Saturday, 7 April 2018

Internal boxes in a wooden garage gable

This was a situation requiring custom internal boxes, because of the internal timberwork. Apart from this, the project was straightforward.

The north-facing gable of this South Cambs garage is just over 5 metres high.

The entrance holes were made using a simple jig to drill 5 small holes 1cm apart, so the distance between the first and last holes was 4cm. Then a 28mm hole saw was used in all 5 positions, making sure it could get as far as possible into the wall, without going all the way through. Eventually one does burst through on the inside, and then one can finish the job with a flle making a very neat job.

Steel plates were used to make the entrances woodpecker-proof - also Starlings are more than capable of enlarging holes in softwood. The plates were left over from a batch produced to starling-proof the Cambridge Swift Tower.

Piano hinges and simple turn buttons were used for the inspection doors.

3 double boxes before installation
6 entrances in the gable
Close up of entrances, showing canopies and anti-woodpecker steel plates
3 double boxes installed
Demonstration of hinged inspection door

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Cambridge System in a timber frame gable

In 2017 we were alerted to a situation in Isleham where a garage was about to be demolished while there was still a pair of Swifts feeding a chick in the roof. Confronted with a large steel ball, we took the pragmatic (though possibly illegal) approach, of removing the chick for fostering, which was successfully accomplished by Judith Wakelam.

The garage was demolished to make way for a new development of 4 houses, providing 5 suitable gables for Swift boxes. The company hired to assess the environmental impact detected 1 bat leaving the garage, but did not detect the Swifts.

However, the enlightened developer was more than willing to install 10 Swift boxes, 2 in each gable.

The building is timber frame, similar to the Fulbourn internal nest box design. but different from anything that we have previously tackled.

The structure of the walls behind the gables in the roof-space is: brick 102.5mm, empty cavity 50mm, silver-coated plywood 9mm, studs (4" x 2”) 100mm. There is no insulation.

It may have been possible to embed a suitably chosen Swift brick in the outer wall (provided it was less than 152.5mm from front to back, but we chose to recommend a version of the Cambridge System. This is a low cost simple way of accommodating Swifts by securing a nest box inside the roof space between the studs, flush with the plywood.

It comprises:
A half-brick entrance piece: the bricks either side of the entrance piece need to be trimmed by 56mm to leave a space122mm wide.
A piece of nominal 4” pipe, ~115mm long, trimmed to fit in the outer leaf
A simple plywood box, with no front, outside dimensions w350 x d162 x h150mm
A concave nest platform, glued to the floor of the box.
A nominal 4 inch hole is required in the plywood

The box is secured with battens across the studs..

Model of the outside

Model of the inside


System components
2 installed Swift boxes and 1 bat box. Photo Judith Wakelam

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Please support a worthwhile project

Yusuph Emmanuel (© Martine Wauters)

Action for Swifts is supporting a project to enable a talented young Tanzanian, Yusuph Emmanuel, to travel to the International Swift Conference in Tel Aviv in March.

AfS has agreed to enable UK people to make contributions via its Paypal link and bank account.
[Update - this appeal is now closed - we raised £575 - so Yusuph goes to Tel Aviv - THANK YOU! 

Martine has put a report of Yusuph's visit to Tel Aviv on her blog - use Google Translate to read it in English]

All monies received by AfS will be forwarded to the project.

Other methods of making payments (cheques and bank transfer) to AfS are described herePlease provide a clear reference to "Project Yusuph" with any payment.

For payments outside the UK, please contact Martine

Martine Wauters, whose initiative this is, describes the rationale behind this idea:

I'm contacting you with a call for financial support for an amazing Swift supporter from the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in Tanzania, to whom I would like to give the opportunity of participating in the next International Swift Conference in Tel Aviv.

