By Ralph Todd
Local conservation volunteer, Duncan Devine, was joined on Wednesday 15th October by colleagues from the Friends of the Shuttle to inspect and clean the 16 nest-boxes he had built and put up with the help of local families/volunteers in Bexley Park Woods in November 2013. It was with some nervousness and excitement that Duncan climbed the ladder and lifted the lid of the first to be opened, number 13 as it happened, not unlucky this time as a beautifully formed nest of grass, mosses and wool from tennis balls (presumably unfound by playing dogs) showed all the signs that it had been successfully used by a pair of blue tits.
Amongst the individual boxes, two were avian terraced dwellings comprising three in one boxes – both of these also contained complete and successful nests of blue tits.
Despite the fact that four of the boxes had been wilfully and sadly vandalised, 9 of the boxes had been used with 7 certainly having been successful as the nests contained fragments of egg shell and droppings along with feathers from adult and young birds. What did remain in the nests suggested all had been used by blue tits though visible evidence during the nesting season (late March – May) produced sightings of great tits as well.
Some minor repairs were made to some of the boxes and some were repositioned, usually to slightly higher elevations away from vandals, both human and mammal (grey squirrels).
It is advisable to check nest boxes and remove any old nests, unhatched eggs and debris – these may be removed legally between October and January, though October/November are recommended as boxes might be used by winter roosting birds. Eggs must be disposed of – it is illegal to collect the eggs of any bird.
It is not unusual for nest boxes not to be used in the first year of having been put up. so a use rate of 45% is very good. Duncan must be congratulated for not only producing each of the boxes but also for his love of the woods and wildlife that lives within it. His delight at seeing the success rate can be seen in the picture here.
With all the boxes cleaned they are now ready for the 2015 breeding season and they will be monitored once again to see how successful they have been. Anyone wishing to join the Friends of River Shuttle (who regularly meet to clean the river of rubbish and arrange events for children and families) should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
(All photographs in this article were taken by Ralph Todd)