Saturday, 9 January 2016

The Paxton Pits Bird Box Survey comes to you

Davids, Cobham and Butterworth
We have well over 100 nest boxes out there on the Reserve. This month, volunteers Janet and Steve Prior set out to check our nest boxes for the first time. They wrote this for our absentee volunteer David Cobham, who normally looks after these things with David Butterworth, but he is stuck in hospital following a stroke. David was really moved to have this read to him and he asked me to "do something with it". I hope this is what he meant!

"We met with David Butterworth at the VC and armed with ladder, tools and clipboard, we headed off to survey the bird boxes on the meadow trail. That’s with the exception of Jim’s experimental social housing high-rise blocks near the VC as they are rather inaccessible (to us newbies anyway!)
Open the box, Steve!
The meadow itself is very wet and there is a lot of laying water. The gravel path and drainage is doing a great job. A couple of boxes near Hayling Lake had blown down in the recent high winds, but the boxes were still in good shape and we put them back in situ.
By lunchtime we had made 3 evictions. A mouse from one box, a big slug from another and eleven slugs from one bird box located by the fishing lake! Overall, we were surprised and delighted to find that the occupancy rate was over 90%. According to David, most of the nests belonged to Blue Tits.
After lunch we headed towards Hayden Hide and then across the basin to the woods on the far side. David warned us that the ground here is very unstable due to massive rabbit warrens and it wasn’t too long before he sank knee deep into the ground. And then so did I! Luckily it was all in slow motion.
We also found an active badger sett in those woods. The entrances were large and worn smooth by their constant comings and goings and there was the tell-tale fresh bedding that had been dragged outside. Looking up into the trees to locate the bird boxes, it was evident that this was Woodpecker Heaven as virtually all the trees were honey-combed with holes. Maybe that’s why some of the bird boxes here were unused?
Putting up an owl box, many years ago.
Janet oand Steve on the right with David Butterworth.
By the end of the day, we had recorded data on 50 bird boxes and still the occupancy rate was extremely high. The percentage was let down mostly by the fact that all of the Robin boxes that we found were un-used?
We have learnt so much already, although we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

So David, we hope that you have enjoyed escaping to Paxton Pits for a few moments and that you are happy to hear that your bird box project has been extremely successful for another year.
Keep your spirits high, best regards
Janet & Steve "

The boxes have to be cleaned oyut every year before the new nesting season in March. This year we are seeing birds at nest sites during the first week in January! We also have birds roosting in our bat boxes and I have seen barn owls courting already.