Hi friends of Islington & De Beauvoir Swifts
Here is our April update, only 3 weeks or so now until the swifts arrive – due 5-6th May in north London. Last year many were 1-2 weeks late, probably due to exceptionally bad weather in southern Europe, but more often than not they’ll arrive in our area on those dates.
As usual we are also covering De Beauvoir in Hackney – residents there can also keep up to date with Hackney Swifts Group on Twitter at @hackney_swifts.
Several of you have been asking about the swifts call systems – I have including some details and operating instructions for that below.
We’ve had a busy spring with one event already, the Islington In Bloom launch at Whittington Park for our second year, alongside the park rangers and Octopus. It was glorious weather again and plenty of interest.
We also gave talks to The Enfield Society and the Friends of Gillespie Park AGM, and we’ve been advising on an exciting development by Countryside Properties at New Avenue Estate in Southgate, Enfield, which has 42 swifts nesting bricks in just two buildings – a UK record as far as we know and setting the standard for what can be achieved.
We’ve also installed another 25 boxes since Feb between Kentish Town/ Tufnell Park in the west to Mildmay in the east, and advised residents on a few more they’ve been able to install themselves. There are now over 100 boxes & bricks in Islington that we know about (109 to be exact), which is a great start but many more needed. Hackney has at least 150 (40 in De Beauvoir alone…) so it would be nice to catch up!
If you are interested in boxes let us know and we will check if your home is suitable, but advance warning that there is a waiting list, both for our installers and to get hold of the best value swifts boxes that John Stimpson makes in his garage… But if we’re passing by we might be able to install quickly, so it’s worth getting in touch.
If you are having work done on your house, or know anyone who is, we can also advise on a swift-friendly refurbishment. Very easy to do and a few pieces of plywood is the only additional cost.
Swifts call systems:
Those of you with nestboxes already might be interested in swifts calls systems – these can make a big difference to how quickly the swifts find your box. Even playing the calls occasionally from a mobile phone is worthwhile, but a more permanent solution is to play the calls using a timer plug and small amp, and a tweeter speaker somewhere in or near the box, or even at ground level beneath the box has been shown to work.
We have to admit we’re a little behind… so apologies for this! Real life has been getting in the way… swifts HQ has moved home & other unavoidable commitments… We’ve also had a serious problem obtaining the “amps”, which are basically a car radio with a slot for a USB or SD card. There are very few suppliers of these, and my order has not arrived after six weeks! So I am currently working on plan B…
Please send me a reply if:
· I offered to lend you a swifts call system, then please remind me!
· If you would like to obtain a call system from me please let me know – I will source the equipment and help set this up for all who want one, if I possibly can! We’re currently providing this for £25 (which is cheaper than cost price), subject to availability.
· If you plan to set up your own call system then let me know and I may be able to advise.
We usually advise to start playing the calls on 1st May as it’s an easy date to remember, but actually the most intense swifts call season is from June-July as that is when the juveniles arrive and that’s when you will really get some attention to your nestbox – swifts are the only UK bird that is generally looking for somewhere to nest next year. It’s always worth running the call in May if you can, though, as an adult pair displaced from their regular nest site could take up residence.
Whether you intend to set up your own system or not, it’s worth looking at the following to get an idea of what is involved, but I can reassure you it is much simpler than it first looks!
· Action for Swifts (good overall summary):
· Swift Conservation (some additional details):
Away from swifts calls systems,
· we are attending the Olden Garden event on 28th April so maybe see you there.
· Swifts awareness week is 22-30th June, details of events to be confirmed.
· We will be assisting David Lindo’s London Wildlife Festival at Walthamstow Wetlands on 9-11th August.
And why not sign the petition to protect the nest sites of swifts, swallows & martins if you haven’t already! Would be great to reach 100,000.
All the best,
Islington Swifts Group
SWIFTS CALL SYSTEMS OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS:
· You can adapt the following to what seems to work and/ or what doesn’t disturb your neighbours.
· Setting your time (or manually) play the calls for approximately 90 minutes from dawn and before dusk, perhaps 6:30-8am and 7:30-9pm initially.
· If you need to operate it less regularly, or take a break for a holiday etc., then that’s OK.
· Choose the maximum volume that doesn’t disturb your neighbours, the volume of an actual swift is a good rule-of-thumb.
· Remember the swifts are likely to be investigating for next year, so even a close fly past is success.
· Keep playing the calls, even if you are lucky enough to have nesting activity – the advice from Action for Swifts is to keep on playing for at least a couple of years.
· Let me know how you are getting on! And if you need any tips – adjusting the location of the calls in particular can make a difference.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
· If you are using an amp, as with all electrical equipment bear in mind that the amp and power supply will get warm so don’t cover them.
· The amp should stay indoors.
· The speakers/ connectors/ cables can all be outside, but it’s probably a good idea to protect the speaker from the worst of the rain just to stop it getting damaged – you can put it inside a plastic bag, for example.