A few images of my second day at Undy Primary School with Mrs Clarks year 5 class.
29 fed o Fedi/ 29 September 2015
28 fed o Fedi/ 28 September 2015
Started back with my School visits with a very warm welcoming Undy Primary School. I will be at the school for the week and working with 3 year 6 classes. Today`s class were extremely knowledgeable and obviously very keen. It was also very surprising to see how talented some member of the class were, Noticeably Molly and Maddie pictured opposite who constructed a superb example of a Blue tit box. This particular nestbox is without doubt one of the finnest examples I have seen for any young Primary age school children. Da iawn Molly and Maddie
25 Awst/ 25 August 2015
Due to numerous other committements I have not been able to update my site for a while. I am in the process of refurbishing the ground floor of my House and upgrading my workshop. So all in all I have been very busy although I shall eventually get around to posting my nest box data for 2015.
30 Mehefin/ 30 June 2015
Another satisfied customer. Jane pictured below is one of the fantastic Teachers at Goytre Fawr Primary school and the ladt responsible for inviting me to the school. She also lives in my village and as you can see she wants to help our House Sparrow colonies. She does have a healthy number of House Sparrows frequenting her garden so fingers crossed she will have them nesting too.
25 Mehefin/ 25 June 2015
Not really much to report on at the moment due to committing to decorating a friends cottage for her. My son Ieuan has just finished year 11 in school which is why I agreed to take on the decorating really for him to earn some money for himself. I have also been attempting other shaped nest boxes like the images below show. The round shaped nest boxes are made out of cardboard roles the same roles you would find in the middle of new roles of carpet. Obviously covered in cement to make them waterproof.
20 Mehefin/ 20 June 2015
I have recently purchased a Dewalt DW 700 miter saw. This saw is much more powerful but more importantly more accurate. When I am cutting out shapes for my school visits the cuts must be as accurate as possible in order for the children to fix them together.
Sometimes if I am cutting enough material for 90 children this can take me up to 3 days to complete so this new edition is certainly going to be a brillant help. Very important to have the nice clean accurate cuts as this will reduce problem when the children are fixing them together.
15 Mehefin/ 15 June 2015
Following this years Springwatch series and Chrish Packham highlighting the serious plight of our native British House Sparrows I received a few phone calls requesting House Sparrow colony nest boxes. So as you can see in thee images below I knocked a few 3 chamber boxes.
10 Mehefin/ 10 June 2015
Today was my last day at Croesyceiliog Nursery School. I spent 5 lovely days with some truly wonderful children and staff. One of the many memories I will look back on was one of the children told me I look ridiculous with a pencil behind my ear :-)
6 Mehefin/ 6 June 2015
Whilst picking up materials from Davies Timbers of Cwmbran I came across a big cardbourd role probably used for Carpet or something similar. I asked if it was ok for me to take home and was granted permission. As you can see in the image opposite I have designed a round Blue tit nest box by cutting off 10 inches of the role and covering it with concrete in a stipple effect. I will probably cover the concrete by painting the outside with a Brown masonry paint to finish it of. This will hopefully make it look like bark on a tree. Probably design the roof to lift off in order to clean out each year and of course to view what ever nests inside. These will go on sale for about £8.00 each.
2 Mehefin/ 2 June 2015
This morning I started my 5 day Educational Workshop with Croesyceiliog Infants school. I was contracted to work with 2 Nursery classes off 30 children in each. So or the past few day`s I have been preparing materials for the children by making little flat packs in order for them to glue and nail together. It was so rewarding watching them working on their nest boxes as they were all so excited.
A very pleasant 5 day`s spent at Croesyceiliog with lovely children and some really nice staff working within. I think the children who attend this school are very lucky.
Many of us take house sparrows for granted and are unaware that their numbers are declining. Here are possible causes of the house sparrow decline and sugggestions on ways we can help them recover.
At their peak in the early 1970s, there were estimated to be approximately 25 million house sparrows breeding in Britain. The number is now closer to 13 million. The question now is ‘Where have all the house sparrows gone?’
In general, the house sparrow is an unadventurous sort, with most travelling no more than a few hundred yards from where they are born. This means that house sparrow populations in different areas (and habitats) may change in very different ways, as there is little interchange between different geographical populations
The actual reasons for loss of house sparrows in urban areas are unclear, but a number of culprits have been suggested. There are likely to be fewer nest sites, as the eaves on older houses are replaced and blocked up, and many modern houses lack eaves or other access points. Cats and sparrowhawks take some house sparrows, but their impact on sparrow populations is unknown. Changes in gardens,however, are probably an important reason for their decline. There arefewer weedy corners for birds to feed in, and there seem to be fewer insects around to feed the chicks. House sparrows also like resting andhiding in old, dense, ivy and otherbushes, many of which are disappearing as gardens are ‘made-over’. Development of inner-city, brownfield’, sites may also mean that there are fewer places for the house sparrow to find food.
In the countryside, the problem is clearer. There is simply less food around for house sparrows to eat. Cereal harvesting has increased in efficiency with less spillage, and tighter hygiene regulations mean that barns and silos are sealed against birds. There are also fewer weeds, and weed seeds for them to eat. You can help house sparrows to thrive in your garden by providingshelter, food and somewhere to nest. House sparrows shelter and roost in thick bushes and in the wall cavities of buildings. They feed mainly
on small seeds, but young chicks need insects like craneflies (‘daddy long-legs’), beetles, caterpillars, aphids and ants.
28 Mai/ 28 May 2015
25 Mai/ 25 May 2015
My first Pied Flycatcher chicks were born on the 23 May of this year and I must have timed it perfect. As you can see there are 3 beautiful little hatchlings and 4 eggs remaining. Hopefully the four remaining eggs will also hatch and a 7 clutch would be perfect for two adults to cope with. Most of my Pied Flycatcher clutches are 7 eggs although this year I have 3 different clutches of 8 eggs in each. My Pied Flycatcher numbers are 19 pairs owhich have bred this season smashing last seasons record by 4. This is obviously due to having enough nest boxes available for them on return and I would also like to think that last seasons healthy return has added to this seasons healthy numbers. Hopefully this will be the case for many years to come.
Unfortunately the flip side of the coin always has a knockback and the knockback was my Stock Doves failed. When I inspected the nest the two chicks had died and there were no sign of any parent birds.
Here are some video`s of the last few weeks that I forgot to upload. I am currently laid up in bed at the moment with flu like symptoms so a perfect opportunity to update my website. So at the moment all seems to be going well for my Redstart and Pied Flycatcher pairs with records being broke each day. I have quite a few 8 egg clutches in both species which is very healthy although I doubt all 8 eggs will hatch although I shall keep my fingers crossed.
20 Mai/ 20 May 2015
Today was an extremely productive day in terms of getting jobs done that have been on the back burner for a while. I had sent out a SOS via facebook for any willing volunteers who would firstly put up with me for the day and secondly help erect a huge Barn Owl, x2 Tawny Owl, 1 Little Owl and 40+ small nest boxes. My volunteer Richard was amazing I have to say and Nothing was too much trouble for him. If I am honest I owe it to him as to why I achieved so much today.