As some of you may know, Dr Jane Goodall has been supporting my transcontinental Swift projects for years. In 2017, she asked her Tanzanian director to contact me in order to support my “Swifts Without Frontiers” initiative. Last July, I had the honour of making an "inspirational talk" to international "youth leaders" of her Roots & Shoots (R&S) network (a very successful worldwide youth programme), during a yearly summit in Windsor.

One of those 10 delegates, selected out of over 100,000 R&S groups, was Yusuph Emanuel, a 33 year-old Tanzanian from Kigoma. Yusuph had been a very dedicated R&S volunteer since 2000. Since his graduation from the Shinyanga Teachers College in 2013, he has been volunteering for the JGI in Kigoma, in various projects such as planting trees in schools, providing environmental education, raising awareness and love of animals and pursuing other community development activities.

After my presentation, Yusuph was immediately eager to support Swift conservation. Since his return to Tanzania last August, he has been leading an impressive awareness-raising campaign, talking with passion to over 2,500 students, and leading field study expeditions.

Swifts killed by villagers in the region of Kigoma
© Yusuph Emmanuel (R&S Tanzania)
During that field work, he's been finding out about regular cases of massive killing of various species of Swifts and Swallows, that have been traditionally eaten by the local population. He has not only been documenting and reporting this to me, but he's also been fighting with diplomacy and dedication to try and find a sustainable solution.

By helping him to go to Tel Aviv, you would not only allow him to learn a lot during the conference, but also to meet potential partners for future Swift and Swallow conservation in Tanzania. He could also participate with me in some school activities near Tel Aviv, and to be JGI's ambassador at the Swift Welcoming Ceremony, where he would represent R&S partner groups from Belgium, Spain, Scotland and South Africa (a.o.) who have all been participating in my Swifts without Frontiers projects.

He would be the first ever representative from sub Saharan Africa to participate in such a conference, which could open promising perspectives for Swift conservation in the area where those birds spend 9 months of the year, with no or very little conservation measures.

The aim of Swifts Without Frontiers is to help to support such initiatives and transcontinental partnerships in order to know and protect Swifts better throughout their range. As an active member of a world-wide programme dedicated to animal and environment protection, as well as to education and peace promotion, I’m convinced that Yusuph deserves massive support from the “Northern Swift Community”.

You can help by donating funds to cover his accommodation and travel expenses (or « frequent flier miles » if you have some from Air France).  We are still working out costs, but they are likely to be of the order of £1000.

Should there be any funds left over after paying for Yusuph’s trip to Tel Aviv they will be reserved for projects to support Swift and Swallow protection in Tanzania. A nation-wide campaign is being prepared by JGI Tanzania, with the help of Swifts Without Frontiers and the Dar Es Salam University.

You can find more pictures of Yusuph and his activities on my blog:
Anyone willing to help can contact Martine in private for practical details.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

2018 UK Swift Awareness Week, 16-23 June

For an event near you look on the Swift Awareness map.

16th - 23rd June 2018

One for your summer diary: the new national ‘2018 UK Swift Awareness Week’, 16 - 23 June 2018 As we count the days until our wonderful Swifts are back in our skies again, we’re delighted to let you know about an exciting development for 2018.

This summer, Britain will become the first country in the world to dedicate a national week in support of Swifts.

Swift Awareness Week will run from 16 - 23 June. There will be events and publicity all around the country, organised by dozens of local Swift groups. These events aim to raise awareness of Swifts and bring a focus to their plight, and of course provide information about how to help them. The Swift is one of the few endangered species that individuals really can help in their own property and there are many groups across the country working hard to try to halt their dramatic decline of 50% in just 20 years.

Some of the events that you might find happening near you are:

1. An evening walk to show people Swifts, led by a local expert.
2. A talk about swifts in a local hall.
3. An evening informal gathering at a house that has Swifts nesting.
4. An ‘open garden’ event with displays about Swifts and ideally Swifts nesting within sight.
5. A parade down a street with Swift flags and more.
6. A celebration of the Swifts and the long journeys they will be making in May and July/August at a local school.
7. A Swift stall/display at a local event or in the local library or community centre.
8. A Swift stall set up in the local church/community centre/school.
9. A combination of two or more of the above – or something completely different.

