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Lee-on-Solent update

Here is a lovely update, dated 25 June, from Mark Wagstaff about his Swift colony in Lee-on-Solent on the south coast. You can read the 2023 update here

A banger investigating a box (Mark Wagstaff)
A banger investigating a box (Mark Wagstaff)

“Despite my thinking they would return early this year (my logic from a combination of a heatwave in Africa and thousands of swifts moving early through southern France shown on the Trektellen website), we got just the opposite, with a very slow start.

By mid/late May I had just 5 pairs back – thankfully all breeding but quite a number of pairs ejected eggs this year – one pair ejecting no less than 3 then settling down and now raising two chicks. If I can save the eggs I try putting them back in the nest but its 50:50 whether this works and often the eggs are thrown completely out of the nest and broken.

At the end of May/early June, the second wave came and another 6 pairs have now taken up residence. That makes a total of 11 pairs – 5 have chicks approaching 3 weeks old, 3 pairs are still on eggs (due to hatch this weekend) and 3 pairs are using the boxes regularly but haven’t bred this year. Bodes well for next year though! If all goes well we should have somewhere around 18 chicks to be ringed. If I add in my neighbour’s boxes (I put 5 up on her house some years back) then she has another 3 pairs breeding – so 14 pairs between us. That’s our best ever year, as it was 10 pairs last year. Thankfully this hot weather has arrived just in time for raising the chicks and I can see one box with at least 3 and there is possibly a couple more. I have cameras in all the boxes now but it’s still quite difficult to see eggs or very young chicks.

In addition to the breeding colony, we’ve had about 10-12 prospectors here now for the last week or so. They seem to spend all day here whizzing round the house and banging on the boxes. The next step is for Trevor Codlin to ring the chicks when they are fully feathered – it will take at least two visits this year as there is such a big age range in the chicks.

I’m running out of space for more boxes, so just working out if and where I might squeeze a couple more in! The north wall is full but our swifts don’t read the books and I’ve got just as many now on a south wall. Away from our house I don’t seem to have seen as many this year as in previous ones and House Martins are sadly getting very rare in these parts.

A fifteenth pair in a box has just laid a late egg at the end of June. If successful it won’t fledge till September.”

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