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Hospital of St Cross update


Hampshire Swifts stand at Hospital of St Cross September 2023
Hampshire Swifts stand at Hospital of St Cross September 2023

At the end of September Hampshire Swifts had a stand at the Michaelmas Fair held at the Hospital of St Cross in Winchester. The weather was good and lots of people attended.

We have been to check on the Swift boxes that are installed here to see how the Swifts fared this year. You can read about how the birds did last year here

There are currently 35 internal boxes installed here with agreement from Catriona Morley, Clerk to the Trustees. She reported that she saw fewer birds here this year than in 2022 and was concerned that fewer birds might have returned to breed. We have been told this at several sites this year but in the event we found that the number of breeding pairs here had in fact gone up from nine to eleven pairs and there were 5 other boxes with the start of a nest built by young non-breeding birds – another great result!

Row of internal boxes at the Hospital of St Cross
Row of internal boxes at the Hospital of St Cross

Interestingly the two pairs that had cameras on them last year with nests built on the internal wall rather than in boxes (four young fledged in 2022) only reared a single young in 2023. In one nest (under Box 18) two eggs were laid this year and one youngster reared, and at the other nest an adult appeared early on but then disappeared. Perhaps this bird was tempted to another box after its mate failed to appear. And a strange thing happened to one of the adults of the pair that reared one young. It went missing on 6 July and was not then seen again until 9.30pm on 14 July. It seems unlikely that this was a new partner so late in the season so who knows where it had been or what it had been doing for the previous 7 or 8 days. The winds during this period were variable but mostly between westerly and southerly so there seems no obvious reason why this bird should have gone awol and shirked its parental duties. We wouldn’t have known this if it wasn’t for having a camera on the nest.

Young Swift on 25 July three days before fledging from nest under Box 18
Young Swift on 25 July three days before fledging from nest under Box 18

Hospital of St Cross end of season Swift box inspections



Box no.

2019

2020

2021

2022

2023

1

2 feathers

2

start of nest

3

2 feathers

4

start of nest

5

start of nest

6

start of nest

7

start of nest

8

none

9

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

10

droppings only

nest complete

nest complete

young fledged

11

clean

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

12

13

14

15

start of nest

nest complete

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged


Box no.

2019

2020

2021

2022

2023

16

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

17

nest complete

young fledged

18

start of nest

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

19

start of nest

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

young fledged

20

21

just moth cases

nest complete

young fledged

young fledged

22

23

start of nest

24

start of nest

young fledged

2 pairs bred + 1 box occupied

2 pairs bred + 3 boxes occupied

8 pairs bred + 2 boxes occupied

9 pairs bred + 4 boxes occupied

11 pairs bred + 5 boxes occupied

I haven’t included details of any of the other eleven boxes as none were occupied, but an important development this year is that a pair nested for the first time (in Box 24) on the north side of the Old Kitchen Wing attracted by a second call player. Remarkably, the pair in this box did not use the nest that they had started to build last year but chose to build a new nest nearer to the entrance hole. This is the first time that we have observed this. At our inspection in September 2022 just eight feathers had been taken into this box and stuck down into the nest concave so I wonder what made them abort building that nest and build a new one next to it this year. All the other pairs in boxes nest on the south side of this building facing the teashop.

Box 24 with its double nest
Box 24 with its double nest

We plan to install eight more boxes this winter to preclude the possibility of birds getting out into the open space of the inside room. We are also going to modify all the existing boxes to have hinged backs to enable a ringing project to commence next year. When we installed the first boxes here in the winter of 2018/2019 we hadn’t considered that and the boxes were all built with a removeable top. But that means the removal of the whole box first which entails tipping it on its side to remove it. We live and learn - and later installations at other sites all have hinged rears so that ringing could take place with no movement of the box itself. And if we’d given it a bit more thought we would have made the boxes a little longer and higher so that cameras could be installed too. But technology is moving ahead in leaps and bounds and the cost of cameras is also reducing as time goes by.

If anyone feels able to contribute towards the cost of the extra boxes and the modifications required to the existing ones then please do email us using info@hampshireswifts.co.uk . Thank you.

Tim Norriss – Hampshire Swifts


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