As we become aware of planned events we will publish them in the AfS Swift events diary

Of course if there is nothing near you, why not plan your own Swift event to join our busy calendar of events? Please send details to where you can also request further information.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

A low situation

We were asked whether a garage in Ely, barely 3.5 metres high, would be suitable for Swift boxes, so we decided to give it a go. It is only by trying these things will we ever find out whether it is something to recommend or not.

There happened to be one stretcher brick, centrally placed and high up in the gable - it is the highest point that one could practically put an entrance. It is a double thickness wall, the inner leaf being breeze blocks.

One brick containing 2 entrances was cast out of 50:50 sand/white cement mixture.

A double box, each with floor area 20cm x 25cm,
and double entrance piece cast out of 50% sand, 50% white cement

A cardboard template was used to determine the shape
 of the separator between the boxes and entrance piece

Entrance piece mortared in. When the mortar is dry it will be a nice match.
The mortar is a 4:1 sand/cement moxture

2 internal boxes with inspection doors.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

5th International Swift Conference - Tel Aviv 11th - 15th March 2018

Following the 4 successful Swift Conferences in Berlin (2010 and 2012), Cambridge (2014), Szczecin (2016), the 5th conference will be held in Tel Aviv, Israel, 11th-15th March 2018

As well as conference sessions, there will be organised trips to local birding and Swift hotspots, including the Swifts Welcoming Ceremony at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Optional extension tours, including to Eilat are offered up to 20th March.

Full details of the conference and tours and how to register can be found here:

There is a direct link to the attendees here

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Internal boxes with cement board

This project at Bob & Elaine Humphrey's house in Landbeach, Cambridge gave the opportunity to try something new - nest-boxes made out of cement board.

by Bill Murrells and Dick Newell

Most retrofit projects using the Cambridge System have had the nest box wholly inside the roof space. In this project it was preferred to have the boxes spanning the cavity, embedded in the inner leaf of a cavity wall. The boxes extend only a short distance into the roof space. Boxes this high up under eaves in a roof space are not going to have damp or cold spot problems.

Any commercial nest box would have needed a larger hole in the inner leaf and would need to be modified with an inspection door, so we went for the DIY approach. Although treated quality plywood in this situation is probably perfectly OK, we thought we would give a recognised building material a go.

We chose 12.5mm Knauf Aquapanel Exterior Cement Board, never having used it before. This is a high quality product, about twice the price of 12mm plywood. We bought a 90cm x 240cm sheet - sufficient for 12 internal boxes. We made 6 boxes for this project, 3 in the south gable and 3 in the north.

The material was cut using a small tungsten-tipped hand saw. This gave a good finish.

As the cement board could not easily take a screw without cracking, the whole thing was glued together (we used Hippo Pro 1). We constructed the back of the box, with a hinged door out of 12mm plywood. The hinges are 'piano' hinges

The boxes have an internal floor area 22.5cm x 22.5cm and headroom 15cm.

A hole was cut with a masonry drill and a handsaw through the inner-leaf slightly larger than the box cross-section: 25cm x 17.5cm.

The following pictures explain how it was done:

2 boxes complete. The entrance piece has been stained with tea. 
3 rectangular holes in the inner-leaf and 1 box in position. 

3 boxes mortared in. 
3 nicely positioned entrances under the eaves, facing south. Space is made for the entrances by trimming 56mm off the ends of adjacent bricks each side of a vertical bond. This is achieved by drilling a line of small holes with a masonry bit. A hammer and chisel is not used as this would risk cracking the brickwork.
A House Martin's nest, occupied in 2017 and 3 Swift entrances in the north gable



Tuesday, 26 September 2017

GRP Swift box installation

We earlier described (here) a new multiple Swift box from Impeckable made of GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic). It exploits the boat-building skills of Len Haworth, and has advantages of light weight, water resistance, sun resistance and a long life.

