Swifts Hessenberg project, nov 2008 - +/- nov 2009

Around halfway into November 2008 I managed to get in touch with the right person at Heijmans Vastgoed. I'd noticed a while before that that construction had started on a large project in Nijmegen's city centre. Of course I thought it would be nice if there would also be some room for Swifts in the future buildings. The person I spoke to at Heijmans Vastgoed (Heijmans Development) thought I was too late though. As soon as construction has begun, all drawing have already been made and it would be costly to get them made afterwards (bricklayers need drawing in order to know how to place Swift nest bricks and how to create the right entrance for the birds). He was very kind though and would certainly be willing to help if it'd been possible.

After the Sovon-day, the annual happening of the bird research foundation Sovon where I'd helped at the stand of GBN (Dutch Association for the Protection of Swifts), I had some renewed energy to try again to get something done for Nijmegen's Swifts at this project called De Hessenberg.
I scanned several technical drawings (like this) of nest bricks and images of examples of projects where they'd been placed and emailed them to my contact at Heijmans Vastgoed on December 1st. I told him I was hoping these examples might be useful enough to replace the drawings that were needed and so enable some help for Swifts afterall.

On December 11th my contact had left a message on my phone telling me there would probably be some possibilities afterall. He'd consulted with the contractor and and collegues and they were looking into how things could best be fitted into the project. The contractor would get back to me to make an appointment to talk things through on the construction site. I recieved an email from someone at the contactor a bit before christmas telling me he would call me in the beginning of january.

Project Hessenberg is a project in which 10 blocks of flats are beging realised in the middle of the city centre. The image above shows the map for the Hessenberg-area. The dark blue objects represent the new buildings, the lighter blue ones are excisting buildings. In theory, all north to east facing walls with enough height and clear flight-paths are suitable for placement of nest bricks. Imagine standing on one of the squares, surrounded by beautifully designed new buildings in the oldest city of the Netherlands with Swifts circling the sky and chasing eachother through the streets...

On February 5th 2009 I had a meeting with 3 people of the project. I told them some things about the Swift and the possibilities for creating nest places. Everyone seemed enthousiastic about incorporating nest bricks in the masonry of at least the buildings with 'soft' bricks.

On March 3rd I recieved an email from my contact telling me the architect had met the idea of creating nest places for Swifts with enthousiasm as well. To be continued...

Good news! On March 12th I received an email telling me a total of 22 nest bricks will be placed, 9 in block 2, 7 in block 3 and 6 in block 9. See also the picture above. The bricks will be placed in north facing walls around the end of june.

In the week of September 15th I received an email telling me the very first nestbrick had been placed! Click here to go to the (Dutch) page for the nestbrick on the website of the supplier, Vivara. My contact asked me to come take a look as soon as possible to see if everything was satisfactory. I went to the construction site the following day. The opening looked very nice as did the place of instalment. The opening for this first nestbrick will be one of the very few that wil be visible from the street (though only to those who know what to look for). I only had a couple of small remarks which will be kept in mind when installing the rest of the nestbricks. I'll probably go for another look when the next bricks have been installed, probably somewhere next week.


On the 22nd of September I went for another look. Some nestbricks that had only just been installed in a wall above a roof had gone a bit wrong. The entrance holes were about 2 cm under the top of the nesting-chamber, insted of being about 2 cm above the floor. Luckily the masonry was still very fresh, so the person I was with just puller out the stones in which the entrance hole had been made. By turning them around things could be corrected.

I went for yet another look on September 29th. We went all the way up to the highest level of the highest building in which nestbricks were installed. The view was great, looking out over Nijmegen's city centre. I didn't take a picture of that unfortunately, but there's some great impressions in the video on the project website and on some pictures in this same website's photogallery. I did try to take some pictures that got the view and an entrance hole in the same picture, but that proved to be rather difficult. The entrance holes were very neatly finished though. Swifts that decide to nest here will have an amazing view...

I took some more pictures just from the streets below on October 23rd:


I might add some pictures later, when all scaffolding has been removed and such. And of course I hope the entrance holes will be discovered soon!

See also the 'Swifts in the media-section' for an article (in Dutch) that appeared in the regional newspaper De Gelderlander on December 17th 2009.

