ibstock bricks on Antrim Library

In 2009 during the building of Antrim's new library 15 ibstock swift bricks were built in to the south facing wall. There was some concern about the size of the nest box especially the 10cm internal width. No lure calls were played on completion of the building but House sparrows soon found the nest boxes and began to nest in them. In 2012 swifts were seen to enter nest boxes and emerge again. The activity of the sparrows during the last few years will have alerted the swifts to the nest boxes

On Sunday 23rd June 2013 Mark Smyth and Peter Cush, members of the Northern Ireland Swift Group, stopped briefed to view the built in Ibstock swift bricks at the library. It was about 5 pm. As we watched two sparrows sitting at the entrances to 2 different bricks we saw a swift come in like a bullet straight into the first box on the left on the second row down. The willingness of the swift to enter the nest box at speed shows it was confident and not exploring for the first time. It stayed in for about 2 minutes and was then seen to fly out and away. Although we cant be sure there are chicks in this swift brick this is behaviour characteristic of birds feeding chicks. Cameras in boxes at our home colonies show that young birds have now hatched in most nests. We know that Antrim RSPB members and others have seen swifts entering the swift bricks at Antrim library last year - the year before?- and this year. From Sundays observation it looks as though breeding is definitely occurring in the Ibstock swift bricks and if proven this is potentially a very important development in swift conservation.

Is this a first for the UK or has breeding been conformed in the Ibstock swift brick in any other places?  The significance of confirmed breeding is that this justifies/vindicates the fitting of built in swift bricks specifically Ibstock bricks. Once definitely confirmed successful breeding in the Ibstock boxes this will be reported to the manufactures and to swift groups and forums throughout the UK and elsewhere.

We need to give this brick some deserved publicity and all in Antrim  town and Antrim RSPB who have been so interested involved and supportive ! Maybe others might be aware of other Ibstock swift bricks in the UK being used by the birds?

June 25th
The nest boxes were watched for one hour 20 minutes, 2130 to 2250, to see what was happening. Breeding is confirmed in the first box on the left on the bottom row. Adults were seen going in with bolus of insects at 21.58 and 22.16. Entries also occurred at 22.26, 22.33. Swifts were not seen leaving the nest boxes but they must have.

A swift was seen entering the bottom row right box at 22.01. At 22.27 a swift left the box but none returned at dark. This is possibly a non breeding pair that are using the nest box and have no need to stay in at night.

Unless other pairs are sitting tight on eggs, as they do, no other nest boxes are being used.