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Swifts in Dry Drayton



Our Swift Colony in Summer 2023

two young swifts in a nest box in Pettitts Close

Two young swifts in a nest box in Pettitts Close (thanks to Rowena Baxter)


The last few swifts had departed by 16 August closing what was a breeding season of mixed fortunes, but still reasonably successful

Although the first swifts arrived in Dry Drayton around 1st May, numbers built slowly;  migration may have been slowed by the relatively cool weather in May characterised by a north/east air flow.  Sadly, several successful breeding pairs from 2022 failed to return. However, the weather in June was in general much warmer with temperatures nearly touching 30degC by the 15th, which brought with it an influx of non-breeding birds who were very active prospecting for nest sites; so numbers of swifts seen in the sky were on a par with previous years.  Indeed, up to 40 swifts were seen in ‘clouds’ on some evenings, which seems more than in the past.  The presence of a sparrowhawk sitting adjacent to the nestboxes made the breeding birds very wary.  This seems to be a growing issue for swift colonies across the country.  Of course, large aggregations of potential prey species is always going to attract predators and sparrowhawks have chicks to feed too!

On 2nd July Pettitts Close hosted members of Girton Local Nature Recovery Plan Group so that they could see what has been achieved in Dry Drayton, with a view to starting a similar project in Girton. 

The weather in July and the first half of August was unsettled with short periods of rain and although the numbers of non-breeding swifts fell away as they made their way back to Africa, most of the breeding swifts managed to fledge their young successfully. However, chick numbers were a bit lower than last year reflecting the drop in breeding pairs.  Final numbers: around 20 breeding pairs fledging between 34-40 chicks.

An encouraging sign is that another 7 new boxes were added in Pettitts Close all of which attracted the attention of non-breeding swifts, so there could be new breeding pairs next year.

No swifts were seen investigating the internal boxes in Swifts Close. Without swift calls being played close to the nest sites, swifts’ attention has not been drawn to the holes and they have been concentrating their attention on boxes sited closer to the current nesting pairs.   Should anyone in Swifts Close be interested in using the free call playing system, please contact Rowena at 14 Pettitts Close.


Rowena Baxter and Michael Clydesdale

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Just five minutes of your time could help the UK's summer visitors


Please spend a few minutes signing an online petition which will help address the loss of nesting sites for some of our red-listed birds.

The Problem

We are inadvertently blocking swifts out of their homes by filling up their small nesting holes in our walls. When swifts return in Spring, they try endlessly to get back in, often fatally breaking their wings. If they survive, they can only breed if they manage to find another nesting site, so unsuccessful pairs are unable to contribute to their plummeting population. Swift bricks have been installed by the King when His Majesty was the Duke of Cornwall, with useful survey results. Leading scientists, ecological advisors to the government, and sustainable building assessors, have created and approved the petition. Notable politicians, including Caroline Lucas MP, are actively supporting the petition. This is a simple solution that directly seeks to counter biodiversity loss in the UK, by positively effecting 4 red listed species of British birds, our very closest urban neighbours.

A solution - make swift bricks compulsory in new housing to help red-listed birds

Swifts have declined by over 50% in the UK. Adult swifts, known for site-fidelity, return to the same nests. We want swift bricks to be required in all new housing, to provide homes for these birds. Surveys show these are used by red-listed swifts, house martins, starlings and house sparrows. Swifts spend more time airborne than any other bird, sometimes only landing when returning to their nests in our walls, from Africa. They're tidy and quiet neighbours but modern building methods block swifts out. The metric for calculating biodiversity net gain doesn't include existing nest sites in buildings, or swift bricks, but these bricks can be designed into buildings without conflicting with insulation, and should be made a requirement for new housing.
Iconic and irreplaceable, swifts define our summers. Please help them. The RSPB supports this petition.


A solution (petition) https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/626737
Petition deadline: 30th April.
Target: 100,000 signatures for parliamentary debate.
Task: if everyone who signs gets 3 people to sign, we can do it!

