Ode to Swiftlets
Here's a toast to A.F. swiftlets,
Noble birds also known as walet.
Your nests are fit for royalties,
Your gracefullness inspires rhapsodies.
May your specie ever flourishes,
Amidst our farms being our wishes!
- Frederick Tan
This farm is located in Kampung Tirok, a traditional Malay kampong in the outskirt of Kuala Terengganu inhabited by many Chinese and along the river bank of Sungai Terengganu. It is situated inside a fruit orchard surrounded by duku trees. Access to the farm is through the Pengadang Baru - Pasir Tinggi road which is connected to the Kuala Terengganu- Kuala Berang main trunk road.
It is 22 feet wide by 80 feet long and 3 1/2 storey high. Height of each floor is 8 feet. The farm sits on a raft reinforced concrete foundation. The structure are reinforced concrete and all the walls are half clay bricks and cement and sand mortar . The walls are plastered rough internally while the outside are left bare except for the first 5 feet which are plastered smooth. The upper floors and roof are reinforced concrete. The 1/2 storey is the tower on the flat roof which 22 feet wide x 30 feet wide and this tower hich is normally called the 'dog kennel' is covered by a metaldeck pitch roof. This tower is the roving area before the swiftlets fly down to the floors below. 4 inch diameter pvc pipes with elbows were fixed to the external wall below the soffit of the beam of each floor and spaced about 4 feet apart and they act as ventilation holes to regulate the temperature in the farm.
Construction commenced in January 2007 and the building was completed physically on 31st August 2007. We started turning on the bird sound on 13th. September 2007. We have uploaded the photos of our farm for your viewing from beginning until completion. Feel free to visit our farm and give your comments if any. We will keep you informed of the progress of our farm from time to time. For the past few days there are quite a number of swiftlets hovering over our farm but they have yet to enter. Don't know why? Perhaps they are carrying up surveillance first. We will wait and see the next few days.
At last on 1st. October 2007, the swiftlets started coming into the farm. We had waited with much anxiety, watching the birds circling and passing by but only a few entered the farm. Thinking that the farm is an standalone farm and far away from other farms, we set the calling sound louder than normal but it seems to backfire. Only after tuning the sound to a lower volume on the evening of 30th September 2007 that we saw the result .
Picture of the completed farm. It is a standalone farm on agriculture land and quite far from the nearest house (about 300 feet away).
Below are the video recordings of the swiftlets hovering above the farm taken on 9th. October 2007, 26 days after we turn on the bird sound. One video shows a few swiftlets entering the farm. From our observation for the past few days from the point where the video was taken, an average of about 10 swiftlets which entered our farm stayed back. It's very difficult to determine the exact numbers from the point where the video was shot but so far that was the clearest view that we can get from the ground. We will try to get CCTV installed in the near future so that we can observe the flight and movement of the swiftlets more clearly. To be more exact on counting the birds staying back at night, its best to follow Dr. Chris Lim's tip, that is, to do the counting when the swiftlets fly out from the entrance hole at dawn. This has to wait until we install the CCTV where we can watch from the comfort of our home 300 feet away.
The above video shows swiftlets hovering over our farm. There are quite a number of them. However, many refused to come lower down to enter our farm. A few did entered our farm through the entrance hole. See the next video.
The swiftlets are getting familiar with our farm and the numbers going into the farm had increased as can be seen in this video which was shot on 10th October 2007.
Here's another video shot on 17th. October 2007. You can see more swiftlets hovering and some entering the the farm.
At last the swiftlets decided to build their nest in our farm. The photograph above shows sign of the one and only nest forming in our farm taken on 30th November 2007.
Picture of same nest taken on 20th December 2007
Our 1st nest had been abandoned by the swiftlets. We had been momitoring the nest but there were no sign of eggs in it and neither were there fresh bird droppings. This could be caused by red ants making their appearance on the nest sometime ago. We made the observation on one of our visits and we try to shoo off the red ants. This nest was fully formed, 3 finger size and we shall keep this nest permanently in its place for sentimental reasons.
The bird shits like the one indicated by the blue arrow were found on the floor on 20th December. Looking up at the nesting plank above, this was what we saw. (See picture below)
This was a nest base being built by the swiftlet. Looking at the bird shits, can you guess how many nests we had in the farm if these are the only shits seen so far aside from the 1st nest.
The above photo taken on 4 April 2008 shows our 1st baby. Unfortunately, its twin fall off the nest and died. This baby was more than 3 weeks old and already full of feathers. The nest was built on an imitation styrofoam nest.
This was our 2nd. set of babies. The babies had already started growing feathers. They were more than 2 weeks old. Our 3rd set of babies were on the 1st. Floor and we did not have the photo
This is our latest (4th) set of babies. Its about 1 week old.