We managed to add more nest boxes to a new string I started about 5 weeks ago. This string has unbelievably already harboured 3 Pied Flycatcher nests and and a Redstart which is amazing for the first season. It also goes to show how amazing this particular valley is for Pied Flycatcher and Redstart numbers. One thing is for sure their numbers will hopefully continue to multiply while I am able to keep and maintain my nest boxes. I have a really good relationship with all the farmers and Land owners in the area and all are very supportive of my conservation project. I still have virgin ground to explore which I will almost certainly do so during the summer months and obviously when the breeding season comes to an end.
Thankfully this season my Redstart numbers are up on last seasons. I am slightly concerned with the weather at the moment I have to say, with below average tempertures for this time of year and I just hope all my Pied Flycatcher and Redstart chicks can handle the chilly winds. It must be one hell of a shock to their system returning here from Central Africa I know what it`s like returning from a holiday abroad and that terrible feeling when you step off the plane at Cardiff Airport.
Anyway fingers crossed for all my migrant pairs and their chicks. Below are some of my latest pictures.
17 Mai/ 17 May 2015
15 Mai/ 15 May 2015
I`ve put together a collage of images of some of my Redstart and Pied Flycatcher clutches. I still have a few Pied Flycatcher nests being built although most of them are nearly fully built. This has been an increddible season so far surpassing last years Pied Flycatcher numbers. I am also up on Redstart clutches with maybe another one nearing completion which would mean 7 Redstart as opposedsed to last years number.
14 Mai/ 14 May 2015
It was really good to start back at Coed Eva school with my after school club today.We have 40 children to work with although I have extra pairs of hand to help out. So this group will construct a nest box each to take home for their gardens and we will also make a few extra nest boxes to erect at one of my farms probably arranging a day out for the children.
13 Mai/ 13 May 2015
Today I made a surprise visit to Goytre Fawr school a school I visited a few months ago. The idea was to pay a visit to the year 4 class show them what I have been up to since my last visit through my website and then check on the nest boxes we erect around the school grounds.
The children were so excited when I turned up probably knowing they would be skipping any curriculum based activity. We had some luck when checking the nest boxes with two Great tit pairs with chicks and a Blue tit sat on eggs in the last box we checked. I also donated a Tawny Owl box to the school with the intentions of the school donating it to Gwent Wildlife Trust. The trust own a near by Woodlands and have a nest box project going on there.
Now that I have a new species of bird nesting in one of my nest boxes to gloat about I thought I should tell you a liitle bit about the Stock Dove.They have a mid grey back, head and wings with the wings darkening to dark grey or black at the tips and have two small dark grey or black wing bars in the folded wing. The rump and base of the tail are lighter grey and the tail has a broad dark grey or black tip. The breast has a distinct pink flush over the grey which fades into the mid grey belly and vent. There is prominent iridescent green patch on each side of the neck. The beak is short and pale reddish, with a small white patch above it and the legs are red.
The more common wood pigeon is superficially similar but has some easy distinguishing features as evident in the photo below left. The wood pigeon has the white neck patches, white wing front edge and pale vent, all of which are lacking in the stock dove. Juvenile wood pigeons lack the white neck patches but have the prominent white wing edge. Size is also a good clue as wood pigeons are about 25% larger than a stock dove.
The only member of the pigeon family that is likely to use a nest box but also nests in cavities in rotten trees. Stock Doves have the same general colouration as Woodpigeons but are smaller and lack the white collar and white wing bars. It may be possible to confuse juvenile Woodpigeons with Stock Doves, as they have no white collars.Stock Dove nest boxes are best sited on the edge of woodland, overlooking open fields. Boxes should be set at least three metres high.
Stock doves are similar in plumage and size to rock doves/feral pigeons. They are largely blue-grey with an attractive iridescent bottle green band on the back of the neck. In flight they show black edges to the wing and two partial black bands near their back. Unlike rock doves/feral pigeons they do not have pale rumps. They are widely distributed in the UK, except for parts of northern Scotland and Ireland, with particularly high densities in the English Midlands and South West. Over half their European population is found in the UK.
12 Mai/ 12 May 2015
Apologies to my regular readers for not updating my website earlier but I have been exceptionally busy over the past week or so. The fact I am monitoring hundreds of nest boxes is probably the best excuse I can come up with although I have plenty of images to show below.
So I can now confirm that it is very likely I will surpass last years Redstart and Pied Flycatcher numbers in terms of nesting pairs. At this moment in tome I have 6 Redstart pairs with eggs and possibly another pair still building albeit slightly later than usual. With regard to my Pied Flycatcher numbers there is every chance I could have 19 pairs this season. The last count I made two days ago I had 19 nests either with eggs, completed nest or nearly completed nest. Obviously I am not guaranteed that I will have 19 clutches of eggs although I will keep everything crossed. What has struck me this season is the different stages the nests are at with some nests with as many as 5 eggs present or nests stiil in the process of being built.
I can also confirm a new species nesting in one of my Tawny Owl boxes this year and as the image shows opposite I have two beautiful Stock Dove chicks to show. Stunning little chicks almost chicken like with their early yellow plume.
Stock doves are resident all year round in the UK and are fairly widespread and common, although not so common as the wood pigeon. They are found in forests, woods, parks, large gardens, hedges and fields but rarely, if ever, in urban areas.
They have a mid grey back, head and wings with the wings darkening to dark grey or black at the tips and have two small dark grey or black wing bars in the folded wing. The rump and base of the tail are lighter grey and the tail has a broad dark grey or black tip. The breast has a distinct pink flush over the grey which fades into the mid grey belly and vent. There is prominent iridescent green patch on each side of the neck. The beak is short and pale reddish, with a small white patch above it and the legs are red.
11 Mai/ 11 May 2015
4 Mai/ 4 May 2015
Following yesterdays amazing news with regard my Redstart egg I was also rewarded with even more fantastic news. As you can see in the image opposite we have our first Pied Flycatcher eggs of 2015 and hopefully many more to come. I only had time to check on this particular nest box this morning but as this nest box produced the first Pied Fly nest of 2015 it gives me a good idea at what sort of stage the remainder are.
This season I shall be collating all data from my nest recording but only from my Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Nuthatch nest boxes. If I added all my Blue and Great tit nest boxes it would take me all year to write out my record cards which I do notintend to do. Will check on my other nest box sites during the week and fingers crossed there will be a few more like this.
3 Mai/ 3 May 2015
So here it is my first Redstart egg of the 2015 breeding season. This nest is one of my Pontypool Redstart nests and worryingly in the same open fronted nest box the pair failed in last year. Unfortunately the eggs were Predated before the Pair managed to lay their 3rd egg although this season is slightly different due to the fact a Blackbird nest has already been successful. Pictures below show the Blackbird nest on top of the Open Fronted box.
1 Mai/ 1 May 2015
I checked on some of my Pied Flycatcher nest box sites today and was encouraged by what I saw. I counted at least eight Pied nests either fully built or in the process of being built. The Nuthatches are also encouraging as the picture below left shows. Eight beautiful eggs on display and hopefully eight healthy chicks eventually. I also came across this badger set whilst looking through some new woodlands and low and behold I spotted a Wren`s nest right at the entrance to the set.
I started my after school club at Coed Eva Primary school this afternoon and I was in for such a shock on arrival. Mrs Charmain informed me that 40 chuldren had signed up to the club which is a record in terms of numbers.However 40 children would have been impossible to work with although Mrs Charmain`s husband is now going to help out which is a massive relief.