For queries, please contact Hannah Bourne-Taylor hannahbournetaylor.com


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How have the Dry Drayton swifts fared in summer 2022 ?

The first swifts were seen on 8th May, about 10 days later than in the last few years.  This was probably because of adverse weather conditions in the Mediterranean area during mid-late April when they would have been passing through that region.  While mentioning the Med., the unseasonal extremely high temperatures in Spain in early summer caused swift eggs to cook, and thousands of nestlings to escape the intense heat in their nests under pantiles by falling into the streets below.  Many were rescued to be rehabilitated by specialised centres set up in southern Spain, but nevertheless thousands will have perished.  In Pettitts Close three pairs of our well-established breeding swifts (two since 2014) failed to return to their nests this year. 

So, the breeding season started late here, but the weather was kind to swifts all summer with no cool rainy periods, so most chicks fledged by the end of July, which is average.  During the hottest days in July both Michael and I took steps where possible to cool the boxes that were particularly affected by the heat. This seems to have been helpful. One chick repeatedly leapt out and eventually was taken to a specialist carer, but sadly did not survive. In general 2022 was a very successful year for our swifts. Parties of up to 40 birds were counted in the sky.  Sparrowhawk and hobby were seen in the vicinity, but no local swift predation was noted this year. 4 new nest boxes were available and attracted some interest from non-breeders. Five long-standing nestboxes were newly occupied by breeding swifts; at least 40 chicks fledged from 27 occupied boxes and the last chicks fledged around 12/13 August.  It's always very sad to see them leave but we can be satisfied that swifts had a successful season in Pettitts Close.
As far as we know, none of the 10 internal boxes in the new Swifts Close houses were either investigated or occupied by swifts.  Each house in Swifts Close has one internal swift nesting box  - see photo below of typical entrance hole.  Perhaps Swifts Close residents could keep an eye out for swift activity around their houses next summer!


Rowena Baxter and Michael Clydesdale

Swift box entrance

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Report on the 2021 Season by Rowena Baxter and Michael Clydesdale


The first of the Pettitts Close swifts was seen entering a box on 25 April which is early, the main arrival time usually being the first week of May. By 1st May there were 3 zooming around the houses, but then the weather turned cool and wet for the following week and swift sightings were put on hold.

The season took off again around 9th May. On the whole, we have had another good year, with plenty of swifts. Michael reports around 50 in the sky above Pettitts Close around 9-11 July.

Sadly, 3 of our established pairs failed to raise young; two adult swifts were predated by a sparrowhawk - these two facts may well be connected. However, at least 15 pairs were successful, an estimated 30-32 chicks fledged and 26 boxes were in use at some stage. That is an increase of 8 occupied boxes, which is promising for next year.

There were still 17 swifts over the Close on the evening of 14 August and, as far as we can tell, the last chick fledged on 19 August

Our boxes and the swift colony have attracted several spectators on their evening walks. As a result one person from Cambridge has erected 5 boxes and one family in the Close are seriously looking to install up to 5 boxes before next season. Together with the 10 new 'swift bricks' in Swifts Close there should be ample opportunity for further developing the colony.


Image Courtesy of Roger Wyatt and Swifts Local Network


Image Courtesy of Roger Wyatt and Swifts Local Network


Swift Awareness Week: Sat 3rd -Sun 11th July

Swift Awareness Week was first held in 2019 with groups around the country holding over 90 events in 2020 celebrating this wonderful bird, bringing attention to its decline and encouraging people to do something about it. In Dry Drayton we already have our established colony in Pettitt's Close.  They will be very active as most will have chicks during this period. Do come along and see if you can spot the nest boxes, and even swifts going in and out at great speed!

Rowena Baxter


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2020 Report on the summer season - from Rowena Baxter 15 Sept 2020

The summer of 2020 has seen the Pettitts Close swift colony grow still further. We now have 19 active nest boxes, two more than last year which could mean nearly 40 chicks have fledged this year.


