The 2012 Nestbox Diary

May (part 3)

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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.


17 May - Another cloudy day, although bright enough to sit outside for a while this afternoon (when we saw not a single Swift!). There was no rain until we had a light shower early this evening.

Swift pair in SW(ri), 17 May 2012

Once again we have a pair of Swifts in SW(ri). They arrived earlier this evening, around 6.30pm, and are still in there an hour later. They certainly behave as if they are a pair, with some mutual preening. One is quite vocal. It will be interesting to see what happens at dusk.

At 8pm they are still in the box, and there are eight more Swifts circling in the sky above us. The pair left at 8.15pm.

Tonight we are back to the 'usual' combination once more, with  two Swifts in SW(le) and just the one in SW(ri) - puzzling!

20 May - The last two days have seen nothing new to report on. However, today the confusing behaviour in SW(ri) has reared its head again today.

Before going on with the entry I should point out that on images where there are two times shown, the left hand image indicates time lapsed since recording began, which is set at 4am at the moment.

Swift pair in SW(ri), 11.43am 20 May 2012

At 11.43am a second bird arrived in SW(ri) and the pair remained together until one left at 12.27pm. A great deal of mutual preening took place during that period, and all seemed well between them.

During the rest of the day I was otherwise engaged so wasn't watching.

Second Swift with feather enters SW(ri), 7.35pm 20 May 2012

At 7.35pm a second bird entered once again, this time with a feather in its beak, while there were two birds in SW(le).

Swift 'intruder' forced to leave SW(ri), 7.35pm 20 May 2012

This time the greeting it received was far from warm. While the pair didn't engage in a major fight of the type I've witnessed in past years, the 'intruder' was soon forced to leave.

Second Swift enters SW(ri) again at 8.17pm, 20 May 2012

There was another attempt to join the inhabitant of SW(ri) at 8.17pm,

Second Swift enters & is forced out of SW(ri) at 9.03pm, 20 May 2012

and again at 9.03pm.

This time the intruder only just made it into the box before being forced back out.

I'm puzzled. The 'intruder' has shown no sign of trying to take over the box, and the pair have settled down side by side several times.

Tonight we are back to the situation of having the single Swift in SW(ri) while the pair in SW(le) is showing no sign of nest preparation so far - today's feather was the first I've seen brought into a box by a Swift this Spring.

The forecast is for very warm weather from mid-week. It will be interesting to see if this brings a change in behaviour, as well as more Swifts. I saw no more than five in flight over us at any one time today.

21 May - No change tonight - we still have just the three Swifts in residence and I did not see a repeat of yesterday's behaviour. There were twelve Swifts overhead around dusk but as far as I can tell there were no inspections of the empty boxes.

I found another dead Sparrow chick in our driveway today.

22 May - 
Under almost cloudless skies Farnborough recorded a high of 24C today, despite the breeze coming from a northerly direction. I wondered if this drastic change in conditions would have some effect on the behaviour of the Swift in SW(ri) but it seems I was wrong.

A second Swift in SW(ri), 22 May 2012

Family commitments meant that I only watched the nest boxes for brief periods during the day, and during those times I saw a second bird in SW(ri) three times. Each time the pair seemed to be on friendly terms with lots of mutual preening going on.

'Visitor' ejected from SW(ri) tonight, 22 May 2012

However, at 7.41pm, and with the pair in SW(le) already settling down for the night, in SW(ri) there was a violent reaction when the second bird attempted to enter.

Yet again it was very quickly forced back out of the box. Subsequently the lone Swift also left for a short time before returning to spend another night on its own.

23 May - Just a brief entry today -

More visits by second Swift to SW(ri), 23 May 2012

The puzzling relationship in SW(ri) continues. I had the chance to look at the monitor screen only infrequently today, but those moments were enough to confirm that the pair of Swifts in SW(ri) were spending a lot of time together, engaged in much preening.

This sequence shows the pair during four different visits to the box, and they were together in there least another four times with absolutely no aggression between them. However, as the final image shows, tonight once again there is just the one bird in residence.

