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Winchester Cathedral – 13 pairs of Swifts in just 3 years

Updated: Oct 1, 2023


Roger Maynard, Rachel Hardy and I went to check the Swift boxes at Winchester Cathedral on 20 September. They are positioned in two cabinets within the bell tower on the south side. Previous blogs on the installation and progress of the boxes can be read here, here and here.

Roger and Rachel in the cathedral
Roger and Rachel

Last year two pairs reared young and five other pairs, presumably two-year-old birds, had completed nests in readiness for 2023. One of these had even laid two eggs but these had been pushed out of the nest and had not hatched. So it was reasonable to expect that there would be seven pairs nesting this year.

Box 20 – young have fledged in this box now for three years running
Box 20 – young have fledged in this box now for three years running

This summer 25 or more birds could often be seen flying around the tower and so it is starting to become a real spectacle. The fantastic news is that the results are even better than expected with nine pairs rearing young - albeit in one of these boxes an egg had been pushed out of the nest and in another a small fledgling had been pushed/fallen out and had died. Both of these pairs were first-time nesters and it's not unusual for this to happen with these younger inexperienced birds.

Box 9 – one egg pushed out of the nest (beside the entrance hole)
Box 9 – one egg pushed out of the nest (beside the entrance hole)

In three other boxes nests had been completed in readiness for 2024 and in another, nest construction was also well underway.


Swift box end of season inspection numbers for Winchester Cathedral

Box no.

2021

2022

2023

1

No nest - 1 small tortoiseshell butterfly

Completed nest - no young

Young fledged

2

No nest - 1 small tortoiseshell butterfly

3

Start of nest with leaves

Young fledged

4

1 feather

6 feathers

5

Completed nest - no young

Young fledged

6

2 feathers

Completed nest - no young

7

A few feathers

Completed nest - 2 eggs thrown out

Young fledged

8

A few feathers

Completed nest - no young

Young fledged

9

2 feathers

1 egg laid but pushed out

10

11

1 feather

1 feather

12

1 feather

1 feather

13

1 dropping

14

2 droppings

Half-completed nest

15

1 feather

Completed nest - no young

16

Start of nest

Start of nest

17

Start of nest

Young fledged - 1 small dead fledgling

18

Completed nest - no young

Young fledged

19

Occupied - half built nest

Young fledged

Young fledged

20

Young fledged

Young fledged

Young fledged

1 pair bred + 1 nest completed

2 pairs bred + 5 nests completed

9 pairs bred + 3 nests completed


Box 14 – half-completed nest
Box 14 – half-completed nest

Box 15 – newly completed nest, no young reared
Box 15 – newly completed nest, no young reared

Box 19 with Great-spotted Woodpecker feather (just the other side of the nest)
Box 19 with Great-spotted Woodpecker feather (just the other side of the nest)

Several of the boxes contained lots of Common Clothes Moths, Tineola bisselliella, and in one there was a Brown House Moth, Hofmannophila pseudospretella. And above the boxes a Small Tortoiseshell was sitting waiting til the warmer days of spring.

Perhaps its time to get a few more boxes installed!

Our very grateful thanks go to the Reverend Canon Dr Roland Riem, Vice-Dean, and to other staff at the Cathedral for making this project possible.




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