August 27th, 2014 By James

I’d always loved to watch swifts circling and swooping in the sky above our house, but for some reason never thought about encouraging them to actually nest with us. That was until May 2013 when I had the pleasure of watching Swift Stories, a film by Chris Mason. Chatting to him after the screening he suggested I install a couple of swift boxes. Chris runs the Cherwell Swift Conservation Project and said that he had a couple of boxes he could give me. A week later I had my wooden ‘John Stimpson Nestboxes‘ installed, complete with MDF nest forms. I modified them by adding a slate roof which is raised off the wooden lid by a couple of centimetres – I though it might allow air to circulate and keep the boxes from getting too hot as they catch the late afternoon sun.

I then set about playing swift calls in the morning and evening, much to the annoyance of my neighbours and A-Level revising daughter. They certainly attracted swifts, with a number number flying lower and lower over the garden. At the end of June 2013 I saw a swift fly to one of the boxes, sit at the hole for a second and then fly off again. The same thing happened again about 20 seconds later. Exciting!

By mid-August the swifts had departed, but I was hopeful that the swifts knew about my boxes and would return in 2014 to nest.

In March 2014, I inspected the inside of both boxes and found droppings. Could they be swift droppings from 2013? Or perhaps sparrows sheltering from the winter cold?

On the 5th May 2014, the swifts returns, but despite me playing swift calls, the birds didn’t seem to have any interest. I decided to move the boxes to nearby wall – a wall that had previously had a wooden sparrow terrace on it. The sparrows had fledged so it seemed a good time to move the swift boxes. And I thought that perhaps the new position offered easier access for the swifts. Less than a week later I saw a swift fly to the empty space where the boxes used to be, struggle to grasp on to the brick wall under the gutter, then quickly fly away. Argh! The next morning I moved both boxes back to their original position. And waited. And waited. And waited.

The swifts have now departed. I’m not too disheartened though as with my birthday money I bought a 17a Schwegler Triple Cavity Nest Box. Look at it. Beautiful, in a brutal, minimalist way. Painted in Brick Red Sandtex Smooth Masonry Paint (a breathable paint). I also bought three nest forms from John Stimpson – they were slightly too big so had to cut them down. I don’t think the swifts will be able to resist next year. The triple cavity or the wooden boxes? The lower picture shows them all in situ. What a choice. Roll on May 2015.

What happened to the sparrow box?  The squirrels had destroyed half of it (the sparrows were unharmed) so I bought a Schwegler Sparrow Terrace. Weighing in at a huge 15kg, the box is a heavyweight. Chew on that Mr Squirrel. Two of us struggled to put it up, so be warned before you purchase one. Now painted in Brick Red, it looks a treat.

Big eagles

June 2nd, 2014 By James

Here at Bigtop, we like to see an eagle or two. But we usually only see them when we play computer golf at 11am. And even then it’s not very often.

Last week I visited Scotland and took a trip over to Mull. Have you been to Mull? It’s lovely. Really LOVELY.

We drove across to ‘Mull Eagle Watch’ hoping to see a glimpse of the white-tailed eagles. It’s Ranked #2 of 26 attractions in Isle of Mull. The friendly rangers, John and Rachel, took us up a woodland path where we stood for two hours, under a burning hot sun (yes, in Scotland) looking at trees through binoculars. Nothing. No eagles. Actually that’s not quite true as we saw two golden eagles. Some people said they could see the nest. Others couldn’t make it out. Some people said they could see the chick’s head. Others couldn’t make it out.

Then just as we were about to leave, a HUGE white-tailed eagle flew up into the sky and circled around. They have an 8ft wingspan so even from a distance it was an impressive sight.

Brilliant stuff.

You should go to Mull.

Lauren and Amy sew again …

April 2nd, 2014 By Amy

Following our successful and fun sewing day making dresses for girls living in poverty around the world last year, we’ve made 7 more dresses today …

That’s a total of 16, all to be posted in the morning …Lovely!

For more information about making dresses in the UK, take a look at Dress a Girl Around the World and start sewing!