Since then, Len has sent the above pictures of an early installation, as well as a new development, a canopy to provide protection from the sun, below.

Although a very modern product, it blends in well with an older architecture.

In a gable apex like this, there is the potential to stack a 2-box over a 4-box over a 6-box to make a triangle.

The pictures below show the new canopy.

For more information visit

Thursday, 3 August 2017

A successful Polish Swift tower design

Although many Swift towers have been erected, few have more than a pair or 2 of Swifts. We were therefore impressed by this design, the "Jerzykowniki” tower, which has been erected in 13 locations in Poland, 5 of which have acquired new occupants in the first year or two.

This story was sent to us by Katarzyna (Kasia) Szczypa

The tower “Jerzykowniki”
Lidzbark Warmiński (Warmia-Masuria region)
Following the erection of a stork platform, which, not unexpectedly, had failed to attract any storks to central Warsaw, the Stork Nature Society decided instead to design a tower suitable for Swifts, House Sparrows, Starlings and Tits.

All of the photos in this post are taken by Adam Tarłowski (ornithologist and designer of the tower from, and Mariusz Grzeniewski (ornithologist from who have been protecting Swifts for 10 years.

A total of 13 “Jerzykowniki” Swifts towers have been installed since 2014 in Poland. Seven towers in Warsaw and six in other locations were set up in areas such as parks and among blocks of flats. Mariusz and Adam together with the Stork Nature Society control 11 of them.

The tower “Jerzykowniki”
in Warsaw (Bielany district)
Successful breeding pairs were found in 5 towers. One of them, 2 years after installation, had 4 breeding pairs in 2016 and 6 pairs in 2017. This was achieved without playing attraction calls!

The remaining 4 towers had one breeding pair each in 2016. The tower is not only effective, it is also an attractive design.

Each tower has 24 nest chambers arranged in a hexagonal structure with 6 chambers on 4 levels. Various hole shapes and sizes are included ranging from sizes suitable for tits to sparrows and starlings. A simple narrow door on each of the 6 sections allows for inspection and maintenance.

The drawing below, by Adam Tarłowski, gives indications of overall dimensions.

Footnote: Jerzykowo is a Polish town.

An adult Swift and 2 Swift chicks on top of a House Sparrows nest

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Thoughts on concave design

It is not unusual for eggs to move out of Swifts' nests. Sometimes an adult will deliberately pick up an egg and dump it outside the box. However, other times it seems to be accidental as some Swifts have been observed on webcams moving eggs out, either by shuffling or with the head while adjusting nesting material.

We have already shown conclusively that Swifts prefer nest boxes with a concave (here). Although Swifts appear to be most comfortable as they snuggle down in a deep concave, are concaves made by a spherical scoop, with a sloping periphery the best shape?

These thoughts were prompted when swifts in one of my daughter's nest boxes with a concave scoop 85mm diameter and 22mm deep, 2 eggs were moved out in 2016 and then 5 eggs in 2017.

We all know that Swifts are individuals and maybe some Swifts are more clumsy than others, but when this particular concave was replaced by one with a vertical periphery and a shallow depression in the bottom, they went on to incubate the 5th and 6th eggs, hatching one of them (which, at the time of writing is doing well). The replacement concave extended for the whole width of the box.

A discussion on SLN yielded the following experiences:

David Makin had a similar experience to the above with Swifts displacing 4 eggs in 2016 and another 4 in 2017 from a concave 22mm deep, before finally laying a replacement clutch of 2 eggs which they went on to hatch.

Brian Cahalane makes his concaves out of a 30mm thick piece of wood in which he cuts a 100mm diameter hole. The bottom is therefore flat, but Brian paints the bottom with glue and then throws a handful of feathers in. Anything with a flat bottom is not going to cause the eggs to move to the centre, but the feathers may well provide the necessary shape for this. Brian never gets eggs displaced from these concaves, but he has had a small number of eggs displaced from shallower concaves over the years.