So first session back and I thought it would be a good idea to check the nest boxes that we put up in the school grounds last term. The children were delighted to be rewarded with a nest box full of Gret tit chicks as shown opposite. This was such good news because most of the children involved in this project did not think for one minute we would have any nesting birds in our first season. Although I must say I placed them in some really good areas of the school grounds and this one in partcular was erect on a nice big health Oak tree in a quiet corner adjacent to a wooded area.
29 Ebrill/ 29 April 2015
27 Ebrill/ 27 April 2015
I spent a few hours at me favourite Pied Flycatcher site this afternoon and it was so rewarding to witness at least 7-8 different pairs of Pied Flycatchers interacting. The females in all pairs were busy constructing their nests with the males watching close by. I found it increddible that the males get away with not helping out in the build and unlike other species like the Wren who makes several nests to try and attempt a female into one. So all in all the male has it pretty easy.
25 Ebrill/ 25 April 2015
Today I spent a few hours watching my Pied Flycatcher pairs start to make their nests. Although it is just the female who actually builds the nest with the male watching close by and checking out her progress from time to time. Of course these species can be Polygny which means the male can have more that one mate. I have monitored this behaviour for the last 5 years and last year I monitored a lone female successfully rearing 6 chicks and only losing 1 chick. She was aided by good Spring weather and what I also observed she was able to hunt for insects directly outside the nestbox so literally no flight time at all. I have uploaded an image below of one of my Pied Woodlands in order to give you an idea of what sort of Woodland the Pied Flycatcher favours.
Below image show a Female Great tit incubating her eggs and image right shows a Great tit clutch of eggs
24 Ebrill/ 24 April 2015
This week I have had a brilliant enjoyable week based at Usk Agricultural College. The college held it`s anual open day which goes on for four days and allows all visitor`s a tour of the college. The visitor`s are given a tour of the college and shown the workings of the working farm that is on site. This is what makes the College so unique the fact it has a working farm within the college estate. This makes it perfect for all the Agricultural students the fact their classroom is in the middle of a farm.
Another stall at the College open day was a Owl sanctuary and as you can see from the photographs below I was given a private viewing and a real close up with these stunning Owl`s. I have always loved a Barn Owl and it will always be one of my favourite birds and I think most people have a soft spot for them. However when you get a chance to be up close to a Tawny Owl you could very well change your mind. For me a Tawny Owl has a nicer shaped face and drop dead gorgeous eye lashes which blink at you like a model. The eyes of a Tawny Owl are jet black but with a sparkle to them which is a feature on a Tawny that go unoticed.
2014 Breeding season was a season I shall never forget. It was a season where I smashed my Pied Flycatcher numbers in terms of nest boxes taken and used by Pieds. It was also the first season where I decided to ring the chicks and with the help of the local Brecon Beacons Park Warden Steve Smith we ringed 4 set`s of clutches and 23 chicks in total. Steve and I agreed to ring the chicks on the left leg as opposed to the right due to most ringers favouring the right leg. This would make it easier to identify if indeed the chicks returned from their summer migration in South Africa. It beggars belief what this little birds have to go through just to return to Wales.
19 Ebrill/ 19 April 2015
So after ringing my Pied chicks last season I have regularly thought about them crossing the English Channel then France, Spain/Portugal and then from Gibraltar over to Morocco where they might have rest for a few days before making the final bit of their journey down to Mid and South Africa. It`s strange I know but this often crosses my mind through our winter months. So I also prayed that the chicks we rung last year retuned back to the Woodlands they were born in and start their own families.
Taking into consideration the hurdles these birds have to cross it is almost a mirracle that any return at all especially in it`s first year. So you can imagine how I fealt when it was reported that a female had returned to my nest site with a ring fixed to it`s left leg. As you can see in the image above not only has she returned to the Woodlands she was born in but she is also checking out my nest boxes along with a male.
I can honestly say I was almost emotional when the above image was presented to me and not just because this little female had returned from 1000`s of miles away but also because I was not the first person to spot her. It might sound a little odd to some people but when you devote all your time and effort into the conservation of these amazing birds through various ailments and illnesses it is always nice to see the fruits of your Labour before anyone else does. In the same woodlands I have a couple of Nuhatches currently incubating like this one opposite who was incubating 8 eggs.
15 Ebrill/ 15 April 2015
This is my busiest time of year and I am out and about everyday through breeding season. Today I started the day at one of my local farms where I have a Huge Barn Owl nest box placed on top of an old telegraph pole. William the farmers grandson helped me erect a Tawny Owl and Little Owl nest box in different locations on the farm. It was really enjoyable erecting these nest boxes with the use of a Forklift.
William was able to cut away branches on both trees with his chainsaw to enable the Owl`s to have a direct flight into the nest boxes.
From here I then drove out to Woodlake park Golf Course where I fitted 5 Dormouse nest boxes.
Above image shows Little Owl box Above Blackbird nest on top of nestbox
As you can see above I had a pleasant surprise whilst checking on some nest boxes with a Blackbird nest on top of the box. So after re-fitting and repairing a few nest boxes and checking out some Tawny Owl nest boxes at Woodlake Park I decided to head for my Pied Flycatcher nest box sites. I am hoping to beat my 15 Pied Flycatcher nest record of last year so I thought I should take a look and see if any Pied`s has returned. The male is the first to return from migration with the females returning 7-14 days later. I walked around my favourite site but only spotted one single male so I would suspect an influx in numbers any day soon.
A species of bird I love watching is the Nuthatch. It is a master at navigating up and down trees and is the only bird in Britain that can do so. It is a species I have grown to love over the years and luckily I have managed to attract pairs at all of my nest box sites all over Gwent.
I always know when a Nuthatch has taken one of my boxes by the built up mud at the entrance hole. Even though I drill a 32mm hole which is about right for a Nuthatch and will keep out the main predator`s like the Grey Squirrel and Greater Spotted Woodpecker it will still use mud. Obviously this is built into their system from birth and they will always use this as a defence system when they use an old Woodpeckers hole or any other crack or crevice in a tree.
As you can see above as well as Nuthatch starting to start their clutch so to are Blue tit and Great tit. Also above shows a stunning little Wrens nest made in a crevice of a tree and one of the best Wrens nest I have ever found. Species like the Nuthatch and Long Tailed tit are well and truly on their way so I will start to monitor next week with the Migrant species starting to make their nests.
6 Ebrill/ 6 April 2015
A huge thank you to Liz Van, Paul Joy and Jim Rawlings who assisted in the erection of the most challenging Barn Owl nest box to date. The terrain was extremely harsh with rocks boulders, brambles and bracken to contend with. Liz was kind enough to carry equipment to the nest box site using her quad and trailer which saved us the trouble. Jim and I took it in turns to fit the box to the tree.
3 Ebrill/ 3 April 2015
This morning I made a small tutorial video showing my viewers how I actually make a nest box using 9mm ply. My son Ieuan was persuaded to help me film in my workshop. I was using 9mm ply only because I am lucky enough to recieve donations from my Sponsor Stately Albion of Abercarn. Really the best material would be marine ply half inch or three quater in thickness.
Following the filming I managed to finish applying concrete to 40 standard size Tit nest boxes with a 32mm hole.
A freezing cold morning was spent today with the awesome Wednesday Warrior Autistic Adult group. I have been working alongside these guys for over a year now and I love every minute spent with them. My good friend Kate is the lads Social Worker and she was the one who asked if I could work with the guys and from that first meet we have not looked back.
