The three waves of swifts.

July 02, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

First things first. In case you weren't aware, this week (if you're reading this between June 27th and July 5th, 2020) is Swift Awareness Week.

I know, I know.... you've tired of "left-handed awareness day" and "brown sauce month" and "movember" and smurf appreciation week", haven't you... but swifts... well they (of course) deserve an awareness week. In fact, if you agree with me, you'd say they need an awareness week.

Covid 19 has put the kaibosh on a lot of the planned, physical activities, but there is still a lot going on (see the end of this blog post for a few details).


Secondly - I thought I'd put a little more meat on the bones of the story this year of our visiting swifts - swifts that have now THREE TIMES (this week) entered and explored my attic space - which regular readers of this blog will know I got very excited about t'other day.

I also got excited about swifts entering my (swift) tunnel (matron) in 2018 too - but no joy at all (of any description) last year - so what IS going on?

The wee picture below will explain all in terms of the three waves of swifts each year, but please remember that these wave dates are based on a site at altitude, by Lake Geneva (several 100 miles south of us) - so you can add a week or two (at least) to these rough dates below.



Now. What of my visiting swifts?



These interested swifts (above) arrived on 8th June. Bearing in mind the above (and my dates alteration) and also the fact that this swift pictured (above) only has a wee pale patch under its gob - well... that would suggest (not guarantee, suggest) that this is a second wave swift. A two or three year old swift. These interested swifts did NOT pre-breed, but just were "bangers". (Flying up to the swift entrance and banging on it). Which would make them two years old, not three.

Why didn't they return last year to pre-breed and this year (when they're four years old) to breed?

You tell me.




No visitors of any sort really, other than a couple of swifts flying by at dusk, every so often, giving a wee scream to the swift call MP4 playing from our roof.




LOTS of interest in my attic space. (I took down the habi sabi swift boxes as to be blunt... they're awful - read my comment to this blog).

But how old are these visitors - and which wave do they belong to - will they finally breed in our attic next year?

OK... our first very interested swift  (below) arrived on June 15th.


Which... as per all the above, could make it wave 2 or perhaps wave 3. It has what I'd call a medium white throat... (young swifts have a very noticeably-white throat). But... it didn't pre-breed... it just "banged" for a bit. So.... if someone put a gun to my head... well... I'd guess (bit of a stab in the dark really - I didn't get great photos of these swifts) it is two years old again - rather like the swifts that arrived and entered my tunnel (matron) in 2018. So... if this swift (these swifts... there were a few) survive this year, get back down to the Congo again and return safely next year, they may then be three years old and "pre-breed". Enter the attic as a pair. Produce sterile eggs. Have a first go at it all, basically. Lots of big ifs there, mind - the biggest of all, of course, being that I'm calling these swifts two years old but I don't know that for sure. And if they do that, maybe they'll be back in 2022 to properly breed at four years old? If they survive that long, can avoid the Mediterranean guns and all that migrating - and of course we are still here at the new "Swift Half" to see them back?!


Finally then.

The most recent excitement came just a week ago now - and continued for a few days in good weather (nope... I don't know where all that hot sun went either).

These swifts arrived around the 25th June, maybe a few days earlier. Generally in a squadron of three-five - and this was the squadron that alighted in my swift tunnel and then EXPLORED inside the box (we have a camera in the box, piped wirelessly down to an old portable TV in the conservatory - and Ben, my eldest, noticed a swift in that box (a box built INSIDE the attic - for bird ringing purposes eventually), first.

I got a great photo of this bird, see below - in strong sunshine.

You can see this bird has a very white throat - and the lateness of its arrival would strongly suggest to me that this bird was born last year. If that is the case AND it survives another few years and trips to and fro' the Congo, it may not properly breed with us until 2023, i.e. when it becomes four years old. 


Can I wait that long? 

Guess I may just have to!


I will have been desperately trying to get my favourite bird of all breeding with us here since 2012, after filming them in our attic at our old house in Reading in 2011.

Next Spring will be my tenth spring at our current house, the new "Swift Half", calling them down from the skies.

2023  (if I'm right about the bright swift above - and that is the year that it actually breeds with us, if it survives that long) will be my twelfth year at it.




Wildlife doesn't half teach you patience, eh?







Swift awareness week. Some details...