Today, June 2nd 2010 I led an 'excursion' for a single member (due to poor announcing on my part) of the bird workgroup Nijmegen. We started at the Ziekerstraat (see also the Ziekerstraat page). I was hoping to see use of other holes than the one I already know to be in use (the second one from the right), but there was very little Swift activity, just some passing high above. We got to see a Swift entering another known nest place and of course I talked about Swifts a lot. We got to the Hessenberg project as well. As we approached we saw a screaming party passing the tallest building (the one on the second picture above). Ehm... A coincidence perhaps? As we got closer, another screaming party right passed the entrance holes. Could it be...? As we stood there we saw a Swift cling to one of the openings! They found them! In the first season!!!
We went to some other places but got back to the Hessenberg eventually. We saw one actually enter! And then another in a different nest brick! I took these poor pictures and hope to take better soon!


On June 7th 2010 I watched, filmed and photograped a couple of Swifts behaving as 'bangers'. This behaviour is believed to indicate these Swifts are inspecting potential nest sites. They are often very excited though... The Swifts on the video below are therefore checking out places that are very unlikely to be suitable nest places. Especially strange is the fact pretty much all the nest bricks were still available, so they shouldn't have to look very hard. The name 'banger' is suitable though. At about 0:50 in the video below, a Swift flies up against the rain-pipe. I saw one doing that when I wasn't filming yet as well and could hear it actually hitting it. Banging against something like that is thought to be done to hear if there's a response if the nest site is occupied.


On June 8th 2011 I went to take a look around the Hessenberg in the evening. Standing on the square Groot Bethlehem the blocks that had construction numbers III and IX (see the map on top of this page) can be monitored when it comes to the nest bricks. In nest bricks of block III, of which the video and photos above are, I noticed Swifts flying in and out. Two came from the entrance opening on the far left, which means there's a pair in that nest brick! There's no way to tell if there are eggs or young as well. If Swifts enter with a full throat, that would indicate young, but that'll be hard to see standing about 26 meters away. There is also a posibility to see young Swift peering out somewhere later in the season.
Other than that, I saw a Swift leave the entrance opening on the far right. I guess I will return with my camera some time soon.

On June 10th I recorded the two videos below, early in the morning. I saw two Swifts leave the entrance opening on the far right! So there are at least two pairs using nest bricks in the taller building (building block III)! Later, I also noticed a Swift enter and leave the fifth opening of this same building. Also a Swift leave the opening on the far left of the adjacent lower building (building block IX)! Quite a few screaming parties as well, among other around the corner over block II, which contains a couple of nest bricks as well. One in the façade at the Hezelstraat, one in the small north-facing façade just around the corner (see the map on top of this page) and another seven in the somewhat higher façades with dark stones. Unfortunately I have not yet been able to ascertain if any of these nest bricks are being used. I made two short videos of leaving Swifts, the one on the left is from a nest brick in block IX, the right from one in block III.


On June 11 I went to the Hessenberg again. I couldn't resist and cycled over to it (about 25 minutes away). I usually see some screaming parties along the way, especially on the Waalkade (the boulevard of the river Waal), but none this time. That was not a good sign. And that turned out to be true. It was very quiet at the Hessenberg. A couple of Swifts flew over, no screaming parties. I saw a couple of entries in the already known nest brick entrances. Later in the evening I noticed some screaming parties behind me. I was standing on the edge of the square Groot Bethlehem from which blocks III and IX can be overseen, entrance openings wise, beside block II. From that location I couldn't see any of the entrance openings in that block. So I went to a position from which I could. And I saw (and filmed!) an entry! A single Swift entered the opening in the façade with the light coloured wall stones. I saw another entrance in an old building across the street. It was around 10 'o clock at that point, so the light was a bit poor. Hence the somewhat grainy video, but the entrace can be seen quite well I think. :)

On June 12th I went to the Hessenberg once again. I'd seen some screaming parties going by the dark eaves of block II, so I went to sit in a small alley from where I could see two dark eaves with a total of seven nest bricks if I'm not mistaken. After setting up my camera, I waited and waited. Eventually, I saw a Swift enter! Unfortunately, I didn't catch it on film. Thankfully I filmed it leaving again a bit later though. So apart from the nest bricks in all threee blocks being used, now also a brick in the eaves with dark stones! This offers good hope for the future. In a couple of years, all nest bricks may well be occupied. It's a shame nest bricks weren't installed in the seven other blocks, but there's nothing I can change about that.
Below is the obvious video, but also a picture showing where the used nest brick is located.


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