So once again we all set to work at one of my successful Mountain sites which has produced Redstart and Pied Flycatcher clutches as well as the usual Blue and Great tit and the odd Nuthatch last season. What I needed to do today was replace numerous Woodpecker and Squirell damage nest boxes and in particular two of the Pied Flycatcher nest boxes.
1 Ebrill/ 1 April 2015
I`m not entirely sure why so many of the nest boxes have been damaged particularly by Woodpeckers although my two theories are lack of food and maybe the fact it is so cold being an Upland site . Maybe someone else could contact me and give me their theory although one thing is for sure I had numerous nest boxes damaged and needing replacing.
31 Mawrth / 31 March 2015
A small invader from the south has recently begun to colonise Scotland – the nuthatch. Until recently the nuthatch was very much an English/Welsh bird. However since 2005, this tiny woodland bird has been seen more and more north of the border, with Dumfries and Galloway providing an important stepping-stone for this invasion. But just how many are now being seen in Scotland? The British Trust for Ornithology would like to know.As nuthatches readily come to gardens to feed on peanuts, and with a pair breeding in a nest box in one Dumfries and Galloway garden this spring, garden birdwatchers are ideally placed to monitor the fortunes of this enigmatic little bird.
Steely-blue above and rich orangey-chestnut below, the nuthatch is a striking bird. Combine this with its black robbers eye mask and its ability to ‘walk’ headfirst down a tree or feeder, a sighting of a nuthatch is unmistakeable.The British Trust for Ornithology has been monitoring garden birds across the UK since 1995 and has charted the northward spread of this small woodpecker-like bird into Scotland. Jacqui Kaye of BTO Scotland said,“It’s great news that the nuthatch is now established in Scotland. This beautiful bird readily comes to gardens to feed, a habit that will help us to chart just how far north it has spread. With a poor seed crop being reported in some areas this winter, we are more likely to see birds like this in our gardens. If you see a nuthatch in your garden this winter we would like to know.”
The Nuthatch is another one of those birds which is unmistakeable, the difficulty is finding it. Like the Treecreeper it is a woodland bird that creeps like a mouse, however, the Nuthatch goes down the trunk, the Treecreeper goes up. The plumage is unlike any other British bird, so once you find one, identification is easy.
The Nuthatch is a common breeding resident in the UK with over 200,000 pairs. The Nuthatch occurs in the southern part of the country fromCumbria down, they are thinly distributed in Scotland and absent in Ireland. Nuthatches occur in many habitat types throughout the UK, however they favour deciduous woodlands but will visit parks and gardens, indeed any open country habitat with suitable trees.
Nuthatches are vocal little birds and you will often be attracted to their call or song before you see the bird.Call is a Tit like, a buzzy sharp ‘chit chit chit’ Song note is a flutey, toy whistle like; ‘tewit tewit tewit’. The Nuthatch is a tree nester that will narrow the opening of a tree hole by plastering it with mud, this ensures larger birds are unable to get into the nest. Mud, mud, glorious mud – they need it. Mud-plastering (using up to a kilogram of mud) is an important part of nesting behaviour, and is conducted even if the nest is ideal. The nest material is usually chips of bark from Conifer trunks (especially Scots pine), woodchips or dried leaves. No soft lining is used.
In the summer months insects are top of the dietary needs but Nuthatches also like peanuts, hazel nuts and acorns in the autumnal months. Babies may be brought to the feeding station within a few days of fledging.
29 Mawrth / 29 March 2015
Well it`s nearly that time of the year we welcome back our migrant birds like the Swallow opposite. These beautiful looking birds along with the Sand Martin`s are usually first to arrive. A member of Gwent Ornithology Society (www.gwentbirds.org.uk)
reported a sighting of a single bird in Gwent so hopefully we shall start to see them flooding in to our area antime soon.
British swallows spend their winter in South Africa: they travel through western France, across the Pyrenees, down eastern Spain into Morocco, and across the Sahara. Some birds follow the west coast of Africa avoiding the Sahara, and other European swallows travel further east and down the Nile Valley. Swallows put on little weight before migrating.
They migrate by day at low altitudes and find food on the way. Despite accumulating some fat reserves before crossing large areas such as the Sahara Desert, they are vulnerable to starvation during these crossings. Migration is a hazardous time and many birds die from starvation, exhaustion and in storms.Migrating swallows cover 200 miles a day, mainly during daylight, at speeds of 17-22 miles per hour. The maximum flight speed is 35 mph. In their wintering areas swallows feed in small flocks, which join together to form roosting flocks of thousands of birds. Swallows arrive in the UK in April and May, returning to their wintering grounds in September and October.
Today I was invited out to my local Agricultural College to give a Lecture about my conservation project in front of Brecon Beacon`s National Park Trainee Wardens.This was my first Lecture in front of adults so very new to me but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I would jump at the chance to do it again. I must give a huge thank you to Chris Carey who is the fulltime Course Lecturer Chris Carey who invited me along to the Campus.
Known previously as an agricultural college and now as a campus of Coleg Gwent, Usk is not only an excellent centre for landbased courses, but also sport, outdoor activity and Independent Living Skills courses too. Usk campus is within easy reach of Monmouth, Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow, Magor, Pontypool and Newport, and is close to the M4 motorway.
The fully operational farm set in the college’s 296 acre estate is home to a 200 strong dairy herd, 250 sheep and a range of other farm animals. Landbased students get hands on agriculture and countryside management experience and get to grips with commercial arable and livestock systems. As a working farm, students also learn management and record-keeping.
27 Mawrth / 27 March 2015
This morning I had the pleasure of erecting a few Bat nest boxes with the Wednesday Warriors Autistic Adult group. I sometimes volunteer on a Wednesday and have the guys assissting me with my conservation work. They really enjoy themselves and they are a great help.
We managed to erect 6 multi chamber Bat nest boxes in a railway tunnel close to my home. All were fitted out of reach from certain individuals and I am sure they will be a great success as there was a colony of bats here until some bright spark scarred them away.
24 Mawrth / 24 March 2015
24 Mawrth / 24 March 2015
After finishing 20 small Tit nest boxes in my workshop and finishing other bits and pieces. I thought the weather was going to stop play with huge grey clouds up above us threatening to drop volumes of the wet stuff although they soon disappeared and the sun was really pleasant. So late afternoon I had arranged to meet William on one of my local farms to complete the erection of yet another Barn Owl nest box. This particular farm has some sheep but mainly Turkeys. It was very pleasant watching this Spring`s Lambs skipping about around us. Anyway as you can see in the images this nest box looks more like a posh Dove cot although is is designed for a large family of Barn Owl`s.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog I always make reasonable big Barn Owl nest boxes to hopefully encourage the female to lay more eggs.
22 Mawrth / 22 March 2015
A very rare bird for these parts and probably passing through to get to Eastern Europe and it`s nesting grounds.
The Great Grey Shrike is a bird of prey with some rather nasty habits. Its Latin name literally describes its behaviour - butcher sentinel - but perhaps those words should be reversed. It perches silently on a telegraph pole or top of a isolated hawthorn bush using the vantage point to spot for prey.
Although only about the same size as a blackbird, it is a successful killer of small mammals and birds. The prey is carried off to a thorn hedge or even a barbed wire fence where the shrike will impale the corpse and tear it to pieces. Often, if it has eaten enough, the shrike will store the remains of dead prey on thorns and return later to its larder.