Mark Glanville has this experience:
"My scoops are not really cups but made from off-cuts to fit exactly into the box with no gaps between them and the sides. Most of my boxes are 8" wide so I tend to use a piece of wood 8" by 8". They are all homemade with 100mm diameters and I use wood filler to make the edges of the concave smooth. I aim to have at least 2" clearance between the concave and the sides/back of the box. I am sure that having it all on the same level has helped reduce the number of eggs/young being flicked out on changeover duties. The concave depth varies between 12mm and 22mm. No reason for this other than I use the same wood left over from building the box. One thing I do add on the 12mm scoops is a bead of mastic (2-3mm high) around the rim of the concave to give it a bit of a lip. All my scoops are lined with feathers with extra being added around the rim. 

Louise Bentley comments that the Swifts do look most comfortable in her concave, but still they pushed one egg out on their first breeding attempt, which hatched after being replaced by Louise.

Tanya & Edmund Hoare agree with Mark and suggest that more horizontal space around the concave could help, and suggest that a concave in the floor of the box could be a solution.

To add to the above, I have measured a number of natural nests. They are about 85mm diameter, and depth up to ~20mm, and usually the periphery is a wall of feathers. It is not unusual to find a natural nest wedged into a corner or side of the box. There is little in the way of any horizontal surface outside the periphery. Some nests can be quite high.

So what does one conclude about this?

The diameter of a Swift's egg is ~16mm, so any "cliff" over about 8mm should keep the eggs in. 

Therefore I would conclude that a concave with a vertical periphery at least 10mm high (say) and some sort of depression in the bottom is ideal. The depression can either be achieved by machining the right shape (suitable for a product) or by gluing feathers in the bottom (suitable for the DIY enthusiast).

Whether sticking feathers to a concave is worth doing is not known, the experiments have not been done, but certainly feathers scattered in the nest box are readily used by Swifts.

Some horizontal surface around the concave may be a good idea.

As a next step I have had a tool made to make vertically sided shallow scoop concaves with a diameter of 85mm.

The pictures above show the tool and a prototype concave made out of insulation (yes, it is highly inflammable) coated with PVA glue to resist Great Tits and House Sparrows. 

The attraction of this material is that it is very easy to machine.

These concaves are so light that they do need sticking down.

I have had a number of concaves made of this material in boxes over the winter, and none have been damaged so far. The next step is to see what Swifts think of them.

Update January 2018
Using a sheet of 12mm soft fibreboard, cut into 12cm squares - one can get 200 squares out of a 2440 x 1220 sheet costing about £14. This will make 100 concaves - so 14p per concave.

We used an 85mm hole saw to cut a hole in one square, then glued it to a second square.
Then scoop out the second square with the tool described above.

As most of the material is removed by the hole saw, there is far less dust.
The result looks very good - vertical sides to keep the eggs in and a concave bottom to keep the eggs in the middle.

85mm hole saw, concave and scoop tool

Sunday, 16 July 2017

New Swift boxes at Lowgill

In 2013 we reported on developments at Tanya & Edmund Hoare's Lowgill house. Over the years, this has developed into 4 Schwegler 25s Swift bricks, 6 Zeist boxes, and most notable of all, 10 custom internal spaces in the eaves that are viewable from the bathroom and bedrooms! This post describes a major extension of the nest sites available with internal boxes in the gable.


Tanya & Edmund Hoare

We have swifts nesting in our eaves at Lowgill, Cumbria and four pairs in Schwegler 25s bricks in the gable that we installed 7 years ago. Those, in the gable end, were all occupied in the first year and have always been by far the most popular place with bangers. So last winter we decided to create a further 12 sites in the gable, using the Cambridge System similar to that at Fulbourn, with entrance pieces linked to internal boxes in the loft by 4” drainpipes.

