With the encouragement and approval of the Diocese of Ely, and local PCC’s, nest-boxes for Swifts have been installed behind the louvres in the belfries of All Saints Church in Landbeach and St. Margaret's in Chippenham. This follows an initiative by Bill Murrells, Haddenham church warden, who has installed nest-boxes in the belfries of both Holy Trinity, Haddenham and St Mary’s, Ely.
Four cabinets, each containing 4 nest-boxes are installed in each belfry. There are four configurations. depending upon whether the box has an entrance tunnel and/or a nesting platform. The tunnels are made of a section of 100mm plastic pipe and the nest-platforms are made of 18mm ply or 18mm MDF and turned on a lathe. There are 4 examples of each configuration in each belfry. Further variables include whether the box is left/right handed, the level in the cabinet, and louvre window direction. Simple detectors made of small strips of shiny aluminium, coated in a thin film of soot, placed inside the entrances should indicate the extent to which birds enter each box. The plan is to install an automated system to play Swift calls from a CD at specified times of the day.
After a few years, experiments like this may indicate whether Swifts prefer a nesting platform and whether they prefer it dark and secluded with a tunnel. It may also indicate whether they prefer left or right-handed boxes.
Dick Newell, March 2006