggs in SW(le) hatched in  20 and 23 days.

On that basis the current pair of eggs could hatch between 15 - 18 June.

15 June - Hatching takes place in SW(le)

Swifts in SW(le) this morning - broken shell? 15 June 2012

On a morning of sunshine and showers the first of the two eggs laid in SW(le) has hatched, the first sign coming at 6.17am when a piece of crumpled shell appeared as one of the adults prepared to leave.

First glimpses of the chick in SW(le), 15 June 2012

It was another half an hour before confirmation came as a chick appeared from under the parent on the left of this image,

Newly hatched Swift chick at 8.05am, 15 June 2012

and it was just after 8am when I got the clearest view yet of the chick that has hatched twenty days after being laid on 26 May.

Fortunately, today the sunshine is likely to ensure a supply of flying insects for the parents to harvest, although as I mentioned in the garden diary we may be in for another 'rinse cycle' before the end of the day.

16 June - The 2nd egg hatches -

A dry but very windy day until the end of the afternoon when drizzle descended.

I had a busy day and haven't been able to go through recordings, but I can confirm that the second egg in SW(le) hatched this morning. Hopefully I can capture some images tomorrow.

While the pair in SW(ri) are in residence every night now we are still waiting for them to produce.

Tonight the webcam is out of action as a fault in our cable company's network has knocked out both our internet and television service. I'm told that they hope to correct the fault during the night - of course I can't upload this entry until things are back to normal!

- Click on the images to see larger versions -


2012 Nestbox Diary Index .......... .........................................................  ..June (part 2)