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Network member David Price gives the latest from Dunsford woods, from his visit on 13th May

As expected most of the birds in nest boxes were hard at it producing eggs on a daily basis, performing just like battery chickens.  The majority of the Pied Flys were in the midst of laying, some had started incubating and others were not far behind the rest with nest building.  In all there were 6 already incubating, 17 laying and 3 completed nests - a total of 26 active nests.  This is well up on last year's 22, and only two short of Dunsford's best ever total of 28 way back in 2007.  There were definitely some singing males that had as yet not got a nest site and perhaps not a partner, and there were one or two new nests at a very early stage which might develop – so there may be more breeding pairs to come.   After a protracted and slow start in April and early May, things are certainly looking a lot more encouraging.

However, it's not been all plain sailing for them.  Box 61 was an early nest where there had been one egg some 5 days earlier, so I approached quietly in the hope that the female may be sitting - (one of the advantages of the overnight rain was that the dead oak leaves underfoot were totally soggy and for a change didn't sound like walking on cream cracker biscuits!).  I managed to get to the box quietly and stuff my hand over the hole without that rather disappointing situation where the female flits out when you are literally only a metre away.  I looked inside hoping there may be an incubating bird present.  Instead I was surprised to see that the cup of the nest had been covered over with dry grass and leaves, rather like tits do when they leave their nests during laying.  Hmmm – interesting.  I teased the material aside to reveal how many eggs there might be, only to discover a totally empty cup.  What's happened here?  Did I make a mistake in recording one egg last time?  Then, looking closely, there in the bottom on an oak leaf was the evidence to exonerate my recording abilities - a small piece of blue broken shell.  I guess the egg or eggs had been predated and the birds had abandoned.  However, presumably not phased by this, the pair had picked themselves up from this set back and started again, as in the next but one box was a brand new nest compete with 2 eggs.  Let's hope they fare better with this attempt.  (The box in between was where the dormouse had been having a nap on last visit – but he was no longer using it for a bit of a siesta). ...continue reading "Dunsford wood update, 13th May"

Nest box monitor David Price gives an update from Dunsford Woods...

So another breeding season starts, but what sort of April have the Pied Flycatchers arrived and found?  Not great I'd suggest, particularly after such a mild winter.  I had one particular oak tree in leaf at the beginning of April, but then most of them seemed to go into some sort of torpid state and are only now really starting to do much.

First Pied Flycatcher arrivals at Dunsford were recorded on 11th (3-4 males).  They weren't there on 6th and in view of the gale force north westerlies from 7-9th, they probably didn't arrive until at least 10th.  Can't compete with Yarner's first arrivals on 6th.  No females recorded but the males were rather skulking and not singing much, so females could have been around.  All probably devoting most of their efforts to finding food I guess.

Since then not much demonstrative activity on show from most pairs, and as a result it's been difficult to assess actual numbers.  As of the last visit on 27 April, there were some 9 nests or what might be nests on the go, - though some of these may be abandoned.  Also at some nest box locations males were singing but there was no sign of nest building.  Taking these two factors together I optimistically reckon there may be 18 males/pairs present.  This is some way short of last year's 24 pairs, of which 22 were in boxes.  Are there still birds to arrive?  Wouldn't be surprised after the predominance of arctic northerly winds.  Doesn't look like the cold conditions will abate for at least another week.  I think I'd hang around in sunny Portugal for a bit longer if I was still on my way! ...continue reading "Latest news from Dunsford Wood"