Demolition of the 2' thick chimney breast
The gable wall consisted of a redundant chimney breast 2ft thick. As Swifts may be less willing to navigate a pipe 24" long, we decided to rebuild the gable with a narrower wall incorporating 12 pipes 12 inches long.

A platform of mortar was put into the pipes so that the swifts could get a grip when they crawl along.                

Former with cast entrance piece
Custom made entrance pieces were made by making a mould and using formers kindly made by Dick. They were coloured to match the sandstone walls. An attraction call system was installed with the loudspeaker in the apex of the gable.
Wooden nest boxes were fitted in the loft, each with a camera. Shelves were put up on the inner wall for the boxes to rest on so that they could easily be removed if necessary.
While the house was scaffolded we decided to also install another 2 Schwegler 25s at the edge of the gable where we couldn’t use the pipe system.
The end result is aesthetically more pleasing than using commercial bricks. 

Already in the first season we’ve had success, with both the new Schweglers occupied by roosting pairs. Bangers have approached the new holes although so far none have gone in, but fingers crossed for next year.

Rebuilding the wall 12" thick with embedded pipes and entrance pieces
The completed wall with 12 entrance pipes
Shelving support 12 nest boxes behind each pipe.
The finished wall on the outside showing the new Schwegler 25S boxes lower left and lower right, the original 4 Schwegler 25S's and then the 12 new Cambridge System entrances. Although the half-brick entrance pieces are normally used in a brick wall, they don't look at all out of place in a stone wall.


Monday, 3 July 2017

Entrances made by cutting bricks

We no longer recommend that people make an entrance to an internal nest box by cutting bricks, unless you know what you are doing. This is because of a number of experiences of getting the wrong size, both too small and too big. Here is an example of how to do it properly.

The tolerences for the smaller dimension of a Swift entrance are rather tight. Too big will let Starlings in and too small will make it difficult for Swifts. The longer dimension of the entrance is not critical. Perhaps a minimum of 50mm, often set at 65mm and bigger than this is OK.

Starlings can squeeze into 30mm. The smallest dimension that a Swift can squeeze into is ~25mm. So we recommend 28mm ± 1mm

In Kev Gray's own words:

"... I ended up cutting a very accurate slot to your dimensions into the top face of a matching house brick. I used a stone cutter in my 9 inch grinder, it didn't take many minutes, I bonded a slate lid over the top of the cut out and fitted the whole brick. If one uses mortar to fashion the 4th side of the entrance, there is much scope for getting it wrong. Prefabricating the entrance ensures the correct size.

First we cut the brick out of the wall, we used a battery powered masonry drill and bit and just drilled a series of holes all the way around the brick and it came out quite easily.

The hole was then tidied up with a bolster chisel and the swift brick fitted.

A long masonry bit was positioned in the centre of the Swift slot from the outside of the wall and guide hole was then drilled through the inner wall, the wall on the other side of the cavity, this is usually breeze block and drills very easily.

From inside the loft.

The guide hole previously drilled in the breeze block is then used to guide a large diameter masonry hole cutter, if it's breeze block it cuts quite easily, if you don't have access to a hole cutter you could use drill a series of small holes drilled in a circle and chisel the middle out.

When the hole is finished measure from the internal face of the breeze block back to the inside face of the Swift brick to establish the length of soil pipe required.

The pipe is just ordinary 110mm soil pipe, anything similar would do, you can get it from most DIY stores., I can be cut with a hand saw and positioned into the hole so that it butts up to the new swift brick, take care if the mortar is still soft as you may dislodge the swift brick, it's better to leave it time to set. When the pipe is in position use some mortar to fill in any gaps and holes that may be in the swift brick to make a nice smooth passage without any sharp edges. Also it's a good idea to put a bed of mortar along the bottom run of the soil pipe as this will help the Swifts have a bit more grip onto what would otherwise be a very slippery surface. In fact it's a good idea to give the inside of the soil pipe a good roughing out with some course sandpaper before putting it into position as this will help the mortar stick.

