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Unexpected nest sites at the Hospital of St Cross

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

In 2018 we installed 15 internal Swift boxes at the Hospital of St Cross, with three already occupied by 2020.

This summer, we received a call on 8th July from Catriona Morley, the very Swift-friendly Clerk to the Trustees, to say that a nest had recently been found under one of the nest boxes with the adults entering through a hole with no box behind it. The nest contained two half-grown chicks.

Young swifts in a nest under one of our nest boxes!

By the time we went in to take a look at it the next day, one of the Brothers had found another nest containing two eggs. This is quite a late date for Swifts to still have eggs and it’s likely that the young from this nest will not fledge until late in August. You can see that the nest is very rudimentary consisting of just a few feathers stuck together with saliva to the dirt and pebbles lying on top of the wall.

Late eggs in the Hospital of St Cross

On the 14th July, in an extraordinary turn of events, an adult Swift was found indoors in a bucket at ground level below where the Swifts nest!

Young swift in a bucket - later released

It was taken out to the main quadrangle and released where it flew off strongly. Clearly the nests needed to be enclosed quickly to stop another adult going fly-about indoors. Roger and I went in the next morning and had to wait a while for both nests to be unattended by adults and we quickly set to work with a couple of cardboard boxes and string to rig up temporary enclosures to prevent them or the youngsters going the wrong way.

Temporary enclosure for the nests to prevent swifts from flying inside the building

Our next mission will be to rig up a camera on one or both nests, and then during the winter to arrange a more permanent solution.

While we were there Roger and I could hear at least four of the boxes were occupied with youngsters that would start squeaking when an adult returned with food. So, with the two pairs nesting outside the boxes that’s at least six pairs with young in the Old Kitchen Wing this year

A week later the young swifts are much more developed

You can read all about the 15 internal Swift boxes were installed in the Old Kitchen Wing at the Hospital of St Cross in an earlier blog in the winter of 2018. And by 2020 we were delighted that there were three pairs that reared young in the boxes and three others that had been occupied by non-breeding adults.

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