Whilst erecting nest boxes around the school grounds on my last day at NewInn Primary school I spotted a majestic Redkite directly above us. Most of my friends are aware of my love for the Redkite and to see it directly above my village and only for the second time ever was quite exciting to say the least.
I actually spent a day out with my good friend Steve Roberts a few years ago searching for Redkite nest sites in the Abergavenny and Crickhowel areas of Monmouthshire and Powys. Steve explained to me that day that there were around a dozen Redkite nest sites in that area and an area only ten miles from my village. As it stands there are no recorded Redkite nest sites in my borough of Torfaen.
This shrike, one of a number of varieties of this successful hunter, is a winter visitor to Britain, and although relatively uncommon has been seen this year from North Yorkshire down to the south coast and as far west as Gloucestershire and Powys and now Torfaen.The birds are spread out by choice. A few may be seen arriving together in October, but then they carve out individual hunting territories, remaining there until spring when instinct calls them back north to Scandinavia to breed. Most British visitors come from Norway, and they frequently return to overwinter in the same territory each year.
Shrikes, once seen, are relatively easy to find again because they frequently return to a favourite perch to hunt, often in full view on top of an exposed post or bush. Territories are often large and in open heathland, or sometimes young conifer plantations, where prey is plentiful and easy to locate. They are a distinctive pearl grey with black streaks which may make them difficult to see against the winter sky for their unsuspecting victims. The birds swoop down like hawks on prey, but otherwise they have an undulating flight like a woodpecker.
The shrike has a hooked beak, which makes it look like the bird of prey it is, and, like falcons, it has a tooth-like addition to the top part of the beak which may be used for killing prey. The diet is believed to be mostly mice and voles but also small birds, particularly finches, insects like bumble bees and, in summer, lizards. Sometimes when ambushing small birds from the bushes, shrikes are said to lure the intended prey by mimicking their calls and then pouncing like a sparrowhawk.
Estimates of numbers vary but around 150 usually overwinter in England, although counts have been as high as 232 in recent years. One of the mysteries of the Great Grey Shrike is why it does not nest in Britain since its breeding range is from central France to Scandinavia and across to central Asia. Conditions in Britain would seem to suit their lifestyle, since they are successful hunters of prey common in these islands. It seems the northern breeding birds migrate south for the winter while the more southern continental populations often stay put.
For me this was only the second time I have seen Redkite`s over my village and this was just as exciting as the first sighting. I am keeping everything crossed for this majestic beautiful bird to move into my area and to successfully breed. This for me would be as exciting as a Barn Owl using one of my nestboxes.
21 Mawrth / 21 March 2015
So as if my emotional morning saying goodbye to the amazing Goytre School pupils wasn`t enough for my nervous disposition I had to do it all over again at my Village school NewInn Primary. As you can see in the image opposite I finished the day with a huge group hug following a guided tour around the school grounds and erecting nest boxes the children had made during my whole week workshop.
This is the second time I have worked with children at such a tender age and I must admit I found the experience working with Reception age children very rewarding indeed. Obviously huge credit must go to the professionals, the teaching staff who look after our little one`s nurturing them and preparing them for school life ahead.
Once again and so often is the case with my local primary Schools the staff are amazing and the children are increddibly lucky to belong and be part of an amazing school with a exciting learning experience and journey ahead. I am sure I may have planted a conservation seed in numerous pupil`s throughout my Borough and beyond and maybe a future Iolo Williams or Chris Packham.
Well the day I was totally dreading finally came around saying goodbye to the wonderful children and teaching staff at Goytre Fawr Primary School. I must admit I had to keep the tears back on a few occasions especially walking out of the children`s classroom for the final time. I feel I must say that this group of children were amazing and made my job so worthwile.
Every child constructed a nest box to take home which they all managed to do in time for mothers day. So today we erect a few nest boxes around the school grounds 4 in total and alongside other nest boxes that were in place probably from a forest school workshop
previous to my school visit. I decided to let one of the year 6 pupils pick a suitable tree for the final nest box. Aimee who will be leaving Goytre Fawr for Caerleon Comprehensive school in September was an absolute delight to have as a member of our group workshop and I wish her and James well for the rest of their terms left at Goytre Fawr and of course when they eventually leave for pastures new. Aimee chose a perfect tree in a quiet part of the school grounds and I just hope the nest box houses a family of birds not just for Aimee but the whole class.
20 Mawrth / 20 March 2015
Picture above was my final farewell and as you can see I was rewarded with a lovely huge card filled with amazing drawings of birds and signed by all class members. One delightful little girl Gracie-Bob had made me a chocolate rice crispy cupcake with a little birdie flag which looked amazing and tasted good too. One
thing is for sure I will miss these guys alot although Gavin and I will pop back in a month or so and check the nestboxes with Mrs Rar and her amazing class. I know members of the class will read this so I shall end by saying diolch yn fawr iawn to all of you for inviting me to your wonderful school and I shall look forward to seeing you all in a month or so. Be good until next time :-)
15 Mawrth / 15 March 2015
I had to rely on my son today to finish felting a Barn Owl box I have on the go. My back is really causing me huge problems at the moment and it is affecting every day life for me. I had to cancel my regular after school club at Coed Eva Primary on thursday and I am hoping that rest over the next few days will see me ok ready for next Thirsdays visit. Below images show the nest box almost finished but at least it`s waterproof for the time being.
14 Mawrth / 14 March 2015
The image below was sent to me by the children`s class teacher Mrs Appleby. These guys were an absolute pleasure to work with as were the other two reception classes I also worked with. As you can see the smiles on the children`s faces are just priceless and makes all the hard work planning and preparing before each school visit worth it. The children were able to take their finished boxes home and ready for Mother`s day.
10 Mawrth / 10 March 2015
Another fantastic day spent at Goytre Fawr Primary school with these amazing pupills. These are some of the most enthusiastic pupil`s I have ever worked with and weather permitting we will erect a few nest boxes around the school grounds and local park situated at the heart of the village.
Tomorrow I have a very busy day ahead weather permitting. I Plan to erect 2 Barn Owl, 1 Little Owl and numerous small nest boxes at different locations. The small brown nest boxes you can see in the image are to replace a few Woodpecker damged nest boxes I have in situe. These particular nest boxes are very important to me because they are Pied Flycatcher boxes situated in Pontypool, Torfaen. As far as I know these are the only Pied Flycatcher`s nesting in Torfaen. I am hoping and keeping every thing crossed that I can improve on my 2 successful clutches in 2014.
07 Mawrth / 07 March 2015
I have also purchased some rock climbing equipment to help us erect my Barn Owl nestboxes especially the bigger one`s. I have decided to build them slightly larger than I have been building them in order for the Barn Owl`s to produce bigger clutch numbers. They can lay up to 12 eggs in a clutch although the larger the clutch the more they have to hunt and feed their brood.
06 Mawrth / 06 March 2015
Today I spent the day at Goytre Fawr School in Monmouthshire. It was my second visit and we basically carried on with the nest boxes we started earlier in the week. Yet another fab day spent with Mrs Rust- Andrew`s year 4 class and a few extras from year 6 and year 3. I shall be making my 3rd visit next Tuesday and I am hoping we can start applying a concrete coat to the nest boxes and ready for the children to take home. We have also made a few extra nest boxes to erect around the school grounds and also Goytre village. Below images are of the brilliant year 4 and their amazing teacher Mrs Rust-Andrews.