The swift year started with the very early arrival of one bird on 22nd April, nearly two weeks ahead of schedule. Other swifts were slower to arrive, which wasn't helped by  a spell of cold east wind between 9-15 May. As the weather warmed over the following few days to around 29degC on 20 May, there was a substantial influx and plenty of screaming parties and acrobatics.


Although there were some periods of unsettled and wet weather during the summer, none were prolonged and the swifts had a good year. Most birds had left by the second week of August, the last youngster fledging on 26 August. Young swifts don't go back into the nest once they fledge, they start their journey to Africa immediately. Some may return to their natal colony to breed after a few years, but many do not.


Further internal boxes are about to be built into the houses on the new development, so we hope those will give the swifts further opportunity to expand.

Rowena Baxter


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2020 From Rowena Baxter and Michael Clydesdale - Update June 19 2020

At present it is the height of the breeding season for swifts. Our colony in Pettitts Close is growing and super busy!  Why not stroll along one warm day or evening to see if you can catch some of the action?  Swift Awareness Week runs from 27 June to 5 July, but swifts will be here in numbers until the end of July. 


First Sighting 2020


Rowena Baxter reports: The first swift of the summer was spotted exiting one of the Pettitts Close boxes yesterday 21 April.  Probably the same early bird as seen by Glenn 30 April last year.    This is very early!



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Dry Drayton’s Swifts, September 2019, by Rowena Baxter.

The colony in Pettitt’s Close continues to expand.

In total there are 32 available boxes in Pettitt’s Close on various houses, 17 of which have active breeding swifts and 1-3 have swifts using them, not yet breeding but indicating they could breed next year.   Michael Clydesdale has 10 boxes on his house from which he estimates a maximum of 10 young fledged this year.  Add an estimated total of 22 young from the other boxes and we had a fledging of around 30 swiftlets this year, which is well up on last year’s estimate of 21.  The 3 ‘swift brick’ integral boxes did particularly well with 3 chicks fledging from each.

Two swifts arrived very early this year, on 30th April.  After that arrival was slow, but by the end of May there was plenty of activity;  all last year’s occupied boxes were used again and 3 more showed signs of activity.  The weather took a turn for the worse between 9-14 June and this may have adversely affected some breeders.

From the end of May until the last few days of July, there were gatherings over the houses of 30+  swifts, with smaller groups dashing about and screaming around the buildings.  The largest gathering seen was around 50 on 27th July, just prior to the usual departure at the end of the month of the non-breeders and those no longer feeding chicks.  There were several late broods this year, possibly some as a result of having to restart in mid-June after a few days of poor weather.  On 4th August there were still 13 in the sky over the Close and 3 adults were stalwartly feeding young on 3rd September.  The last swiflet fledged on 11 September, leaving to fly direct to Africa.  The Pettitt’s Close sky is quiet without them – until May next year!

Photo of young swift, Roger Coey

(Photo of young swift: Roger Coey)


Update 20 June 2019


NEWS FLASH - It is Swift Awareness Week from 22nd to 30th June 2019. Come and see the Swifts in Pettitts Close. On Sunday afternoon 23rd June 2019 Rowena Baxter will be on hand to explain the Dry Drayton Swift Project to anyone who might be interested. See the comings and goings in a swift nest box at Fowlmere.


They are starting to arrive 8 May 2019


Swifts first seen in Pettitts Close on Wed 8 May 2019


They are on their way - 29 April 2019


From Mark, Bristol Swifts, bristolswifts@gmail.com. Here's the latest update from France. In the last 2 days over 50,000 swifts have been seen over Etang de Canet - Saint Nazaire  It’s a well-known birding hotspot just north of Barcelona. It’s a series of coastal lagoons, meadows and reed-beds where I expect our swifts refuel after their long flight across the Sahara. What I don’t know is how long they actually stay there. My guess is not that long, just long enough to build up their strength before completing the last leg of their journey home.

