May 22nd May- all our swifts returned and a new pair move in.

It’s been a remarkable start to the swift season at our colony. Our three pairs returned and settled quickly between 9th- 16th May. Since then we have gained another pair. This time last year we had one pair of swifts so in less than a year(or June- August 21/ May 22)we have gained three new pairs. I haven’t played calls at all in this time, swifts have just attracted swifts.

The fourth pair first entered a nest box yesterday evening, the second bird entering after repeated coaxing by the male(?) bird. So I slept last night knowing we were sharing our house with eight swifts, eight house martins and at least ten tree sparrows! This latest pair confidently prospected from May 19th, perching on other nest boxes and house martin cups. They have chosen a box which I left up for tree sparrows; the flight path, so I thought, was less suitable for swifts. I am fairly certain one of this pair will be the swift that tried to enter the same box last year when tree sparrows were in residence. Sometimes prospecting swifts(probably males) only enter a potential nest site a few times in the summer; they don’t roost, don’t build a nest, but come back the following year find a mate a breed straight away.

This afternoon a fight broke out in box two, when a third bird entered. The fight lasted for about an hour. Eventually the interloper was ejected from the nest box. It was interesting to watch this bird go. To my relief it cleared the garden boundary, just, it was visibly weak in flight. Its behaviour after that was fascinating. It slowly gained height on very occasional shallow wing beats, clearly exhausted. Once at height it conserved energy, wings straight and gliding very slowly in circles with occasional flaps. Meanwhile the defending pair in the nest box rested there for well over an hour. Hopefully the interloper will not return to box 2, but as a colony becomes bigger these complex relationships and rivalries do become more frequent.

So on 22nd May 2022 we are much further ahead than I thought we would be; all pairs returned and a new pair in. There have been some days of spectacular fast low passes including today, especially late in the morning and early this afternoon. I have already spent hours sketching swift behaviour and the skies I have watched them fly through, adding to a now vast pile of swift work. So a very inspiring start to swift season 2022, just thirteen days since the first bird arrived.

May 19th- swifts prospecting for nest sites including the box shown in last year’s sketch.


1 thought on “May 22nd May- all our swifts returned and a new pair move in.”

  1. Dear Jonathan,
    Oh, again, I am so envious of your returning Swifts.
    I did try 3 boxes, under the gutters, on the front of my house, to try and bring back Swifts to my mid-terraced streets.
    But, I had a feeling they weren’t going to get used.
    So, I gave them to a friend with higher,east-facing gable-ends, and she has a pair in there, this season😊
    Beautiful posts, and art, as always.

    Eyes to the skies for Swifts on the wing!


    Sent from Windows Mail

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