Our 1st baby seen hanging onto the nest below had already flew away.
Other babies also had grown big and as seen below were hanging on to their nest waiting to fly off.
We had lost count of the number of babies born in our farm. Many had flown away. However new babies had appeared. There were few new nests appearing but progress seems quite slow to us. Nest count after about 9 months was 20 plus. There were a few nests that saw eggs being laid for the second time.
Whenever we enter the farm, we are always on the look out for predators like lizards, owls, bats and ants. We did encounter ants and lizards and what we did was to place insect powder and spray lizard repellant. So far we did not find any damages to our nests or babies. However, during one of our visit we encountered something quite different sticking to the corner plank where birds used to build their nests. I asked around and someone told me that it is frog's vomit but we am still not convinced. Could someone come out with the right answer?. Until now, there were no damages done to our farm. This white sparkling spongy thing is still stuck on the plank .
13th September 2008 marks the 1st anniversary of our farm. Bird call was started on 13th. September 2007 and our farm's progress was reported in our earlier posts.It has been a year since the farm started bird call and the last count carried out showed 42 nests including a few base nests in the farm. Is this farm successful?.
According to Jame's Blog at http://swiftletfarmer.blogspot.com/2008/09/how-many-nests-is-considered-good-after.html 30-50 nests is considered good for the 1st. year.This is the 1st standlone farm in Kg. Tirok and since then, another 7 farms had been constructed and 6 had started their bird call. Its getting tougher each day. It is not easy courting these birds. You have to keep watch all the time and if there are anything unusual we must act immediately. Never leave it to your sifus whoever he is. From our little experience, we would like to advise newbies, don't be 'kiasus' and waste your money unnecessarily with reinforced concrete walls, steel vaults, marble nesting planks and multi storey or high rise buildings because you are not building houses for human beings who have pride and ego. There are also many things that you do not have to consider or do for a start, e.g, like not having corners and not using imitation nests or temporary supports made of either styrofoam or timber or even coconut shell. The imitation nests and all the mentioned temporary supports had proven to be effective in helping the young birds to build their nests. We have heard of many farms that have lots of birds staying in but having few nests. The reason could be that the young birds found the farm difficult to build their nests. Besides, corners and temporary supports, its also important that the planks have prominent grooves lines to help the birds to grip onto the planks. In our farm, most of the birds build their nest on corner planks and on temporary styrofoam supports. It is important for a new farm is to get the crowd first. The quality of nests is secondary.
It is a great relief to see the swiftlets flying home heading straight for the entrance hole. It only happened around 7.10pm to 7.20 pm. They are our permanent residents. Sooner or later they will be building nests which will be translated to dollars and cents in the end.
We were so excited today because when we went up to the 2nd floor, we found fresh bird droppings on the floor for the 1st. time. It had been 14 months since we started the bird call. We were also very happy to see the 1st bird marking on the nesting plank.
We managed to turnaround this floor after taking several measures like cooling the place and increasing the humidity by installing a water fountain, improving the sound quality of the tweeters by connecting direct to the amplifier instead of looping from the 1st. Floor and introducing fake nests.
We had tried harvesting a few nests to see the response of the swiftlets that were affected. We choose the nests that had gone through a least 2 cycles of laying and hatching eggs. The photos below show one of the nests that was rebuilt.
Nest on the right before the harvest
Nest on the right after the harvest
Today is 13th. February 2009, 1 year and 5 months after we started calling the birds. We made a point to visit the farm today and what we saw are more bird shits on the 2nd floor and nests and more markings had appeared on this floor. A few fake nests had also been occupied with nests built on top of them. Similarly on the ground floor we found a few new markings.
More bird shit spots on 2nd floor
New nest on. 2nd floor
Another new nest on 2nd floor
Nest on top of fake nest on 2nd. floor
From our observation for the last one month, there are fewer birds in the sky and the swiftlets are coming home late. At our farm , the swiftlets which are normally home at 7.15 pm now slightly late, coming back after 7.30 pm. Also during the last 1 month swiftlets are laying fewer eggs. During our visit today, we observed that there are no babies in the farm at all and there is only one pair of eggs and these eggs are found in the fake nest we fixed on the ground.Emergency landing on the ground floor
This is the 1st time since we switched on the bird sound that we have swiftlets building theirr nests on the tweeters. We saw 2 tweeters with nest on it on the 2nd. Floor. This is probably because we had rectify the tweeters as well as changing the internal sound. Internal sound that has sharp pinyik sound is well-liked by the swiftlets.
Nest on the tweeter. Another nest (marking) is on the left and another on the right
13th. September 2009 marked the 2nd Anniversary of Tirok Swiftlet Farm. nest count done on 12th September 2009 is 138 of which 69 has been harvested.
Scene of 2nd Floor at 2 years. More bird shit spots definitely
One of the harvest