Just thought I should show you this small clip of a few of the children having a bit of fun on camera. One of the children mentioned that every time I use the hammer it sounded like a Woodpecker, so as you can see they all started to pretend they were Woodpecker`s. The best part of the clip is seeing the smiles on the children`s face. These guys are extremely knowledgable about local birdlife and it was an absolute pleasure to work with them.
01 Mawrth / 01 March 2015
Usual thursday action at Blenheim Road Community School and my after school club at Coed Eva Primary. We are coming to the end of my Blenheim workshops and next thursday we will start to cover the nest boxes in concrete. The children will take these nest boxes home when completed.
At my after school club in Coed Ev Primary we are almost at the final stages of the Tawny and Little Owl nest boxes. Next week
will probably see the children erect nest boxes around the school grounds.
These particular nest boxes were constructed last term and the children and I have been waiting for the weather to behave itself to enable us to get out and fit the nest boxes around the forest school area. Fingers crossed for next thursday. It is also parents evening so the children will be out with me while the parents meet the Teaching staff.
Today was my first day of a 3 day workshop at Ysgol Gynradd Goytre Fawr. This school is a local school to my village although it is situated in neighbouring Monmouthshire and set in stunning countryside. The school is also a stone`s throw away from the border of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Although I love the village I live in Goytre village has always been a dream of mine to live in unfortunately this will probably remain a dream although it was so nice to spend the day at Goytre village albeit in the village school.
I always start my school workshop`s with a lecture on local birdlife and their habitat. More importantly I talk about the declining species of bird like the House Sparrow, House Martin, Barn Owl and Kestrel to name but a few. The children are now aware of certain declining species and are aware of the species we can help by constructing nest boxes. The class were extremely enthusiastic which was so nice to see. It was obvious they have been looking forward to my visit for some time and they had enough time to think of appropriate questions during my Q&A session. What really pleased me was the knowledge they possessed of local birdlife and I have to say I was extremely impressed. I am back out to the school on Friday and the following Monday and must admit I will look forward to it.
01 Mawrth / 01 March 2015
03 Mawrth / 03 March 2015
Well today was my sixth day at NewInn Infants School and a day in which I managed to get 30 nest boxes coated in cement and put safe to dry. I also managed to fit 60 felts roofs to 60 nest boxes which means I will have to visit the school sometime next week when I have more time. I can then fit the roofs on to the remainding nest boxes in time for the children to take home for mothers day.
I made extra nest boxes during my visit and these were intended for erection around the school grounds. This will also be done during my last visit to this school, quite sad as I have really enjoyed working at my local junior school the same school I once attended when I was a young boy.
01 Mawrth / 01 March 2015
Happy St David`s day to all my readers. Today I spent the morning erecting another Barn Owl nest box along with my son Ieuan and his friend and neighbour Kieran. We were also joined by Lawrence the farm owner and his grandson William. Plenty of bodies at hand to tackle this nest box with the added help of a tractor and forklift. I am very confident that this particular box will be a success due to it`s location. I must mention the hard work my son and Kieran did today and I am very grateful that these two young lads gave up their Sunday morning to help out.
26 Chwefror / 26 February 2015
Iv`e not really got much exciting to report about due to a hectic school visit schedule. I have 3 schools on the go and a fourth Goytre Fawr starting next week. With the help of my son and his friend we will be attempting to erect a Barn Owl nest box to the top of a fourteen foot pole. This will be in situe on one of my local farms to my village. An ideal location to place a Barn Owl nest box with resanable habbitat although there is a strong possibility that Lawrence the farmer might be able to set aside wider margains to his fields which will allow tha grass to grow in order to attract more rodents.
23 Chwefror / 23 February 2015
I spent the entire day at my village school today working alongside the 3 Reception classes. The children were a joy to work with and I must admit it was such an enjoyable experience. Mrs Appleby`s class were so well behaved we sailed through the video, quiz and question and answers in record time. The children then started construction and again they all seemed so keen and very enthusiastic I think they may have finished the nest boxes today if I had spent the afternoon with them as well as the morning. I shall look forward for tomorrow`s visit and even more so knowing I have the entire week to work with the reception classes.
18 Chwefror / 18 February 2015
This is just an update, As you can see below I have now finished the Barn Owl nest boxes I was in the process of building. These are destined for two new sites and are numbered 22 and 23 which is the number I have in place. These will be fitted to a big Oak Tree and are built in the Dutch letter box style. Both have a thick layer of breathable cement and a coat of Masonry paint to finish off.
16 Chwefror / 16 February 2015
Well as you can see I have been busy in my workshop today knocking up two Barn Owl nest boxes. The Barn Owl is a species I will really concentrate on this year. We are all aware of the fate of this stunning species and my Borough is no exception. I am fairly sure that there are no Barn Owl`s breeding in my Borough although I do know my neighbouring Borough`s have successful nesting programmes. The way I look at it is the more Barn Owl`s nest boxes I erect then the more chance I will have in successfully getting a breeding pair.
15 Chwefror / 15 February 2015
This is no exaggeration but it has taken me a whole week to purchase, transport, unload, rip down and cut ply and sterling board down into nest box measurements in preperation for a school visit. The school in question is my village and my old school Greenlawn Infants school. I have many fond memories of my old school and this will be my first ever return.
The majority of my old school building remains although a complete new Infants School has been built on the same site. It is the new part of the school I shall be visiting although I hope to take a small detour to see how much has changed over 40 years or so.
Well as you can see in the above image I have been extremely busy cutting that lot and there is 80 pieces cut of each section of the nest box. I will be working with 3 reception classes over a 6 day period and I must say I am looking forward to it.
12 Chwefror / 12 February 2015
On Thursday I set aside this day for my school visits. I am currently working with two schools in particular on a weekly basis. Both schools Blenheim Road Community School and Coed Eva Primary School have requested my services for the past two years. In Coed Eva school I run a after school club with children from year 3 upwards to year 6 and this has become an increddibly successful club with 37 children signing up for it this term. We as a group are currently making Tawny and Little Owl nest boxes and eventually the group will start Hedgehog nest boxes to place in the school grounds.
Blenheim Road Primary Community School is another Cwmbran school that I regularly work in and I am currently working with year 1 pupils. As you can see in the images below the children are really enjoying their nest box workshop and I must say that it is an honour to work with such wonderful children. I must also mention the children`s teacher Mrs Galeozzi who is one of the most professional teachers I have had the pleasure of working along side.
Mrs Galeozzi has become a good friend and we often share our love for our environment, wildlife and in particular birdlife via social media. It is a credit to Mrs Galeozzi that her very young year 1 Forest School have gained so much knowledge at such a tender age, and it would not surprise me one bit if one of these wonderful pupil`s becomes the next Iolo Williams such is Mrs Galeozzi`s passion for teaching.
11 Chwefror / 11 February 2015
Thanks to my two volunteers Paul Joy and Ray Williams MBE today was an extremely productive day. One of my Monmouthshire farms that borders Torfaen has in the past produced Pied Flycatcher and Redstart clutches, so from last seasons success the intentions were to erect as many nest boxes in this area as possible. Peter the farmer is all for helping our bird and wildlife so permission was granted to start a new nest box colony in one of Peter`s woodlands. We managed to erect a string of 10 small tit boxes in order to catch Pied Flycatcher and Redstart and the idea is if we do then we will expend the number of nest boxes. Later We then erect the huge Barn Owl nest box you can see in the image below. We finished off the day by erecting a Little Owl nestbox and last but not least we checked out some more virgin ground at the far end of Peter`s farm and ground that looks very very promissing.