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Spring 2019 Update from Rowena Baxter


National Swift Awareness Week in 2019 will be held during the week 22-30 June.  A third of British swifts have been lost since 1995 and the decline still continues. Our Dry Drayton swifts will be very busy in Pettitts Close at the height of their breeding season at that time, so it will be well worth a visit to see the action.  On Sunday 23 June at 2.30pm Rowena Baxter will be available at 14 Pettitts Close to answer any questions from anyone who is interested our Dry Drayton swift project.

Two swift nesting boxes suitable for fixing under the sloping eaves of the houses in Pettitts Close are available free of charge.  They are not at all difficult to fix on the wall (2 screws), if one is able to access the eaves safely.  Contact Rowena Baxter on 01954 780913 if you are interested in having these boxes.

House sparrows have been seen entering some of the current swift boxes this spring  Of course sparrows have also been going through a steep decline and any signs of nesting is to be encouraged.  However, swifts arriving back to their nest boxes will take a dim view of the imposters and may well turf them out. It will be interesting to see what happens!

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Report on Swift Summer in Dry Drayton 2018 - From Rowena Baxter - 24 August 2018


Seven new boxes were added to our colony during the swifts' absence: five on Michael Clydesdale's house in Pettitt's Close and two on Roger Swain's in Baker's Field.  They weren't used this year and we won't know until 2019 whether any of these boxes have been taken up for breeding next year.


The first swifts were seen in Pettitts Close on 7 May.  The season started very slowly and even by 17 May very few had returned compared with previous years:  in 2017 all breeding pairs had returned by the second week in May. There was much consternation amongst UK swift enthusiasts: it was thought that there had been a problem for returning migrants returning through Spain due to very poor weather - southern Europe did not escape the 'beast from the east' bringing unseasonably cold wet weather.  We all wondered whether many of our usual breeding pairs had perished en route, as in April there were reports from southern Spain of many dead and dying swifts and other migrants on the streets of the towns and cities. 


However, by the end of May 2018 all the boxes used last year had occupants, but of course it's impossible to know if they were the same birds as previous years.  3 more of the original boxes were occupied than last year. Then we had two months of very hot, dry weather, perfect for breeding swifts with lots of aerial insects.  As a result all pairs completed their breeding in the shortest time, which is just over 8 weeks from laying to fledging.  By July we were regularly seeing up to 30 birds in the sky above Pettitt's Close.  It has been quite difficult this year to count the babies in the boxes as they did not show so well,  but from what we managed to see it seems a conservative estimate of young swifts leaving Pettitt's Close is 21, which is well up on last year's 12 or so.  The last swifts were seen on 7/8 August.


If you would like advice regarding putting up a swift box, please contact Michael Clydesdale (780957)  or Rowena Baxter (780913).


Young Swift about to Fledge from Pettitts Close, Dry Drayton

Young swift about to fledge from Pettitt's Close (photo: Clive Cooper)


Summer 2018 News


Have you seen our Dry Drayton swifts yet?  Take some time this week in June to come along to Pettitt’s Close and watch the aerobatic displays of our swifts.  They are breeding here at the height of the summer, taking advantage of the aerial plankton (flying insects). Choose a dry warm day, not too windy - particularly before 10 am and at sunset for the best chance of seeing these charismatic birds.


You might be interested in some of the following events to mark Swift Awareness Week 16-23 June 2018:  all this information and more is available on a map here.


Saturday 16th from 1:00pm - 5pm - Swift Open Day - at St Vigor's Church Manor Walk, Fulbourn, CB21 5EP. Arranged by Fulbourn Swifts Group. See our swifts flying around the church tower and view the live screening of nesting activity from the tower camera boxes. You’ll be able to view the rspb swift video, filmed in Fulbourn, and recorded video clips of nest box activity. There will be information displays about swifts and you’ll be able to learn about the very successful swift nest box project on the nearby Swifts Development where there are 276 boxes. Swift nest boxes will be on display with a variety of information leaflets on swift conservation. There will be a guided walk around the village to watch swifts. Light refreshments will be available. Free event and no booking necessary. Contact John Willis - fulbournforum@gmail.com or 01223 881103. See www.fulbournforum.org.uk