As mentioned earlier, I made up a couple of boxes from some spare 18mm chipboard floorboard because that what I had handy, but you could use something much thinner maybe some plywood. Bill Murrells recommend internal dimensions of W 200 x L 300 x H 150 for the box and that is what I went with.

Removing a brick
Components of the entrance brick, before cutting
Relative positioning of soil pipe and entrance brick
The completed entrance
A view from the inside

Monday, 26 June 2017

Another triangular cabinet in Elsworth

In 2015 we installed a 3-box triangle on my daughter's sunny gable end (here). It is now occupied by 2 pairs of Swifts so we wondered how to expand the number of boxes

There were 2 choices, either to add a 3rd row of 3 boxes at the bottom of the triangle, or to make a new cabinet on another northeast-facing gable. This gable is wooden-cladded and has an apex nearly 5 metres high.

As there should be no over-heating to deal with, the front is a single sheet of 12mm plywood and is painted dark to match the gable.

This is the 4th triangle of this general concept that we have installed, the other 3 all have Swifts in them.

The slope of the roof is less steep than the other 3, so the headroom of the boxes is slightly less at 14cm, and the length of the boxes is slightly greater. The depth of the boxes is 15cm.

Front removed ready for installation
6 screws through the back secure the cabinet to the boards
The lowest 3 boxes are just over 4 metres high


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Swift boxes at the David Attenborough Building

The David Attenborough Building (DAB) in Cambridge houses conservation practitioners and academics, who are working together Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI).

"The David Attenborough Building will act as a collaborative hub for the conservation community within Cambridge and beyond - Mike Rands"

It had always been the ambition of the executive director, Mike Rands, to have breeding Swifts, so AfS was invited to see what might be possible. As all the building work had been finished, this was a retrofit situation on a very smart building that we would not want to compromise in any way.

Two opportunities presented themselves: boxes installed at the top of one of the towers and boxes on the parapets. As the former would be less visually intrusive, Mike suggested we go for the towers.

The tops of the towers are octagonal with vertical bars containing 4 of the sides. The bars are 50mm wide and spaced 50mm apart (see pictures below).

John Stimpson supplied 8 Model 30 nest boxes, but with no entrance in the front. This was a suitable choice as the top of the tower is exposed to the sky, so the boxes may receive both rain and sun.

For the Swifts to gain access to boxes inside the bars, it would require tunnels about 15cm long to the outside.

We have some anecdotal evidence that Swifts will not negotiate a small tunnel of this length (e.g. here). Thus we made tunnels with inside dimensions 43mm wide x 65mm high.

A D-shaped hole was cut in the back and tunnels fashioned out of roofing plastic glued in place.

Roofing plastic put into boiling water is easy to shape around, in this case, an empty can of hairspray.

Rubber strips provided separation and friction between the boxes and the metal bars.

The tunnels could also provide access for Starlings, so the top part of the tunnel is blocked on the inside face of the box. This should leave enough space for a Swift to enter, but not a Starling. One of the concerns was not to have bird droppings down the building.

The brackets, made of stainless stud and aluminium bars, were made by Dexter Bullman of Landbeach. They were painted to match the vertical bars.

A Cheny Heny MP3 player was installed driving 2 tweeters facing outwards below 2 of the tunnels. We gave some thought to the possibility of Swifts coming through the bars, but as the space is open to the sky, they should be able to get away.

The pictures below illustrate what was achieved:

4 tunnels outside the SW side and 4 boxes inside the SE side
Close up of the 4 tunnels on the SW side

Installation team: Bill Murrells, Elizabeth Allen, Collaborations & Communications Manager,
Dexter Bullman and Mike Rands, Executive Director.
Dick Newell took the picture