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Little Owl Nest Box: Swallow camera pictures

For several years, swallows have nested in our stables. Unfortunately, the positions of their nests are unpredictable and, except for a few very rare eceptions, the nests have been above windows. This makes it very difficult to record the swallows using a camera because, even if one could predict where the swallows will build their nest, the nest will be poorly illuminated compared to the bright area outside the window.

In 2010, I tempted a pair of swallows to build their nest in a position that was reasonably well lit and where the nest could conveniently be viewed by a camera. The camera was programmed to send a picture to the server whenever it detected movement, so as to show everything that happened at the nest. The camera was equipped with infra-red illumination, so it continued to record movement throughout the night. Unfortunately, because swallows are such restless sleepers, I have had to remove the photographs taken between 16:00 and 08:00, as there were so many; however, I have retained copies.

I set up two artificial nests and cameras, but the swallows seemed to like only one. This was made from concrete, but with a thin layer of plastic foam covering the central hollow.

The lifecycle of the nest

29/4/2010: The female swallow examined the nest site for the first time and visited it each day until 2/5/2010.

3/5/2010: The swallow did not visit the nest site at all.

4/5/2010: The swallow began to show great interest, trying the central hollow for size. From this time onward, the swallow roosted at the nest site each night.

5/5/2010: Nest building began.

17/5/2010: The swallow began to spend a lot of time at the nest, but was still adding material to it.

26/5/2010: The swallow's behaviour changed. Instead of roosting on the edge of the nest, it roosted in the central hollow. The first egg may have been laid.

21/6/2010: The first chick's head could be seen as the chick was being fed (13:13:40).

24/6/2010: The female swallow started to roost on the edge of the nest, suggesting that the chicks left very little spare room in the central hollow.

26/6/2010: The chicks were getting quite large and two could clearly be seen.

29/6/2010: The chicks were large enough to climb onto the edge of the nest.

30/6/2010: The chicks began to take an interest in their surroundings, looking down from the edge of the nest.

6/7/2010: Both chicks left the nest and could be seen flying round the stable; however, they returned to the nest to roost overnight.

10/7/2010: The chicks left the nest for the final time at dawn (4:31).

The pictures taken by the camera can be viewed 12 at a time as a slideshow, either sequentially, or day-by-day, and can be seen, starting with the most recent 12, by clicking here. (Note that all times are GMT and not British summer time).

Since the first brood fledged, the swallows built a second nest. Unfortunately, the nest was located above a window where it was unsuitable for viewing with a camera.