Tuesday 19th from 7:00pm - 9:00pm - Save Our Suffolk Swifts – A talk arranged by Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Suffolk Ornithologists’ Group at Memorial Hall, High Street, Newmarket, CB8 8JP. Parking is available locally. A fascinating and well-illustrated talk on the amazing lives of Swifts – now officially Endangered as a breeding bird in the UK. You’ll learn how the Save our Suffolk Swifts project is acting to reverse the alarming decline in numbers of these special birds in our towns and villages - and how you can help them in your own communities. Free event, no booking necessary but donations to SOS Swifts will be greatly appreciated.


Tuesday 19th from 7:00pm - 9:00pm - Something in the Air – To celebrate UK Swift Awareness week, Wildlife Trust BCN is hosting an event at Trumpington Meadows nature reserve. There will be a talk by Dick Newell, the unveiling of our new box, advice on how to encourage swifts near your home and a short walk around the reserve to observe the swifts. The reserve's address is The Wildlife Trust BCN, Trumpington Meadows, Grantchester Road, Cambridge CB2 9LH. If driving please use Byron’s Pool car park next door. Event meets at the Ranger’s office. Free event and no booking necessary.


Wednesday 20th from 6:30pm. Come to a talk at 35 Smith Street, Elsworth, Cambs., CB23 4HY by Dick Newell of Action for Swifts followed by enjoying Swifts in pleasant surroundings, watching Swifts on CCTV. Booklets and Swift boxes for sale. Light refreshments are available. Free event, no booking necessary.


Friday 22nd meet 7:00pm - Cambridge Swift Tower Walk – Join Action for Swifts for a walk and survey of Swifts nesting around North Terrace and the surrounding area, ending with a watch of the Swift Tower. Meet at the corner of North Terrace, CB5 8DJ. Free event and no booking needed.


Saturday 23rd from 6:30pm - Swifts in Landbeach - A short talk by Dick Newell in the Baptist Chapel, High Street, Landbeach CB25 9FT at 6:30pm. Arrive from 5:30pm onwards to have a chance to observe the Swift boxes on the chapel and on the house next door. The talk will be followed by a short walk to All Saints church to observe the Swifts breeding in the belfry followed by a 300m walk to Old Beach Farm where 15 pairs of Swifts scream around the rooftops. Light refreshments available. Free event but booking advised - actionforswifts@gmail.com or 01223860400


Rowena Baxter


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The swift summer of 2017.  Update 9th August 2017 by Rowena Baxter

When the regular breeding birds arrived in early May the weather was cool and often cloudy.  They came and went from their nests quietly and, if we hadn't been watching, we wouldn't have noticed them.  By the end of May the weather had warmed and we started to see much larger parties swooping and screaming around the houses.  June and early July were mostly perfect weather for swifts and their numbers increased. The maximum number of swifts seen in the sky around Pettitts Close at any one time in mid-July was 30+, with stunning Red-Arrow-like fly-pasts.  This success was entirely down to the warm weather at the peak of the breeding season, which encouraged the emergence of large numbers of aphids and other aerial insects. There was fierce competition and fighting for empty nest boxes amongst the younger non-breeding birds who also challenged the breeders for their nesting boxes, causing the death of at least one chick caught in up the fray at the end of June.  Possibly the ample supply of food may have caused a few 2-3 year old non-breeding birds to come into breeding condition a year early, and to lay eggs very late in the season in at least two of the spare nest boxes.  Although most of the breeding birds had completed their task by early August and have now left, as have their offspring, those two nests still contain chicks which are less than a fortnight old, as I write on 8 August.  They will not be ready to fledge until mid-September. The season has once again turned cool and damp, and we are keeping fingers crossed that the supply of aerial insects is maintained enough to see these late babies successfully off to Africa.