24 May - A maximum temperature of 26C today.

Daytime relationship in SW(ri) continues, 24 May 2012The daytime relationship in SW(ri) continues, with at least three long sessions when the pair of birds spent time together with no aggression between them, but with just the single Swift roosting tonight.

The pair in SW(le) continues to occupy their box with nothing new to report. They have not brought in any feathers up to now, and there is not much in the way of mutual preening going on between the pair.

26 May - The first Swift Egg is laid -

 The bright, sunny weather continues. After a breezy day yesterday, with a high of 25C today is expected to be similar.

First egg laid in SW(le), 26 May 2012

Some time this morning the pair of Swifts in SW(le) had their first egg. Last year the first egg in this box was laid on 21 May and on 24 May in 2010.

At 11am the pair have yet to leave the box for the first time today.

Early morning visitor in SW(ri), 26 May 2012
While the pair in SW(le) are now getting on with producing a family, in SW(ri) a daytime relationship is still the norm.

After spending another night alone, the Swift from SW(ri) first left at 5.43am and when it returned at 6.40am it was with its 'partner'. There was lots of mutual preening before they left again at around 7am.

Interestingly, just after the pair arrived another bird approached the entrances of both SW(ri) and SW(le). Another Swift? I don't think it was a Starling - I would have seen a beak at the entrance.

Once again, at dusk SW(ri) had just one occupant.

28 May - A grey start to what is forecast to be another very warm day, if with a slim chance of rain at the end of the afternoon.

I'm afraid that I wasn't watching the boxes yesterday, but there wasn't another egg laid, and overnight SW(ri) still had just the one occupant.

Another early visit to SW(ri), 28 May 2012

However, as I write this at approaching 7.45am there are two Swifts in SW(ri).

The lone occupant made several short duration trips out after 5am and when it returned at 5.24am it did so with a second bird, the pair remaining in the box until around 7.50am.

At 8.20am I'm still waiting to see if another egg has been laid in SW(le), although the reluctance of the female(?) to move suggests this.

Second egg laid by Swift in SW(le), 28 May 2012

And much later in the morning the second egg was confirmed.

30 May -
Nothing significant to report. No more eggs in SW(le), and judging by the amount of time that one or other of the pair is spending sitting on the two eggs it looks as though incubation is underway.

In SW(ri) the daytime relationship continues. I saw two birds in the box a couple of times today, but tonight there was a brief fight when a second bird tried to enter after 9pm. The intruder was ejected within a minute of it entering the box.

There are definitely more Swifts about now. Today I've counted somewhere between 15 - 20, and I'm sure that yesterday I saw a pair enter one of the boxes across the road from us. I need to point a camera at it and record for an hour or so before dusk to try and confirm this for the house owner. If I'm correct she will be very pleased indeed, and so will I!

31 May - The month ends with no solution to the question over the behaviour in SW(ri).

This morning the single occupant left for the first time at 4.33am and over the next three hours made a series of short trips, bringing back at least one feather. Then, at 7.42am it left the box once more but returned less than a minute later with his partner(?), a bird that seemed very familiar, with both bird and box. A period if intense interaction followed with lots of wing fluttering/vibrating and then mutual head and neck preening before they left again fifty minutes later.

The resident bird (identified by a small light patch above the base of the tail) continued to come and go over the next hour or so. At 9.48am he entered the box alone but was joined by the second bird four minutes later. More mutual preening took place before they left once more at 10.13am. That was the last time that there were two birds in the box today.

Over the rest of the day the resident bird came and went, a few times bringing in feathers, and tonight it is alone once more. There was no fight at the entrance tonight.

I have seen no activity in any of our vacant nest boxes this month, although yesterday I saw Swifts approaching several of the Sparrow boxes which have round entrances (they did this last year too). Nether have I seen any Swift activity around the entrance to the original nest site in my neighbour's roof. If my boxes SW(up) and SW(lo) are not used this year I will probably replace then with a pair of side by side boxes before the 2013 nesting season.

- Click on the images to see larger versions -


2012 Nestbox Diary Index .......... .........................................................  ..June (part 1)