I saw my first Swifts of this year today, flying really high above the village of Ubbergen.

I saw the first Swift above Beek today, it was flying quite low, pretty much along our street toward the east. The area to the east is home to some nestsites (I hope to find out where and what kind of sites this year), so perhaps this was the first breeder to arrive in Beek I've seen.

The stereo I used to play Swift calls with last year has broken down. I got a 'new' one from Lisette's parents a while ago and tested it today. It works, so bring on the Swifts!

As I was cyling home from work today I noticed a group of Swifts foraging very low over a stream of water near Beek. The Swifts would fly over the water for a while, only centimeters above the surface, and then take a sharp turn either over the meadow on one side of the stream, or over the very busy road on the other side. There's a small sluice in the stream on which you can stand, so I got off my bike and kneeled down on the sluice. It was a real pleasure to see the Swift fly straight at me and turn in the very last moment, passing very close to my head sometimes. After a while I got back on my bike and sprinted home to get my camera. On the way back I met Lisette who told me they were still there. I kneeled down on the sluice again and took both pictures and short videos. The pictures are no good, I'm not a good enough photographer to capture Swifts passing so low at these speeds. The videos are ok, but not great either, especially as it was pretty rainy. They can be found on the Misc. Swift Pictures & Videos page. I've slowed the first one down to half speed to get to see the turning Swift a bit better.

Today I took inventory of a small part of the Waterkwartier-area in Nijmegen. I found six certain nestplaces and suspect there are nestplaces at about 6 more places. One of the nestplaces I found was located under the roof gutter of a house at about 2 or 2.5 meters high. This is quite low, the Swifts pass at about eye-level to get in the nestplace. Doing so, they have to evade trees in the (broad) street and two young sweeping oaks in the front garden of this house! It was quite spectacular to stand in front of the building with the nestplace and see the Swift fly straight at me, passing me at less than a meter to fly into the nestplace. I filmed the entry and exit of a Swift from this nestplace and slowed the video speed to half speed. I suspect there are two more nestplaces in the ridge of the roof. I'm pretty sure I saw four birds enter through the same hole. The videos can be found in the Misc. Swift Pictures & Videos section.

I've been playing Swift calls regulary the past couple of days whenever I see Swifts getting close enough to hear the calls. Today some came really close, screaming parties passed pretty much over our roof a couple of times, but they were more like chases than screaming parties passing a (possible) nestplace. Spectacular to see, but unfortunately, not a single bird has responded to the played Swift calls so far. Perhaps I'll have to wait a bit longer for 'seekers' to arrive.

I was inventorising Swift nestplaces in the area east to our house (called Koningsholster) when I came acros a rather weird view the other day. I took a picture of it today, which can be found on the diary pictures page. It's the wing of a dead Swift sticking out (near) a used nestplace. The nestplaces in Koningsholster can pretty much all be found in these kind of places, under the roof tiles at the roof edge of corner houses. I'm not sure if maybe the other wing of this dead Swift (that looks like it's been dead for a while by the way) has been used in a nest (Swifts use almost every material they can get in building their nest). I hope to get a closer look after the breeding season.

As I was walking to the rendevouz-point of the Zuid Limburg excursion (see the diary, may 24th 2009), I finally saw proof that the new nest entrances in the Ziekerstraat are being used. At least one nestplace is being used by a pair of Swifts, one can be seen entering in the video which I took in the afternoon, after the excursion. My history with these nestplaces can be read in the 'Ziekerstraat-story'.
I may also have seen a first reaction to the Swift calls I've been playing today. A couple of Swifts were circling low behind our house (I'm not aware of a nestplace there (yet)) so I started playing the calls. After a while, a group of 4 or 5 birds went screaming through our street. Just one pass though, so it may have been a coincidence.

I recieved a phone call yesterday of someone I know through the KNNV. He had found a Swift on the ground near his home. He had taken it home and placed it in/under a box in the dark so it might get some rest. I went over there and called a fellow Swift-enthousiast, Eline, with a bit more experience than me. The Swift wasn't looking very good. It had some food-ball fragments on the side of it's head (it had lost some more earlier) and one of it's eyes wouldn't open much at all. When held in the hands of Eline one of the wings seemed to droop a bit. Eline called with the chairwoman of the Dutch Association for Swift Protection for some advice and we all agreed the Swift would best left alone for a while. Eline took the Swift to her house (I went along) and placed it in a box in the darkness. After about an hour or so we checked it. Upon opening the box we were scared it might have died as it was so motionless. But it was still breathing. We left it alone, Eline would check again next morning. I recieved a message today that the Swift hadn't improved, so it had been taken to an animal shelter. The people at the shelter had determined the wing was not broken, though it was slightly swollen. The poor Swift will be taken to a veterinarian specialized in birds next monday. I hope it'll make it, though it may already be too late for it's young. The remaining parent might not have been able to gather enough food for them all. I took a couple of pictures of the Swift which can be found in the Misc. Swift Pictures & Videos section.

I took my mom to take a look around in the area called Koningsholster here in Beek after a walk through the forest today. At a known nestplace we were able to observe a juvenile Swift peering out of the nesthole entrance. Several screaming parties passed by and after a little while one of the parents came home. It entered at great speed in a split second. After it had entered, I waited with my camera pointed at the entrance hole, hoping to be able to take a picture as the parent left again. We waited and waited, my mom held my binoculars pointed at the entrance hole looking for signs of movement (something that would be easier to see through the binoculars than through the camera). Both the camera and the binoculars grew very heavy after what seemed like a long time though. We gave up, so I can only show two pictures, both are no match for what we saw through the binoculars... Even though the binoculars magnify 10 times and the camera more than 12, the binoculars offer a far better quality view. If only I could capture what I can see through them on a photograph... I guess better photographers can. The pictures I took can be found in the diary pictures page.

In december Lisette's brother once again helped with my Swift-thingies. This time by drilling a hole through the second bedroom's floor. The cables for the mini infrared camera in one of the nest boxes ended up in this bedroom, which wasn't very handy. We had originally planned to put my computer on a desk in this room, but that never happened, it ended up in the living room. The hole through the floor enables my to pull the cables through into the living room. There I drilled a hole through the floor myself (wooden floor downstairs, thick conrete upstairs) pulling the cables into the crawlspace. There they entered a tube just below the location of the desk which ends in a socket behind the desk. I fixed the Pinnacle Dazzle DVD Recorder (a piece of hardware that converts the analog signals from the camera into digital signals that I can record onto the harddrive of my computer) under the desk, so now I can watch the camera's images downstairs simply by plugging in the adapter for the camera's power and starting the software. It was a bit scary plugging in the adapter for the first time as I destroyed my first camera ever because I had switched the powercables causing a short circuit... But there was no way I could check if everything was ok, so I just plugged it in keeping my fingers crossed... The image below was the first I saw! See also the diary entries for December 14th and December 31st 2009.

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