The number of chicks fledged from Pettitts Close up until 8 August was at least 16, up on last year, and there are probably 4 more still in the nest.   Quite a few of the remaining empty boxes have had swifts roosting in them, indicating that those birds will be back to breed next year, so it would be great to put up more boxes in the village to enable this thriving colony to expand.


(Ed's note - swifts fly at over 60 mph and are incredibly difficult to photograph. We are most grateful for permission to use the photos below by Val Perrin and Clive Cooper - and if you listen carefully you just might imagine you can still hear a swift passing)


Some of the 2017 visitors


More summer visitors 2017


A 2017 swiftlet


Swifts in Pettitts Close 2017, the above three photos by Val Perrin


2017 Swifts


entrance to internal nesting box


2017 swifts in the air and at the entrance to an internal nesting box, two photos by Clive Cooper

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A SWIFT RETURN; A CONSERVATION INITIATIVE - Update July 2017 by Mike Clydesdale

Swifts, with their black silhouettes and scimitar shaped wings, are the iconic birds of the Summer. Their acrobatic displays and screaming calls, as they feast on airborne insects and even mate, are unique. Arriving in early May with the majority departing before the end of August, their stay is short but still time for each pair to breed and raise one or two young. 

Swifts are generally long lived (7-10 years is normal, but some have lived to more than 15) and migrate some 11000km to south east Africa for the winter months, essentially following their food; flying insects.

Swifts, like many migratory birds, have suffered a steep decline in their numbers over the past two decades. The main reason for this change have been the loss of suitable nest sites (modern houses have fewer gaps in the eaves). Worldwide there has been a concerted effort to provide nest spaces to help swifts breed. Conservation is neither cheap nor quick to show results, it is a long term commitment. For example, in Logan Meadows reserve in Cambridge a swift tower with more than 200 nest boxes was constructed in 2011 at a cost of £35000. Swifts took up residence in 2014. More recently some new houses have been built in Cambourne with nest cavities in external.

Dry Drayton has not missed out on this conservation initiative.

About 10 years ago, Rowena Baxter, of  Pettitts Close, rose to the challenge of helping the swifts by installing nest boxes. To encourage swifts to the area, taped music (actually the sound of screaming swifts!) was played in early Summer. This worked and swifts began to visit the boxes, eventually breeding successfully. Several neighbours joined the project and currently more than 25 breeding spaces, mainly external nest boxes, have been provided.

From small beginnings it is believed that about 10 youngsters fledged in 2016. With perhaps up to 25 swifts now in the Close, it is hoped that this year over 16 fledglings will launch their migratory life. Additionally, there has been an encouraging increase in the number of non-breeding swifts. These birds, up to 4 years old, are commonly known as bangers since they tend to bang into boxes as part of their prospecting for suitable future nest sites. Hopefully these birds will return to breed in the next few years, so we need to have enough accommodation for them!

The presence of swifts is exciting. Everyone in the Close eagerly looks out for the arrival of our swift colony and wants to know how many boxes are occupied and how many youngsters have fledged. The swifts' acrobatic skills, as they swoop into the boxes, are spectacular, so come along and enjoy the display in July before they migrate.

If you would like to encourage more swifts to the village and support this conservation initiative, why not consider putting up a couple of boxes. Details of suitable boxes (a local supplier is available) and their siting can be found on-line or have a word with Rowena Baxter or Michael Clydesdale


Picture of two swiftlets prior to fledging.
Two swiftlets prior to fledging.


Picture of mature swift leaving nest box.(note the different facial patterns)
Mature swift leaving nest box.(note the different facial patterns) 


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Update - August 2015

- Rowena has written up the project so far on the Action For Swifts Blog:



The common swift (Apus apus) is a summer visitor to the British Isles, spending the majority of the year in sub-Saharan Africa.  They come to the UK (and Europe generally) to take advantage of the abundance of insects that are on the wing during our summer months, and to raise young.  Originally, before buildings were available, swifts probably nested in crevices in cliffs and holes in trees, but now they rely on us inadvertently providing nesting places in our homes and other buildings.


