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Swift Nest Boxes

Swift by Sandra Palme sThose in the general public who possess a heartfelt wish to do whatever they can to help the wildlife who share our environment with us, take practical steps such as installing nest boxes on their properties to directly help the birds. These then are people who put their money where their mouths are and cannot be categorised as Armchair Environmentalists. We are concerned here with the Swifts, Apus apus, and I have been so encouraged by the collective effort that so many individuals have and are making, both in Britain and other countries, to rectify the decline in numbers of this beautiful bird. Men who have shown a consistent effort over the years, dedicated wouldn't be an exaggeration, to educate and share experience with others at their own expense simply don't get the credit they deserve. I wish to mention here just two of them who have given me guidance in the development of our GRP Swift nest boxes and ancillary equipment, in the absence of which I simply would have made practical design mistakes. Edward Mayer of Swift-conservation.org took the time to guide me on the fundamental dimensions of our Swift Colony nest boxes, including the entrance hole sizes which are so critical for the protection of the Swifts. Dick Newell of Action for Swifts with his years of empirical observations and site trials has guided me on the advantages of nest trays within Swift nest boxes which decided us to make them a standard inclusive feature of every nest box we supply.

woodpeckattackWood is the traditional material from which nest boxes are made and it is human nature to hang onto tradition come what may. I would venture to say that the British are the worse culprits of all in this respect. You could argue and quote the old saying which goes, “if it isn’t broke don't fix it”. Yet, as the picture shows, wooden nest boxes DO BREAK rather easily, from the attentions of grey squirrels and woodpeckers yes, but more generally and inevitably from ROT. From the moment a tree is cut down it begins to decompose so we must all ask the sensible question, “why make a nest box from decomposing material? I quote you from Richard Aram, a park ranger at Alyn Waters Country Park, “wooden nest boxes are doing well if they aren't rotten within five years”. He should know what he is talking about because he is very experienced. The economics behind wooden nest boxes are not very impressive either even if you make them yourself. To make them out of softwood is being very irresponsible toward the birds which we are supposed to be helping. Grey squirrels will be in them in a flash, teeth first, and eat the chicks. Quality marine grade 12.5mm plywood is expensive for an 8 x 4-foot sheet because it is imported and the pound is falling. In any event, when exposed to the weather it will also rot before ten years are out, at best. So, when you put a wooden nest box up on your wall you had better be planning to buy the next one. Now that approach is a Garden Centres dream, planned obsolescence and the customers keep coming back for more of their pretty soft wood rubbish.

Our approach is different, we BUILD our nest boxes to last as long as the property it goes up on. GRP does not rot and it doesn't crack in extremely cold conditions. It laughs at the wind and rain even if you put it up south or west facing. The general range of our nest boxes are portrayed in detail on our website. From the economic standpoint please do compare our prices on the internet. You will see that our prices are similar to the ones that rot. The big difference is that you don't buy another nest box to replace the rotten one. You buy another Swift nest box to add to the one you already have which is like the day it was new! Now that is far sighted and wise economics. Kind of expanding the breeding facilities for the Swifts rather than standing still. 

royal oak beccles nest box

Our GRP Swift Colony Nest boxes are made in the same way as a GRP sailing boat though in a miniaturised process. Yet just as tough. We use the same materials which are expensive yes but provide longevity and our 25-year guarantee. Our ability to supply our clients with a Swift nest box in a colour which blends in with their property is also a big plus.

One of our client Martin Garwood installed a brick-red Swift nest box on his brick property giving the impression of a built in Swift nest box as opposed to a retrofit Swift nest box. Again, our client Christabelle, installed a beige coloured four apartment Swift Colony nest box on her property in South Gloucestershire, which blended in with her stone house. Yet another client, Paul Jackson the proprietor of the Royal Oak in Beccles, Suffolk installed a white four apartment Swift Colony nest box which was a perfect match. What an inspired man!

About the design of our Swift Colony nest box.

The entrance hole dimensions are 60mm x 28mm shaped in a perfect elliptical form and positioned low down on the nest box to ease the coming and going of the resident birds. Also, the holes are angled down at 30 degrees to accommodate the upward flight approach toward the nest site of the Swifts.

internal swift nest boxEach apartment is 30cm long, 22cm wide and 22cm high giving ample space for the Swifts within. We increase grip for the Swifts around the entrance interior and floor area by using a sawdust covering adhering to the surface. The nest tray for each apartment is retained in the opposite corner to the entrance hole. Extensive trials using many Swift nest boxes in church towers, some with and some without nest trays, have been carried out by Dick Newell in order to establish the preference of the Swifts. The trials were conclusive in favour of nest trays and therefore we have decided to supply nest trays within our standard pricing on every Swift apartment we sell. They are very neat with an angled wall both interior and exterior and a rounded outer peripheral corner. The interior depth is 24 mm and that ensures that no eggs roll out over the edge a noted tendency with Swifts and a loss of progeny which is avoidable. We make them in two shapes, elliptical and perfectly round 100 mm diameter as recommended by Dick Newell. The customer can choose.

