Swifts Diary 2017

This year, the first swift was spotted around the Museum tower on Friday 5 May. Details of nesting pairs and their chicks will be updated week by week through the summer months. 

  • 5 May 2017
    Our first sighting of swifts which have flown back from Africa, with three swifts flying past the tower this morning.
  • 9 May 2017
    There are between six and eight swifts flying around the Museum calling this morning. It is a cool, dry, overcast day, but some birds are back in the boxes. Surprisingly, the boxes occupied first are in the second floor down, whereas usually the top floor is occupied first. Three pairs are in boxes on the south face of the tower, two pairs on the north face, and one pair on the east face.
  • 15 May 2017
    The recent rain and humid conditions have not encouraged the swifts to lay eggs yet. There are eight pairs of swifts sitting in nestboxes on Monday morning. They have been flying around outside much of the time, so the webcam is often showing only an empty nestbox. We need two days of warm sunshine to encourage the swifts to nest. We hope to have more news next Monday.
  • 22 May 2017
    The warm humid weather with occasional heavy rain and light winds has been good for insects and birds. Today we have 15 adults sitting tight, and they may all be incubating. Another three nests contain warm eggs, but the adults were absent. One further nest contains two cold eggs. One other nest is being built next to an existing nest pad. Two of the occupied boxes were not used in 2016. The nest shown on the webcam now has three eggs – one laid on Wednesday, one on Friday, and one on Sunday.
  • 5 June 2017
    We now have 23 nests occupied, with at least 18 eggs visible. Many of the birds that are sitting tight will be on eggs, so potentially there should be more than 60 eggs present. Seven of the nestboxes contain pairs of adults, and the other 16 have a single bird incubating, while its partner is feeding. The cool wet weather limits the amount of insect food available.
  • 12 June 2017
    We had heavy rain and strong winds at the start of the week, but mild temperatures have mitigated any effects on the swifts. There are 24 active nests, containing over 30 young and at least eight eggs still to hatch. Unfortunately one dead adult was found in a nestbox; it was extremely thin and had probably starved. The webcam nest now has three chicks, which hatched three weeks after they were laid. The birds are just starting to grow their feathers.
  • 19 June 2017
    We are experiencing a heatwave, with temperatures well above 30ºC. Young swifts are panting and hanging out of their nests, trying to get cool. Today's count has 26 active nests, with 10 adults and four pairs in the boxes. 46 young and more than 10 eggs are visible. The ages of the young range from newly hatched naked, blind chicks, to those starting to develop flight feathers.
  • 26 June 2017
    The hot sunny weather has encouraged the swifts and accelerated the growth of the youngsters. There have been no casualties of the prolonged hot weather. Today we have 30 occupied nests, which includes two nests with freshly laid eggs. There were 22 adults in the nests, with many young unattended. The nest where one adult was found dead two weeks ago has two surviving chicks, which are being fed by the other parent. A total of 54 young are present in the nestboxes.
  • 3 July 2017
    Following a warm sunny week, the young continue to grow. Some of the nests occupied last week by a single adult are empty this week, suggesting that the birds were merely roosting or prospecting. The total remains at 54 young, but four nests have sitting adults, so contain eggs or newly hatched young.
  • 10 July 2017
    The hot and humid weather has provided lots of insect food so the swifts are fit and healthy. There are 25 active nests containing 54 young, and two nests which each contain two eggs. Some of the young will soon begin leaving their nests to head off to Africa, while the ones still to hatch will not be leaving until September.
  • 17 July 2017
    The swifts are starting to leave their nests. Four young have fledged, and four eggs have hatched, so the total number in the tower nestboxes is the same. We also have one adult sitting itght, which may be on eggs or young swifts. It is possible that we may have a total or 56 or 58 young this year – the highest number since 2010.
  • 24 July 2017
    Most of the chicks have now left for Africa. Out of 58 hatched so far, only 20 remain. The three chicks we've been following with the camera have also left, so we have moved the camera to a nestbox where there are younger birds that hatched about three weeks ago. Another nest has three eggs where two have hatched today, but the nestbox is very difficult to access with the camera.
  • 31 July 2017
    The tower is eerily quiet now that most of the swifts have left. Only six nests remain active, containing a total of 11 young. Four of these are almost ready to leave, whilst two are only one week old so are likely to be here until September if the weather is kind.
  • 7 August 2017
    It's very quiet in the tower today. Four swifts have fledged since last week, and only four nests still contain young. Five of the seven young are quite well grown and will leave in a couple of weeks, but the other two are still very young and will need mild weather if they are to survive. A pair of adults were found in an unused box, and they may return next year to breed.
  • 14 August 2017
    Four nests remain active, containing seven chicks; of these four are almost ready to fledge, two are well grown but still fluffy, so are still at least three weeks from fledging, and one is about two weeks from leaving. It has been a very successful season this year, with many pairs producing three young, and only two nests with a single chick. Failure rates were particularly low, with only five nests where eggs were laid failing to produce live young. These nests were abandoned early on, and may have been used by inexperienced pairs.
  • 21 August 2017
    There is little to report this week. The cooler wetter weather has slowed down the chicks' development, and only one chick has been brave enough to leave the nest, so six now remain. Three of these are close to fledging, but the other three are unlikely to fledge until September.
  • 28 August 2017
    Following a warm and unsettled week of weather, only two large chicks remain in the colony. The camera has been moved to this last nest. We expect these last two chicks to leave in early September.
  • 4 September 2017
    They've all gone! 58 chicks fledged from 70 eggs, all ringed and left for Africa. There were 30 nests this year, but five failed at the egg stage during the wet cold weather in late May/early June before the heatwave. This has been the most productive season since 2010.