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Swift Bricks

Earlier this year, I forwarded to all members a request to add to a petition as many signatures as possible to ask the government to legislate for swift bricks to be installed in all new houses built. I know that many of our members responded positively and we have heard that the petition passed the required

number by many thousands, so let us hope that something comes of it.

I am sure that I have mentioned this before, but soon after I moved to Hungerford, I had my builders reduce the height of the chimney on the end of the house as it appeared to have shifted slightly outwards over the years, leaving gaps between many of the tiles that end. While the scaffolding was up, I ordered 4 swift bricks and the builders were able to insert them into the new brickwork where the top of the chimney had been. Great! I obtained Swift calls from Swift Conservation and as soon as the birds appeared in May, I played the calls at top volume via a Bluetooth loudspeaker to encourage them to find the boxes. Not constantly, I might add – got to think of the neighbours! The birds were definitely interested, but it soon became clear that the boxes were already occupied – by House Sparrows. And the House Sparrows had at least 2 broods, although later I did notice one pair of Swifts going into one of them. Success! But they were obviously very late starters, the last I saw of them was the 2nd week of August and I have no idea if breeding was successful.

A swift brick is actually made of plastic (at least mine are) and is inserted into the cavity wall with just the front and entrance hole exposed. It is ‘L’ shaped inside with the nest compartment offset from the entrance. It is also inaccessible to us to clean out or check it either inside or out, and for me they are inaccessible anyway being so high, too high for my double length ladder. This year, there appeared to be fewer House Sparrows about in March and April, maybe because of the cold and wet spring, I don’t know. So, from the first Swift being noticed over the estate, I started playing the calls again. I knew that at least one pair of sparrows was up there, probably in all four, but I hoped. Then holidays came up so no more calls. 4 or 5 birds were regularly coming between the houses, sometimes screaming, but I couldn’t see the wall from the house or garden so always assumed they just passed through. Until this week, Tuesday 18th July, when I was getting my bin from the front gate, I looked up to watch the birds and one went straight into the highest brick! While I stood there open-mouthed, another went into the lower one. I had no idea!

Two days later, on Thursday, the adults were clinging to the holes before sweeping away again, with other birds screaming through. They were around high or low between the houses all day, and I am sure I heard calls from the box. Were they trying to encourage young birds out? On Friday they were mostly feeding very high with occasional screaming flights close. Always difficult to count in flight, was I imagining more than usual up there? There must have been young birds from other nests too so I still don’t know if young fledged from my nests. No sightings at all today with rain all day.

I think that I will have to get a trail camera installed for next season to be sure of what is going on. Trouble is, I will have to ask the neighbours if it can go on their porch or somewhere to be able to see the boxes. Maybe I should have asked for the bricks to be installed in their wall so that I can see them all the time!


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