TOTLEY SWIFT GROUP, THE STORY SO FAR
Friends of Gillfield Wood has been running now for over 10 years. Some of our committee members were keen to set up a Swift Group in Totley so a couple of us went over to Bradwell in November 2019 to hear a talk on Swifts and to find out a little more about a Swift Group that was being set up in that village.
In early 2020 we had organized a sub-committee, part of Friends of Gillfield Wood, to work on ideas for a Totley Swift Group. We invited Chet Cunago to join us as she had by chance just set up a Facebook page and created interest in Swifts in the village, to the point that a number of residents had purchased Swift nest boxes from Lester Hartmann’s “Peak Boxes”.
Two of the main aims of the group have been to survey and try to establish the current status of Swifts in the village and to try to protect the existing nest sites; this is ongoing. And to provide additional nest sites by erecting nest boxes.
We initially advertised our group through articles in the Totley Independent and by putting up posters around the village. We were due to have a Swift talk in April last year to kick start our group but Covid restrictions meant we had to cancel. We pressed on nevertheless and were successful with a £500 grant application to the Council Ward Pot. With this money we were able to purchase 10 dual chambered nest boxes from “Peak Boxes”.
At the same time, we had created sufficient interest through word of mouth etc., for 10 local residents to purchase boxes privately from Lester. All 20 boxes were erected in March of this year.
Our survey work between May and August 2020 had provided us with a good idea as to where Swifts were nesting in the village. We had found natural sites in holes in brickwork and under gutters. This helped us make decisions as to where to site the nest boxes we had purchased with the grant money. Since then, a second season of survey work has enabled us to establish that we have at least 25 natural nest sites in Totley. A reasonable base from which to work and we hope to find more next year.
We also made another successful grant application, this time from “Birds on the Brink”. As this is an internationally known charity in the bird world, we feel very privileged to have gained their support. This has enabled us to purchase another 10 nest boxes and these were erected last month.
Pleasingly we have now been able to get both Totley schools involved. As a start, one box has been fitted on each school with the intention of introducing more boxes, sound systems plus cameras inside the boxes in due course.
A dozen more residents showed interest in purchasing their own boxes which, we have managed to erect this month. So, with nearly all these boxes having dual nest chambers we will have introduced around the village over 90 new nest sites for Swifts so far. Our thanks extend to Lester who has erected the boxes and helped us so much over the last 18 months.
Chet’s Facebook page, Totley Swifts, continues to generate great interest with at least 70 followers. We also set up an Outlook Account for email purposes. Membership is free and we have 50 people on the mailing list so far. This is used for sending out occasional updates and a survey form should any members wish to send in data of their Swift sightings.
We also have a WhatsApp group just for the Swift Group committee to keep in touch. We have even had outdoor committee meetings in Green Oak Park whilst watching the Swifts overhead.
We hope to have an evening of Swifts for members next season with a planned walk around the village. And we hope to encourage the Council to make Sheffield a City of Swifts, getting developers to use Swift Bricks and nest boxes around the city wherever possible.
Our group’s profile has been raised through articles in the Star, the Sheffield Telegraph and a piece on Radio Sheffield. Sally Goldsmith, another of our committee members, was also kindly invited by the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust to say a few words about our group at the end of a recent Zoom meeting on Swifts.
We are in touch with other Swift Groups and share information and advice and we hope to help and work alongside Dore Swift Group going forward.
We now eagerly await next May in the hope that Swifts will show more than just a passing interest in our nest boxes but will actually start to occupy one or two. Exciting times.
Chris Measures, Chair of Totley Swift Group
Committee: Mick Warwick, Chris Brewster, Sally Goldsmith, Chet Cunago, Julie Gay
SWIFT CALL SYSTEMS
A review by Chet Cunago of Totley Swift Group
After a little research I've discovered the following 3 'affordable' callers.
(My preferred choice. Can change the pre-loaded call. Can alter volume. Can plug in more microphones in future)
Each unit is supplied with a waterproof speaker and 10 metres of cable plus a USB stick with one pre-recorded swift call. Additional speakers, cable , and USB call for House Martins are also available. Other calls may be available on request. If you require more than 3 additional speakers, please get in touch.
(Made by Andrew Porter.
Downside - not fully waterproof, can't change the repetitive call which comes pre-loaded and can be loud & repetitive for neighbours).
The unit comes with the calls pre-installed so it’s good to just plug and play.
I use PayPal Friends & Family for payment.
I can give no guarantees as to the longevity of parts. I have made and sold almost 700 of them without issue.
The boxes are weatherproof but not waterproof. They will stand some adverse weather but will need protection from extreme inclement weather. I used a very simple & practical solution for mine, I put it in a sandwich bag before I hung it outside. Worked a treat for me!
I supply the boxes with a 3m long standard USB cable but not the plug, most people have a spare knocking about.
The best way to Power the unit is to use a 24hr timer plug, that way you can control on & off times.
The unit can also be powered by a phone charging power bank.
SWIFT MICRO CALLERS.. EBay
I don't understand these. But that's my lack of understanding. Not necessarily an issue with the item.
Consists of a miniature MP3 player powered from a phone charger with calling sounds stored on a microSD card and it has a small speaker with 5 metres of cable so the calling system can be mounted inside a building. We include the speaker mount and screw. The speaker is soldered to the extension cable and the joint is double insulated.
It is set up assembled and ready for you to attach the speaker cable to the amplifier box and comes with three swift calling sounds ready installed on the card - a total of 5.1/2 mins of sounds and automatic repeat setting.
What we don't include is the 24 hour mains programmer (£3.50 in ASDA) nor the actual mains plug top with USB socket as people will often have these already.
It comes in a box
The other option which many people recommended is putting a CD player/portable speaker next to an open window as close to the box as possible on a timer.
CD or mp3 of Swift call available at
I also have a 'mix tape ' of Swift calls and silences which are less repetitive. It's a large file but I can email it.
Cheers Chet (Totley Swifts)
When to play Swift Calls
Calls can be played using various methods
Mark Glanville of Bristol Swifts has built a highly successful Swift Colony around his home. Following his advice quoted below re using Swift Calls can be highly effective provided the calls are played in a consistent manner.
“Swift calls can be played in the mornings and evenings on calm, dry days from May to July to good effect. However as there are normally three waves of swift arrivals these are the most effective times that I found to play the calls.
THE FIRST WAVE. These normally arrive in the last week in April – early May and consist mainly of breeding adults returning to their traditional nest sites. It is difficult to attract these to a new site (box) as they are extremely site faithful, however displaced breeding adults will take up residency in new homes but it’s rare. You can play your CD/mp3 anytime from now but the chances of attracting any are slim.
THE SECOND WAVE. These start to arrive from the end of May and into the first half of June. These are the ones you are after. These are 2-3 year old birds looking for a nest site. They are definitely attracted by the CD/mp3 calls and will fly up to and investigate wherever the sound is coming from. Try and place your speakers as near as you can to your box and play it as loud as you can (with neighbours agreement). Play whenever the weather is calm. Avoid wet and windy days as swifts don’t prospect for new nest sites in bad weather. Best times to play your CD/mp3 is between 6 -11am and again between 8-10pm. If you’re lucky enough to attract a pair they will spend the rest of the summer building a new nest ready for next year.
THE THIRD WAVE. These arrive in the middle of July. They are yearlings returning for the first time. They are interested in joining a colony and will visit several in the local area to suss out the best ones. They might even enter one of your boxes, roosting in it until they leave in August, but they won’t start nest building until the following year. They are also attracted by the CD/mp3, so play as described above.”
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