The Glass Reinforced Swift Colony nest box is made from three layers hand laid up 600 grams per square meter chop strand fibreglass saturated in polyester resin. They are very tough yet light compared to wood and even heavier wood Crete, a serious consideration when doing an installation up a ladder (and Swifts do like a high nest site!). The gelcoat exterior can be coloured to suit the host property but for what it's worth white seems to be the most popular colour we sell.

bracketsInstallation can be a nightmare at the top of a ladder, trying to fiddle about aligning screw holes to wall plugs etc., especially with heavy wood Crete nest boxes. We had a think outside of the square on this subject and came up with a system which has been universally very well received. It is simplicity itself. Two rugged stainless-steel hanging brackets are plugged and screwed into the masonry at a specified distance apart depending on the number of apartments. Then you just hang the nest box on it and secure the two locking brackets underneath. Very solid job. To seal it against the wall a rubber seal circumscribes the whole rear edge. To quote a good German engineering saying; Keep it simple stupid! The KISS principle.

Our contribution to the Swifts are of a different set of gifts, one man as such and such abilities whilst another man has the opposite talents. Ours has been to miniaturise GRP techniques for the benefit of these lovely birds. We couldn't possibly sell such quality Swift nest boxes at the prices we do unless our labour time was voluntary. We are a company that doesn't make a profit and we don't make a loss but we are making a difference! We build our Swift nest boxes with care and a meaningful dedication to the work. It's always such an encouragement to receive a thrilled E-mail from a customer who has just taken delivery of his or her new Swift Colony nest box built here in North Wales.                                                                          

We make Swift Colony nest boxes with varied number of apartments according to the wishes of our customers. I believe we are alone in this service. You can have a single nest box where limited space under the eaves so dictate, example Martin Garwood in Royal Tonbridge Wells. Or a double apartment version purchased for example by Michael Chadwick in Melton Constable in Norfolk. More popularly a four-apartment version installed by myself in Cambridge for Marjorie Bachelor. We also make the Super Six apartment version and the long eight apartment version. It goes almost without saying that our clients have to consider the wall space available high up on the building, but there is another practical yet at the same time exciting consideration for we Swift enthusiasts. I refer to the natural prudence that sensible people have where it comes to, “walking before running”. When you have ascertained that you have the presence of Swifts in your area, or better still a breeding pair in or adjacent to your property, then take the positive step and put up a double or a four apartment Swift Colony nest box. It usually takes a summer or two to attract more pairs, but when you do, then is the time to consider a Super Six or an eight apartment Swift Colony Nest box and expand the breeding.

Prices of our Swift Colony Nest boxes;-

One single apartment Swift nest box complete with nest tray and all necessary fittings   £50.

Packing is free but postage is £12.

A double apartment Swift Colony Nest box complete with nest trays and all necessary fittings £90.

Packing is free but postage is £16.

A four apartment Swift Colony Nest box complete with nest trays and all necessary fittings £160

Packing is free but postage is £22

A Super Six Apartment Swift Colony Nest box complete with nest trays and all necessary fittings £220. Packing is free but postage £36.

An eight apartment Swift Colony Nest box complete with nest trays and all necessary fittings £250.

Packing is free but postage is £46.

We don't use the usually quoted £15.99 pricing techniques which insult your intelligence, we simply round off in pounds.

Now we must present another service we provide which solves a problem with two faces. I refer to the not unusual dilemma where someone has Swifts in the area and wants wholeheartedly to help them breed on his or her (or both) property, but has not the option of the preferred north facing wall on which to install a nest box. If you have to use an east or west facing wall (sun in the morning or sun in the evening) then the nest box, wooden or GRP, will warm up in the interior, full stop. If a south facing wall is your only option, then sun is on the nest box all day, and for that matter the rain pelts down from that direction also. During the Swift breeding season in Britain, Mid May to July the declination of the sun in its geographical position is between 15 degrees and 23 degrees north of the equator. So, in southern England, 50 – 52 degrees north the sun is only around 27 – 37 degrees from our zenith. So, some protection from overheating is needed for a south, west or east facing nest box or the Swifts will vote with their feet (no, I mean wings). We have designed a GRP canopy which covers our Swift Colony Nest boxes like a GLOVE, white in colour to best reflect the sun's rays. With a 4-centimetre cavity between nest box and cavity the heat of the sun is both reflected and absorbed by the canopy which is made of a double layer lightweight matrix of GRP. It is 125 centimetres long, 12 centimetres deep and very generous 26 centimetres wide (front to back from the wall), so, considering that most other Swift nest boxes on the market aren't such a generous width as ours at 22 centimetres, these canopies can be used to provide solar and elemental protection for any Swift nest box, or nest boxes. They cost £60 plus £22 postage.

The availability of these sun canopies to protect Swift nest boxes in southern Mediterranean countries, where the sun is near to directly overhead during the breeding season, surely doesn't require explanation. Tel Aviv for example is 32 degrees north of the equator, so the suns zenith on June 21st is 23 degrees north. That's called hot! And the sun is unavoidable on any wall for any Swift nest box. These canopies are tailor made for the job as we used to say. In modern speak a truly bespoke product.

We are at your service and we are open to constructive suggestions which will be seriously considered. We are all pulling in the same direction for the Swifts and that is what really matters.

Len Haworth.