We have only very recently discovered where in Africa swifts spend the winter months.  A couple of years ago the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) captured some swifts and attached geolocators to them.  The information retrieved from the birds on their return has started to shed light on how swifts spend their time between August and April. It turns out they head for the equatorial areas, e.g. the Congo basin, but can move many hundreds of miles to take advantage of insect swarms.  Further information on this study can be found here: www.bto.org/science/migration/tracking-studies/swifts

Many of our summer migrant birds are declining, and much research is under way to try to find out why and whether we can do anything to reverse this trend. A third of British swifts have been lost since 1995 (BTO).  The reasons for this are not really known, but it is believed this is due partly to lack of, or removal of, nesting sites.  Swifts nest in holes in roofs, behind soffits, eaves and gutters.  Of course we don’t want holes in our roofs and these are gradually getting fewer as we re-roof and hermetically seal our dwellings.  Swifts are very nest-site faithful and if that nest-hole is blocked during re-roofing or other renovation works, they will find it hard to leave that site and look elsewhere.  So swifts need our help in providing artificial nest sites.  Ideally these should be built into the fabric of new buildings as can be seen in ‘The Swifts’ development in Fulbourn.  However, internal boxes can be retrofitted into existing buildings, and details can be found on the Action for Swifts website noted below, particularly under ‘architects and builders’.  The easiest method for the amateur is to put up nest boxes under eaves, and boxes can be purchased from most nestbox suppliers, e.g. NHBS or Vine House Farm, although they do tend to be rather expensive.

I had always thought of swifts as town birds, zooming around the streets in parties, screaming loudly.  It was one of the evocative city sounds of summer.  But in 2008 I noticed several swifts investigating the eaves of the houses in Pettitts Close.  Knowing that the denizens of Pettitts Close were unlikely to have holes in their houses suitable for breeding swifts, I contacted a friend in the Cambridge Bird Club who is an expert in swifts and co-founded the local group ‘Action for Swifts’.  He suggested I put up a swift box, or even better, two.  So later that summer, after the swifts had departed we fixed 2 boxes to our house, under the eaves.  I was also advised that to make it easier to attract swifts to our boxes, we should play swift calls in the daytime from mid-May to end of July when the swifts are here.  So in 2009 we set up a very basic CD system playing swift calls, close to the boxes.

We attracted swifts that very summer, they investigated the boxes, looked inside even, but it has taken another 5 years to achieve breeding in the boxes…a long story which I won’t detail here!  But suffice to say our neighbours have been very supportive and tolerant of the swift calls playing.  This year for the first time we have at least one pair breeding, maybe 2. Now we have swifts in Dry Drayton, it is likely that it would not take nearly so long to get swifts established in nearby sites, particularly in Pettitts Close, Pettitts Lane or Bakers Field.  They are stunning flyers and provide Pettitts Close with tremendous entertainment during the 3 months we welcome them as our guests.

Swifts need friends.  They are unobtrusive in their nesting habits, unlike house martins, sparrows and starlings which can be rather messy.  Additonally they ‘hoover’ up masses of small flying insects such as aphids.  Boxes should be sited on the N, E or W face of buildings, ideally under eaves, min. height about 5m, with a clear flight path in front. If you are interested in helping them, the website at: http://actionforswifts.blogspot.co.uk  is very useful with nestbox design and other advice.  A very simple nestbox design to go under horizontal eaves can be found at: http://actionforswifts.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-simplest-diy-swift-nest-box.html


Feel free to contact me 01954 780913 if I can be of help.

Rowena Baxter

Swift Box, Pettitts Close

A swift entering our nest box


Addendum 2nd August 2014


The picture below, by Clive Cooper, shows two chicks in Rowena's nestbox

two young swifts in nest box


Addendum 18th August 2014


Rowena pointed out this interesting short film on nesting Swifts from Germany



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