This will be the first review (of anything) on this blog - and probably the last also. I don't tend to review anything unless I think there's really something to it.
However, on the occasion of seeing quite possibly the last of the house martins in 2013 (fifty or so all flying south in a great big chattery flock in morning murk above the house today) I thought I would review my latest purchase for my beloved swifts..... the habi-sabi swift box.
The same review will (I hope) shortly be published on the excellent nhbs website if approved, here.
The habi-sabi swift box.
A detailed “first impressions” review.
By Doug Mackenzie Dodds
As swifts’ traditional nesting sites are being lost (as we change our wooden soffits and fascias with close-fitting plastic replacements or re-point our brickwork & re-tile our roofs) their numbers have crashed over the UK over the past couple of decades.
Swifts tend mainly to choose unimproved, pre-war buildings in which to nest; ignoring new-builds in the main as there is rarely any provision for nesting swifts incorporated (deliberately or accidentally) into modern houses and buildings. This is not the same in a few countries on the continent but sadly our governments and planners here are slow to catch on.
The sound (and sight) of screeching swifts dashing through our towns for only three months each year epitomises summer in Britain, but unless we provide more nest sites for them now, very soon British summers will be bereft of swifts.
How can we try to ensure this does not happen? It’s easy really. We can provide nesting sites either by leaving small holes under eaves or in fascias and soffits or by building or buying bespoke swift nest boxes.
Just a quick note for those not sure whether they might like “dirty birds” nesting on or in their house and spraying droppings everywhere.... swifts (unlike swallows and martins for example) are very clean nesters. Droppings are pretty solid, contained inside the nest site and are almost invariably eaten by the adults.
Now I’m lucky in that I have had swifts nesting in natural nest sites in pre-war houses that I’ve lived in. I’ve managed to even stream video-clips of our nesting swifts onto the web, before my wife and I moved to a post-war (1953 to be exact) town two years ago. Swifts have not nested in any great numbers in our current home-town so it’s a challenge to get them to investigate the houses here to nest.
For the past two years (including the wash-out summer of 2012) I have ensured there are places for swifts to nest under our eaves, designed and built my own internal swift palace in the attic of our house – I had to drill through the attic wall to provide an entrance/exit for the swifts (with my wife’s permission of course) and put-up a great cedar-wood swift box given to me by the self-same long-suffering wife for Christmas.
I have also (and this is the important bit) “called in” the swifts that fly over by playing a looped CD of swift calls from the roof – without this the swifts would not even investigate this particular part of our home town.
During the summers of 2012 and 2013 we have had up to four swifts check out our eaves and boxes on a daily basis, because of the swift call recordings I’m sure. Mainly around dawn and dusk (when most prospecting is carried out) but also throughout the day.
With areas of post-war towns that have never had any significant swift-nesting activity it might well take a few years (maybe five or so) before swifts choose to nest with you - it’s a good test of patience – as these birds, although magnificent to watch, are not the cleverest it seems!
That said, I am hopeful that the best birds of all will nest with us again next year, but to really do ALL that I can for them, I needed one (or two) more boxes right at the gable end of our 1953-built house. Now I could probably design and build one, but upon investigation at timber merchants and DIY stores, any such design would prove very problematic and pretty costly - in terms of time and money.
Then I happened across the habi-sabi (from “51% studios”) double berth “rapidly-deployable” swift box, made from recycled material, on the nhbs website (which you can also view (if not buy) on the swift conservation website HERE).
I thought it looked pretty good – and pretty simple to assemble. It also looked very user-friendly – I could position the swift entrance holes up against the wall or out on the other side of the habi-sabi box – this looked like a very good feature indeed – and unique to the habi-sabi box. No other swift box that one can buy incorporates this incredibly useful feature.
So I bought one and it arrived yesterday.
Of course, the swifts have all disappeared back to the Congo for the winter now, but I will make some adjustments to the habi-sabi box and put it up in place during the winter – ready for the swifts’ return in late April or early May next year.
The below is a detailed review of the habi-sabi swift box (the above was a long introduction to demonstrate why I bought the box and what my experience of breeding swifts is.
First thoughts on the habi-sabi swift box:
Summary of review.
As far as solid, light, weather-resistant, green (made from recycled material), easy-to-assemble, double berth, customisable swift boxes go.... this is the only one on the market (that I know of, at time of writing).
‘51% studios’ doesn’t seem to throw a lot of money at advertising ‘habi-sabi’ products it seems, but I’m very glad I chanced upon this swift box.
The proof will be in the pudding of course – will the dashing swifts use it in years to come? I really don’t see why not but that’s for the future I guess.
I would thoroughly recommend the (51% studios-made) “habi-sabi swift box” without any hesitation at all.