David Price has been monitoring nestboxes at Dunsford Woods in the Teign Valley since the 1980s. As he sends us such good updates we now include them here as a blog. Here is his update from 5th May.
The Pied Flys are now either laying or finishing off nests, I reckoned that there may be around 22 pairs - perhaps just a couple more than last year, though some nests not yet laid may in the end not be used, and others may still be built. Box 20, the celebrated "first egg box" had gone from one to 6 eggs (still cold), and 4 others had 1 or 2 eggs. I also re-captured a female - a bird ringed as a breeding adult in 2013 at Dunsford, and recaptured last year as well.
Though the tits seem quite numerous throughout the woods generally, they haven't been queuing up to use the nestboxes this year. There were perhaps 24 occupied in total, compared with 30 last year. Some are incubating, others still laying, though I did have several which seemed to have finished laying some days ago, but eggs were still cold - (perhaps they are having a "breather" before getting down to the serious business of sitting on eggs for hours on end). I hope they haven't abandoned.
As usual as nesting gets under way, the Woodpeckers have largely shut down vocally, and I didn't hear a single one. Blackcaps are still numerous, and have been joined by a couple of singing Garden Warblers - I hope the latter will stay. Also recorded a couple of Redstarts - not regulars at Dunsford, but always nice to have around. I wouldn't say we've been inundated with Wood Warblers, but I did record four potential pairs this visit, which is certainly an improvement on just the one last year. A singing male was in the same place as last visit, two were further west - singing only 100m apart, and the other was actually just outside the Reserve across the river from Section A6.
The good thing about surveying Dunsford Woods is that it isn't all woods! After 2-3 hours slogging along the steep wooded slopes, (with one leg getting shorter than the other) it's really nice to have a change of scene (and bird species) and get out onto the heathy upland area of Boyland Common. Yellowhammers, Linnets, Willow Warblers (which seem to be holding up in numbers this year) and at least two pairs of Tree Pipits all present up here. Came a cross a Tree Pipit singing in the distinctive dead elder tree in C8, which allowed a close enough approach for a few photographs. The only problem with coming out onto the open and exposed common on Sunday was that it was at this point the wind whipped up and a particularly unpleasant squally shower came driving in from the west (just as I was comfortably settled down for a well-earned coffee and marmalade sandwich!). However, a minute after it had passed the warm sun broke through, everything started steaming and suddenly there were butterflies - from my inadequate views I think they were mostly Pearl Bordered. Then the sun went in - and almost instantly they disappeared - you'd have never known they were there.