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"