The young swifts exercise their wings inside the nest box. They also spend an increasing amount of time gazing out of the entrance of the nest box.
The nestlings are now very well grown and not being fed as frequently. They make the crucial first flight in the next few days. As soon as they leave the nest they are on their own. They learn to feed themselves and migrate south immediately. Swifts seem to have done very well here this year with higher numbers than 2010/ 2011.
The swifts are growing very well and being fed frequently despite the continued wet weather. Their wing and tail feathers are much shorter than the adults still. But these should grow rapidly now in time for their all important first flight in the last few days of July or the first few days of August. Once swifts fledge they are on their own, not returning to the nest site and finding food for themselves.
The third egg hatched overnight I think. At first I could see the broken shell by the nest cup, then later as an adult came in to feed I saw three chicks. The photo clearly shows two of them, the youngest on the right. The nestling taking food is the second to hatch, now three days old. The swifts seem to have no problem finding food despite truly awful weather. Yesterday evening the winds were gusting near to 50mph but one parent was always out finding food. The other always sits on the young who would be very vulnerable to chill.
Yesterday afternoon the first egg hatched. On seeing the nestling for the first time the male(partial albino bird) spent alot of time gently touching it with his beak. Later I saw him feed the nestling for the first time. This morning, the two other eggs remain unhatched. This is not surprising because swifts lay eggs two days apart. This way if there is a shortage of food due to poor weather the first hatched has an advantage and is more likely to survive.
There have been interesting developments in the swift box over recent days. A queen wasp has been building a nest inside the box near the entrance. The swifts seemed to be very tolerant but I was anxious that as time went on the nest would enlarge and disrupt their nesting attempt, at best! I need not have worried, the swifts dismantled the structure made by the queen wasp and used it as nest material! I haven’t seen the queen wasp recently so do not know her fate. I took this photograph quickly when both swifts were absent. They are now incubating again.
Both birds have started incubating the two eggs the first of which should hatch in about 19 days.
At 9.47am the first egg was laid. Not only was this amazing to watch, but it instantly revealed that our partial albino bird is a male! He stayed with his mate throughout, just out of shot when the egg was laid, but returned to her very soon afterwards. The effort required to lay the egg was quite protracted with bouts of hard pushing and lengthy resting periods. After the egg was laid the female looked exhausted, but within ten minutes after some affectionate mutual preening they mated on the nest. The weather is hot and sunny, perfect conditions for the female to build up strength again to recover and prepare for the next egg which will probably be laid on 30th May. Normally Swifts lay two or three eggs.
The swifts have been bringing in feathers, blossom petals and straw bits. They almost always arrive together and both add roughly the same amount of material to the nest. It can’t be long before the first egg appears. Swifts lay two or three eggs. Watch this space.