Edward Mayer was interviewed by David Lindo (The Urban Birder):

Hampshire Swifts are encouraging records of nesting swifts, have a self-guided trail round Lymington and doing social media work.
Tideswell, Derbyshire: promoting swifts in the village and via the recently set up Environment Group there.

London (Mike Priaulx): The swift spotting hour was 8-9pm on 28 June, Search for #LondonSAW2020 on Twitter or Instagram or view LondonSAW2020 on Facebook for sightings.

For those in London, submit your sightings:

Ely/Dick Newell: a sign installed drawing people's attention to the Swift boxes on various key buildings there. (Dick adds: “The Swifts can obviously read, because they are already going in and out of 6 out of the 12 boxes!”

Taverham (Norfolk) Swifts - leaflet drop.

Hull and East Yorkshire Swift Group working with Hull City Council & Yorkshire WT have installed 6 Swift boxes on the Guildhall in Hull.  Press release this week.Plus  leaflet drops and five boxes to be installed too.

N. Norfolk Villages (Thornham area) - leaflet drop in areas where swifts are thought to be nesting.

Truro: leaflet drop

The Guardian’s Country Diary Tuesday 30th was about swifts, written by Mark Cocker: .

 A guest blog by Mike Priaulx will be on Mark Avery’s blog:

 Hackney Swifts (Henrietta Cole) - online quiz plus a swift spotting hour. (Open to all but you need to register for the quiz 8pm 2 July).

London (organised by Islington Swifts/Mike Priaulx). Unguided Swift spotting 8-9pm 28/7.

Bradford on Avon (Rowena Baxter) letter in The Wiltshire Times ( for 26/6)

Altringham (Tanya Hoare) webinar on swifts with a local natural history group. 30/6.

North Wales Wildlife Trust (Ben Stammers) swift feature on Radio Cymru’s natural history programme 27/6.

Macclesfield (Tina Hanak) a series of activities for the local Wildlife Explorer group members and see #MaccSwiftAdventure to follow the giant swift called Emily!

Adderbury & Deddington, Oxon, (Chris Mason) - local articles about swifts promoting self-guiding trails.

Landbeach (Dick Newell) - see   Date Tbc.

Holland Park & Edward Mayer - online Zoom talk about how to help Swifts - Thursday 2nd July at 18-30 To book contact by e-mail = [email protected]

Bolton & Bury (Louise Bentley) live event on Facebook re. swift boxes. Tcb.

Kingsteignton Devon (Alistair Whybrow) 28/6 a stall at the church with leaflets/nest boxes etc and an article in a local paper.

South Normanton (Helen Naylor) exciting range of activities for infants at her school.

Ludlow (Peta Sams) article in Ludlow paper

Shropshire Wildlife Trust (Sarah Gibson): press release and social media work. .

Derbyshire: blog on DWT website, local radio interview (26/7), social media activity, press release.

Aldeburgh Swifts video sent to those who have had Swift boxes fitted (over 150 boxes so far!)

Isle of Man: A reading of the book 'Screamer the Swift' is on YouTube and a worksheet (Screamer the Swift Q&A) plus 29 questions are linked to the story.

Huntly Swifts, Aberdeenshire (Cally Smith): a piece in the local paper, mention on BBC Radio Scotland Out of Doors this weekend plus Cally’s swift artwork at reduced prices (proceeds to her swift group) are on the Huntly swift group facebook page for purchase & via ;
Plus a Swift window display in a village where we propose putting boxes in the church. Also a few swift videos and a ‘commentary’ on the Scottish WL Trust website.

Herts & Middx WL Trust held a webinar on swifts (65 attended) and will be tweeting about swifts/SAW next week.

Totley Group (Sheffield) Sally Goldsmith (and her 9 year old niece Bronwyn) will be interviewed by BBC Radio Sheffield on Tuesday about swifts.
Yorkshire Dales National Park: call for sightings of swifts. See

Bradwell Group, Derbyshire, further promotion of swifts in the village and linking with a new wildlife group there.

Hastings & Rother Group: article in Hastings & St Leonard’s Observer, launch of new Jonathan Pomroy logo.

Truro (Thais Martins): Action for Swifts leaflet drop around the town





No comments posted.

January February March April May June (4) July August September (1) October November (1) December (4)
January (1) February (2) March (3) April (6) May (7) June (5) July (4) August September October November December