Saturday, 16 April 2011

Nestbox checking and the first ducklings of the year - 16th April 2011

As you might have noticed, I've changed the picture at the top of the blog today and replaced it with one taken this morning of this year's Bluebells. They just looked so good this morning as we arrived to carry out the first check of the nestboxes, I couldn't resist.

Just to let people know, we monitor all the nestboxes around the reservoirs as part of the BTO's Nest Record Scheme. Any nests that are located are reported to the BTO and details of any eggs or young present are also recorded. The BTO then uses this information, together with other recorders' information from across the country, to monitor the success or otherwise of our native birds' breeding attempts. Disturbance is kept to an absolute minimum with weekly visits lasting just a few seconds to check and count the eggs and birds. As with all bird watching or recording the birds' welfare must always come first!

This year we've got a total of  88 nestboxes in the woodlands surrounding the three reservoirs. The majority are bog standard "tit boxes"(70 in total) with a few open fronted ones (15) thrown in with the hope of attracting Spotted Flycatcher, Robins or Wrens to nest. Unfortunately, in the 6 years that they've been in place we haven't had any luck whatsoever in attracting these species! In addition we've also got 1 Treecreeper box (again totally ignored by the resident Treecreepers), 1 Owl box and 1 Kestrel box in place as well.

First port of call this morning was the Kestrel box. Last time it was checked back in January (see here), there was evidence of some use by what we believed were Grey Squirrels. Today's check was a lot more promising as the picture below shows.

Kestrel box

Something, possibly Stock Dove, has been very busy! As you can hopefully see, there is a nest right at the back with an obvious depression in it. No eggs were present today, but I will definitely be keeping an eye on it and will hopefully have something to report later on in the season.

Next up was the Owl box. As soon as we approached it, it was obvious that something had been using it, as a small, white, downy feather was stuck to the hole. We approached very carefully and gently tapped on the bottom of the box to alert the occupants of our arrival. A large, brown bird flew out of the box and into the nearby trees. Straight away we recognised it as a female Mandarin Duck! As this box is quite high, and because we didn't want to cause too much discturbance, we took a picture of the contents and moved away.

9 Mandarin eggs!!

The photo shows 9 perfect Mandarin eggs sat on top of a nest of down. This is an amazing record because, although we've record broods of youngsters on the water in previous years, this is the first concrete proof that the Mandarins actually breed in the woodlands at Linacre.

Following on from all this excitement we carried on through the woods to check the other boxes. Out of the 70 tit and open fronted boxes we found a total of 9 nests with eggs, a further 25 with just a nest built, 1 with what we believe is a Hornet's nest and the remaining boxes were empty. If my maths is right that's a total of 10 nests with eggs and 26 with nests but no eggs, i.e. 36 out of 88 an occupancy rate of 40%!! 

Walking around the rest of the reservoirs we also managed to hear and see our first male Pied Flycatcher of the year, singing heartily around the picnic area. Fingers crossed for a successful breeding season with this species too! Also present were singing Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff and Blackcap

Other breeding success was in evidence when a pair of Mallard  with a brood of 20+ tiny ducklings was found on the top reservoir.  This is an excellent early record with the first confirmed breeding in 2010 being 6th June!!  

A few butterflies were on the wing this morning, thanks to the warm sunshine. 3 species were identified as Peacock, Green-veined White and Speckled Wood.

I'm going back again in the morning, so hopefully I'll be able to get a picture of the Pied Fly to post on the blog as well. See you then.

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