9 Chwefror / 9 February 2015
This post is a change from the norm because I wanted to show you how Barn Owl boxes can be completely different designs depending on what part of the world you live. Image to the left and the two small clips below show typical British habitat and shows a typical Barn Owl nest box design. However British designs can vary although most are similar to my design. The video directly below shows an American Barn Owl nest box design with the emphasise on protecting the nest box from the heat of the day.
8 Chwefror / 8 February 2015
Today I was going to drop all tools and stay indoors in the warm and just have a day off from it all. However I could not resist finishing off the Barn Owl nest box I have on the go and sitting in my back garden. The wife has been pretty patient with regard her back garden looking like a builders yard and I have promised her I would remove all the nest boxes I have stored. This will be done over the next week or so wrather permitting of course. Below are images of the finished product.
7 Chwefror / 7 February 2015
Just a quick update to inform you of today`s proceedings. After yesterdays torchure I promised myself that I would allow my body parts to fully recover over the weekend. However I remembered that I had to meet with my good friend John "The Shed" Davies at his factory Davies Timber`s of Cwmbran. He had promised me some felt and off cuts of timber which was set aside for me to pick up as shown in the image below left.
I couldn`t help myself visiting my workshop today because I have just recieved a brand new blade for my chop saw so on return from Davies Timber`s I immediately started to fit the new blade and started to cut 100 fronts for small Tit boxes in preperation for one of my school visits. I also managed to apply a coat of mint coloured masonry paint to one of my Barn Owl boxes hopefully in preperation for next week where I hope to fit it to a 14 foot telegraph pole. This will be placed on a local farm to my village and will be closely monitored at all times by the farm owners.
6 Chwefror/6 February 2015
If I am totally honest I was dreading today. I was looking forward to spending time out with Ray Williams MBE but the workload in front of us was immense with 27 small Tit boxes, 2 Robin boxes, 1 Little Owl and a huge Barn Owl nest box to erect on uneven land. However with the help of these two guys it made life slightly easier. Ray who is at the tender age of 67 and an extremely fit ex serviceman who spent 29 years in 7th RHA Parachute regiment is excellent company and is never phased by anything. He still displays that mental attitude an Elite regiment requires and to have him by your side is an honor.
This is new land for my project and I am excited at the prospect of this producing a Pied Flycatcher or two. It will almost certainly produce mainly Blue and Great tit and maybe the odd Nuthatch but one never knows. It is perfect habitat for a Pied Flycatcher set in a small valley with a clean water brook running through the entire stretch. This habitat will produce the many insects and invertabrates that the Pied Flycatcher will need to sustain a clutch through the breeding season. It is also very quiet with little or even no disturbance throughout the season.
2 Chwefror/2 February 2015
We had an extremely productive day today with Ray Williams MBE and Paul Joy. We managed 27 small tit boxes and 2 Robin boxes in total. We had a good system going where I erected the nest boxes whilst they laid them out ready for me to fix. We also looked out for a potential Barn Owl site ready for one to be erect next week. Pleased to say we found a perfect quiet location with favourable habitat to unable the Owl`s to hunt close to their nest site. Fab company with these guys, plenty of laughs along the way and of course a bit of banter to go with it. Below shows a few images of todays exploits.
29 Ionawr/29 January 2015
My friend and fellow Project volunteer Paul Joy popped in to see me today and it was nice to see him and catch up with his fab stories. Iv`e found this brilliant article on the Tawny Owl by a gentleman called Mike Toms and I thought I would share with you what Mike has written.
While the image of the squat, roundheaded Tawny Owl is likely to be a familiar one, the chances are that you are more likely to have heard one this year than actually seen one. This, the most common and widespread of our owls, is also the most strongly nocturnal. A species of deciduous and mixed woodland, the Tawny Owl may also be encountered in urban areas, where suitably-wooded parks or large gardens may be used for breeding.
The association between the Tawny Owl and woodland is something that was borne out by the BTO Tawny Owl Survey, carried out by Steve Percival in the late 1980s. This found that the amount of woodland in an area was more important in determining Tawny Owl occurrence than where in the country the area was located. Look at a map of Tawny Owl distribution across Britain and you will only see gaps in the treeless fens and in some of the more upland parts of north-west Scotland. The species shows some obvious adaptations to its woodland way of life; the short, broad wings and short tail help the owl to manoeuvre through the trees, while the
brown and grey plumage provides suitable camouflage for when the owl perches up against a tree trunk. Interestingly, there are some exceptional instances of Tawny Owls making use of open country, choosing to nest in a quarry face or a disused farm building. Woodland Tawny Owls feed mainly on small mammals, notably Wood Mouse and Bank Vole, but will also take other prey species if they happen to be available. Amphibians, bats and even fish have been recorded being taken by Tawny Owls. In urbanised landscapes, the owls seem to take more small birds, attacking roosting House Sparrows and Starlings. A few individual Tawny Owls have also been reported attacking House Martin nests, breaking these mud nests open at night to get at the chicks within. One other possibly surprising component of the Tawny Owl diet is earthworms, the owl taking them from the ground on wet nights when the worms emerge to pull leaf litter down into their burrows.
While the Tawny Owl’s visual capacities are considerably better than our own, it cannot see in complete darkness. However, it is sufficiently well equipped to be able to navigate its way around under the woodland canopy on all but the most overcast nights. In addition to its large eyes, the owl also possesses excellent hearing which helps it to locate potential prey from a favoured perch. While the notion of the Tawny Owl as a ‘sit and wait predator’ is true for woodland populations, those found in more open territory will often hunt on the wing, quartering the ground in a similar manner to a Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl or Short-eared Owl.
One other factor contributes to the Tawny Owl’s success as a woodland hunter, and thatis its spatial memory. Research has revealed that the Tawny Owl has an excellent spatial memory (though not as good as our own or indeed that of other apes) but certainly better than most other birds that have been tested.
Couple a strongly territorial and sedentary nature with a good spatial memory and you have the opportunity to develop and retain an excellent ‘knowledge’ of where to find prey in a given area. Even so, an examination of Tawny Owls brought into rehabilitation centres suggests that collisions with branches are not that unusual.
Tawny Owls can produce a surprising range of calls in addition to the familiar territorial hooting in which they indulge at this time of the year. After the silence of September and early October, when pairs are completing their annual moult, inexperienced youngstersbegin to compete with established pairs and the autumnal night air becomes punctuated with various wails and screeches.
The call that is most often thought of as being delivered by a Tawny Owl is ‘tuwhit, tu-whoo’. However, this phrase is a misrepresentation, possibly derived from some lines which appear in Love’s Labour’s Lost (Act 5, Scene II) by Shakespeare. It seems likely that Shakespeare was adapting the overlapping calls of male and female into a form that fitted his verse. In reality the main territorial call is a drawn-out three sectional hoot: ‘hooo...hu...huhuhuhoo’, delivered by the male. The female is known to make a similar call, often truncated and always higher in pitch and more hoarse in delivery. The male will use his call, or some variant of it, to proclaim territorial ownership, court his mate and announce to the female that he is about to deliver some prey to her. The rather soft ‘kiuk’ calls produced by both sexes probably have a contact function, as does the harsher ‘kee-wik’ call, although some authors have suggested that this may also serve to express aggression. Young birds, newly emerged from the nest cavity, but still reliant on their parents for food, are particularly vocal in their efforts to beg for food from their parents.
