Swifts Ziekerstraat project, may - august 2008.

I've known a building in the Ziekerstraat in Nijmegen to contain a couple of Swift nestsites for years. Still living in the appartment in the Moenenstraat I used to notice a lot of 'screamers' near that building during my Swift watching evenings up on the Mariënburg garage roof. (see also the swift project 2008 pictures & videos section for a short clip of such a 'screaming party'.)
When I noticed preparations for building activities were being made around the end of may, I decided to take action to try and secure the nestlocations for the future. It took some effort, but I found out who owned the building and who was doing the renovation-work. I contacted them and was directed to the contractor by the owner's office. After the owner of the building gave me the green light for trying to re-create Swift nesting places after the renovation, I met the project leader on may 29th. I'd consulted with the Dutch Swallow/Swift Advicebureau (Zwaluwen Adviesbureau op non-profit basis) about some details of the future nestplace possibilities before this meeting. The project leader and I talked about the possibilities and I provided him with some information on Swifts and creating nestplaces. I also told him that in case new nestplaces would be provided, the lower building next to the building containing the excisting nestsites would also be very suitable for nestplaces.

The old situation can be seen on the three pictures below. There were three nest entrance holes, two formed by the rotting of the wood by leaking gutters, the other an old drainpipe-hole. I've numbered the nestplaces 1 to 3, the 'rotting hole' on the left being number 1, the one on the far right number 2 and the big round hole number 3.


On august 11th, when the front of the gutter was removed, I took a couple of pictures of the nests, which were all very typically made in the corners furthest from the nest entrance holes. Maybe Swifts like to nest in the dark for some reason, or maybe they need the room at the entrance hole when they enter the hole at reasonably high speed. The pictures can be found here in the swift project 2008 pictures & videos section. I'd seen stuff hanging out of the nest entrance of nest 3 from the street. From up on the scaffold it turned out to be as dangerous for the Swifts as it had looked from down below. The nest-space contained a lot of rope, but also nylon wire. There was a dead young Swift in the space as well. Looing closer at the nests once at home it was clear it'd died from being trapped in the nylon wire. The wire was wrapped around one leg a couple of times, then around the other leg a couple of times, and finally twice around it's neck. No doubt a horrible death. :(
Nest 1 was very primitive and contained mostly straws, only a few feathers. Nest 2 contained a lot more feathers, but also straws, sticks, a piece of paper that appeared to have come from a burned newspaper, a piece of plastic, rope and a piece of gold plastic-covered thin metal wire. The rope was certainly too thick and heavy to have been caught in the sky. It may have already been present in or near the nestspace, possibly used to fixate the drainpipe that the hole that was used as nest entrance originally was used for. Or sparrows may have brought it when they used the same space to nest in.

On august 21st I went back up on the scaffolding on invitation of the owner to explain more about the positioning of the new openings. The owner wasn't present due to some mis-communication, but I was able to talk things through with my contact at the contractor, Tini (along with two carpenters that were at work on the gutters at that time). I drew a circle of roughly 5 cm diameter on the front corner of two of the spaces between the support-beams and told Tini the holes should be approx. 5 cm. As there aren't any drills that size, he said it'd be 46 mm. Tini would talk things through with the owner and would also talk to him about the amount of entrances that'd be made. There was room for 9 if all spaces between the support beams would be used. On the phone, the owner had said he didn't want entrances above the future shop's door, as people might get bird droppings on their heads. He said there'd probably be 3 or 4 entrances.
I also measured the nestspaces this day. They are strange, definately nothing like nestbox sizes (approx. 15x20x40 (hxwxd) is nice). The height was only about 7 cm, the width a spacious 70 and the depth around 25 cm (see the third picture below). The height may not be ideal, but the Swifts had nested here before, and there wasn't any way to adjust the dimensions. I also took some pictures (which can be found here), among which a picture of the view from about the height of the nests, a nice little square with some small fountains. The pictures were taken using a single use camera, which explains the lower than usual quality.

On september 4th I cycled past the Ziekerstraat after work, just like I had done the previous two or three days, to see if any progress had been made with the entrance holes. And this time there had been! I could count 5 holes from the street below! There wasn't anyone from the contractor anymore though, so I couldn't check from up on the scaffolding. I left work early the next day though and was able to take a look from up close. I photographed a couple of the five holes and was happy there weren't only three (the pictures can be found here). But then Tini notified me of two more holes in the eaves of the adjescent, slightly less tall building! So there are 7 nestplaces available for the coming years. :) I'd mentioned that the adjescent building was also very suitable during one of the first talks with someone from the contractor company, but had focused on getting things done for the higher building after that. I was very pleasantly surprised of course! Another picture was taken september 6th, using a single use camera again (this can be found here). It gives an impression of the height of the building. Pictures of the final situation will follow once the scaffolding has been removed, which should be sometime next week (as I write this it's september 8th).

I went back up on the scaffolding on september 19th to put some feather into the nestplaces. I managed, with some effort, to get a small handful of feathers into the five nestplaces in the original building. The wood below the gutter of the lower building that also has two openings was being painted, so I couldn't mess around with feathers there. I did take a new picture of the nestholes, as it looks much nicer now the paintwork is done. The pictures can be found here in the swift project 2008 pictures & videos section.

I'm thankful to the Dutch Swallow/Swift Advicebureau (Zwaluwen Adviesbureau op non-profit basis) and of course very, very thankful to the contractor and the owner. The owner also told me there were other projects planned for the city centre of Nijmegen and that he'd keep me and my phone number in mind. :) I look forward to helping Swifts on many, many more occasions in the future.

Around the end of october the renovation of the outside of the building was completed. Things ended up looking very, very neat. I will of course make regular visits to the Ziekerstraar to see if the swifts enter their new homes in the summer of 2009. Pictures and/or videos of that will end up in the Swift projects 2008 pictures and videos section.


Update: I finally saw a Swift enter one of the new holes on May 24th 2009! It was early in the morning and I didn't have time to try and photograph or film something, even though I did have my camera with me. Later that same day I did have some time and managed to film a bit. The editted video of the entrance of a Swift into one of the new entrance holes (slowed down as well) can be found below. I hope I'll be able to add some higher quality videos in the future and some photographs as well.

On June 14th 2011 I went to the Ziekerstraat insted of going to the Hessenberg again. I went to the Ziekerstraat in the evening, hoping for as much activity as possible. I was curious to see how many pairs are using the openings. A couple of screaming parties passed by, not many. I saw the opening that I knew to be in use being used. Later in the evening, I saw a banger enter the opening next to it, but it left again after one or two seconds. I thought I'd caught that on video, but couldn't find it in any of the recordings I made. Too bad, I'd hoped more pairs would use these openings. I was there at the right time, so if more pairs were indeed using them, I should probably have seen it. I did manage to make a nice video (in my opinion) of a Swift leaving the known opening. Also a video of one entering that same opening. Pay attention to the small bit of roof-gutter on the right of the building. Hint: view the videos on full screen using the following button in the player: .

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