The 2013 Nestbox Diary
June - part 2
20 June - On grey day, which so far (It's now 3.40pm) has remained dry despite of a dire weather forecast, things are are going from very good to even better on the Swift front.
As well as continued visits being made to the boxes at the front of our house, we also now have a pair in SW(lo), and they seemed to have made themselves well and truly at home, with a great deal of mutual preening going on!
This is really great news, and could leave my plan to replace the box in doubt - one reason for replacing the box was that this particular box hadn't been visited for the last couple of years.
In SW(ri), with hatching still a few days away, incubation continues without any problems, and in SW(le) the chicks were left unattended for a while this afternoon.
You can just make out the dark streaks on their backs as feathers start to develop.
As far as the nest boxes that I put up for my neighbours are concerned, yesterday I saw a Swift visiting another one of them.
Up to now I haven't tried to label those four pairs of boxes, but with the encouraging increase of Swift interest that we are seeing this year I have decided to refer to them as SW(mm), SW(km), SW(sr) and SW(vj), using the first initials of the house owners.
So far this season I have confirmed that there is a pair in SW(sr)ri - the right hand box, and yesterday's visitor entered SW(mm)le. The problem with this box is that I can only see SW(mm) if I walk up our road a short way, so observations will be infrequent to say the least!
22 June - The last two days I have seen virtually no Swift activity overhead, very likely thanks to the change in the weather. However, things are still positive as far as our nest boxes are concerned.
In SW(lo) the new pair maybe hasn't quite settled down yet. Last night they were both in when my recording stopped at 10pm.
When the recorder restarted at 5am this morning there was just one - I have no idea as to when the other bird left.
At least this image shows clearly the occupant of SW(up) - our long term Sparrow rooster.
The missing Swift reappeared at around 8am.
Tonight they were both back in the box by 9.30pm.
In SW(le) the chicks continue to develop, being left along more frequently as the parents both spending time away from the box in their search for food.
While the lack of noisy flying displays has meant far less activity around the boxes at the front of the house it hasn't been completely quiet. It's not possible to spend long lengths of time watching the boxes (and hoping!) I was able to confirm that a Swift entered the third box along at just before 6am, and I saw this happen again at 8.12pm.
The first visit lasted at least 2 hours (I didn't see it leave) and this evening it hadn't left by the time recording ceased at 10pm.
At 9. 26pm I was surprised by another Swift arrival, this time to the second box along. As with the other bird, it did not leave before 10pm, so it looks as though we have two boxes occupied, if only by single swifts.
From now on I intend to refer to this set of boxes with the designations SW(A), SW(B), SW(C) and SW(D), with SW(A) being the box nearest the camera (A = Adjacent!).
23 June - Threatening skies again this morning, although the day started with some sunshine and activity around the new boxes.
At around 6.15am a Swift made a couple of close passes in front of the boxes before one entered SW(D). Another Swift appeared and at 6.36am one entered SW(B). This bird remained inside until 7.18am.
There was no sign of activity at SW(C) during the period 5 - 8am, even though there was definitely one in there at 10pm last night. Perhaps I need to start the recording earlier for the camera covering these boxes. With the boxes facing East it may be that occupants leave earlier than 5am.
24 June - A dry morning that started with a promising amount of sunshine had turned grey and threatening by the end of the morning.
I shall await the end of the day with interest in the hope that we will have all four boxes occupied overnight. The Sparrow may need to find another roost - it can always move into one of the House Martin boxes as these have been used in the past by roosting Sparrows and Blue Tits.
Also, I need confirmation that this 'new' bird is not just the partner of the one in SW(lo) as I have not yet seen both of those birds present at the same time as there is a Swift in SW(up). I checked through the morning's recording to see if this situation occurred and the pattern of comings and goings that I saw suggests that it may well be the partner and not a newcomer.
Today marks the start of the 'hatching window' in SW(ri).
However, with the eggs having been laid on 5/7 June and the incubation period lasting between 19 - 25 days we could have to wait a while longer, especially as the eggs have been left unattended (as seen here at noon) a lot more than those in SW(le).
Meanwhile, IN SW(le) the chicks (7/8 days old now) appear to be doing well.
What you cannot see in the image are several examples of the parasitic flat-fly Crataerina paillida. I know that the nest was clear of the parasite's over-wintering eggs so these adults must have arrived with one or both of the chicks' parents.
I have yet to check through this morning's recording covering the boxes at the front of the house for any activity during the early sunshine, but on the basis of last night's recording I can now be sure that boxes SW(B) and SW(C) are each occupied by at least one Swift.
25 June - For a change it was a bright, sunny morning with hardly a cloud in the sky - good Swift weather! However, by the afternoon there was more white than blue sky, although the cloud cover was quite high. It was mild, with Farnborough recording 18C at noon.
First, a few observations about activities last night in SW(up) and SW(lo) -
The first bird to arrive for the night was the Sparrow, entering SW(up) at 8.15pm and settling down in its usual position in the corner next to the entrance.
At 8.22pm both Swifts were in SW(lo) with mutual preening taking place. At 8.33pm one of them left again, its partner leaving at 8.51pm.
A minute later a Swift entered SW(up), ignoring the Sparrow, and settled down below the camera position.
For the next 40 minutes the two birds shared the box.
At around 9.25pm the Swift gradually moved back towards the entrance, and by 9.30pm it was alongside the Sparrow, looking out of the box. Then it decided to turn away from the opening, and in doing so a wingtip touched the Sparrow.
This triggered a defensive peck from the Sparrow -a foolish mistake. In a blur of feathers the two birds wrestled for a few moments before the Sparrow was evicted, leaving behind a trail of small, downy feathers!
Back in SW(lo) the other Swift came and went a couple of times over the next half hour, and when recording ceased at 10pm the two Swifts were in separate boxes.
It does look as though the two birds are the pair, although I have still to come up with a reason for them roosting apart.
A state of confusion continued through the morning. For a while around 11am there were two Swifts in SW(up) for the first time this year, but then at midday the first bits of nesting material were brought into SW(lo) and glued into place.
Tonight it's a case of one up/one down once more, and no Sparrow!
And in SW(ri) there are no chicks yet - once again the eggs were left unattended for what seemed to be long periods.
26 June - A day on which the temperature reached 20C by lunchtime, only to turn cloudy and cooler in the afternoon, news from the nest boxes was also mixed.
First, it looks as though the indecision is over in favour of SW(up) rather than SW(lo).
This afternoon the pair spent time in the upper box,
and tonight they are roosting together in there.
In SW(le) the chicks now give parents a vigorous greeting when they return with food, including quite a bit of the neck and head preening that so often occurs between the adults.
In what has to be a disappointing contrast, the birds in SW(ri) continued to neglect their eggs today.
At the end of the afternoon I noticed that one had even been displaced out of the nest cup area (top-left image). It was gathered back in a bit later, but by the time the adults had started to settle down for the night the two eggs were at either end of the box (centre image - captured at 9.38pm) and being ignored as the birds moved about in the box..
A short time before 10pm the adults were side by side, but it's possible that the fact that they were 'on' one of the eggs was by accident rather than design.
I haven't had chance to check for activity today around the boxes at the front of the house.
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