Eric Hosking, one of our greatest wildlife photographers, famously lost an eye to a Tawny Owl and it is little surprise that thespecies has something of a reputation for displaying aggression around the nest. Some owl fieldworkers have suggested that female Tawny Owls (it is invariably the female that delivers a robust nest defence) are more aggressive if nesting in areas close to human habitation, while those in remote areas are docile around the nest. My own experience of Tawny Owls is that you should always treatthese birds with respect. Incidents of Tawny Owl aggression have also been seen to involve other creatures. On one occasion a Red Fox, which seemingly posed no threat at all, was attacked and driven off by a nesting female. In contrast to this, however, is the way in which female Tawny Owls may remain on the nest if disturbed.
29 Ionawr/29 January 2015
I spent a fab afternoon in Blenheim Road and Coed Eva Primary schools once again with my after school club now up and running. Last week was organised chaos due to trying to organise 37 children into groups and deciding what species of bird we will be constructing nest boxes for.
I decided that the children will all construct a Tawny and Little Owl nestbox in each group with 8 groups in total. When this task is complete the choice of build will change. I want to get at least 3 Hedgehog nest boxes built in order to place around the school grounds and this can be done later in the school year.Obviously there are a number of new children that have joined the group from last year and these will be able to make themselves a box to take home.
28 Ionawr/28 January 2015
Five years to the day I assisted Jerry Lewis (BTO) ringing birds up at Langorse lake near Brecon. I really enjoyed the very long day out with Jerry and certainly learned alot about ringing birds and also about different species of bird including the beautiful little bird in the image below the Willow Tit. Willow tits have undergone very rapid declines in many areas, particularly in the south and east of England, although there are still relatively strong populations in others. These declines are not fully understood,but a lack of suitable nest sites, inter-specific competition with other tit species both for nest sites and foraging,and the degradation of the shrub layer structure are all potentially contributory.
Invertebrates are the chief prey in the breeding season, and at other times when available. Foraging occurs almost entirely within cover and in the shrub layer, rather than the canopy. Seeds of for example alder and ash, are taken in autumn and winter and when
invertebrates are in short supply. Other tits, particularly great tits, may force willow tits to feed in the shrub layer. They only rarely visit bird tables, but habitually store seeds from late summer and can depend on them in harsh weather.
Willow tits excavate their own nestholes, usually in rotten tree trunks or stumps that are sometimes only 7 or 8 cm in diameter. Birch and willow are often used asthey rot easily, but not exclusively. Standard nestboxes are avoided but boxes that are set low and filled with woodchips may be (see section on providing nestboxes). The nest is usually made of bark strips, grass and plant down, and lined with animal hair, moss etc.
Between six and nine eggs are laid from midApril. Larger cavities usually hold larger clutches. The eggs are incubated for 13-15 days, and the chicks take between 17 and 20 days to fledge. They only have one brood. Competition from other tit species, for food
and for nest sites (blue tits are known to take over newly excavated willow tit nests), could be exacerbated by garden bird feeding,
which promotes increased winter survival in those species. Foraging opportunitiesare reduced where the shrub layer is in poor condition. It can be restored through deer or livestock management, reduction of shade, and amending sylvicultural practices to protect the shrub layer.
26 Ionawr/26 January 2015
Just a very quick update as I have been extremely busy preparing materials for my school visits. As you can see in the images below I have cut all the ply into ikea flat packs. Each flat pack is either a Tawny Owl or Little Owl box and will be constructed by a team of six children in a team. I must admit preparing materials takes up a lot of my time with collecting, cutting, loading and unloading. I seem to be in my workshop every day plus weekends such is the demand.
25 Ionawr/25 January 2015
For the past few days I have been busy constructing a reasonably big Barn Owl nest box for a farm a few miles away from my village. This particular farm is an ideal location to erect a Barn Owl nest box as there were Barn Owls on this farm a few years ago. Lawrence(farmer) and June(wife) are both very fond of the birds that visit their garden and both watch them from their conservatory on a daily basis.
My Barn Owl box will be completely safe on this farm as it will be erect in view of the Farm House. Lawrence is a very active Turkey farmer and walks aroun d his fields again on a daily basis. The Habitat for any Owl`s on this land is not perfect although I have discussed with Lawrence the possibility of extending his hedgerows to encourage mice, vole`s and shrew. Like any farm especially a Turkey farm there will be an abundance of Rats which will provide any Raptor with a nice meal. Images below show the Barn Owl box being constructed in stages. I have opted for this particular style following a consultation with Lawrence and June. So I have gone with a standard letter box shape but with a pine end shape roof.
22 Ionawr/22 January 2015
Today was spent firstly at Blenheim Road Community Primary School and then straight after to Coed Eva Primary School where I have successfully been holding a after school club for the past year or so.
I always enjoy my visits to Blenheim Primary School and to work alongside the amazing Mrs Galeozzi and her fabulous year 1 pupils and I am always inspired by Mrs Galeozzi`s enthusiasm and energy levels. As you can see in the picture opposite I started off with a informative talk on our most popular garden birds and their habitat. I also talked about the plight of some of our birds and animals particuarly the House Sparrow, Barn Owl and Hedgehog. As a group we discussed the importance of nesting boxes for certain species of bird and animal.
Even at such a tender age I did expect maybe one or two pupils to have good knowledge on birdlife such is Mrs Galeozzi`s professionalism and enthusiasm when taking her Forest School groups. The children were able to identify serveral birds in my picture card session like the Tawny Owl, Barn Owl and Kingfisher. All in all a fab day and I will look forward to the second session next Thursday afternoon.
21 Ionawr/21 January 2015
Over the last three days I have been flat out collecting and preparing new materials for my school visits. This week I will be visiting 2 schools so I have had to prepare two lots of materials which has pretty much taken me three days to collect rip down and cut into the correct measurements. Because one of my school visits will be working with reception/year 1 pupils I have cut out all the sides, fronts, bottoms and fronts which will allow the pupils to glue and nail together. They will also be able to drill out their hole on the front of the nest boxes albeit with me holding the drill. I usually get the children to firstly design and draw a pitcure of their nest box before we start construction. They also get to sand down all their pieces of wood before gluing and nailing and for some strange reason they love doing. The final stage is for them to cover their nest boxes in concrete, I then will fit the roof for them.
18 Ionawr/18 January 2015
This season I am really going to concentrate on the Barn Owl nest boxes. The species has really been effected over the past 20 years or so and even worse in 2013 when a good number were completely wiped out due to horrendous weather conditions. Ornithologists said that 2013 would be viewed as the worst year ever recorded for one of Britain's favourite farmland birds.They fear that there are now fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs of barn owls in England, following four years of extreme weather that have resulted in the population of the protected bird declining by more than three-quarters. In a typical year, conservationists estimate, Britain should be home to as many as 4,000 pairs of the birds.Fears about the decline in the barn owl population have been growing for many years. The birds were a common sight on farmland in Britain a century ago, but numbers had declined by 70% by the early 1980s.
According to some reports. Over this summer, the trust warned that the owl was facing a "catastrophe" and now, following an end-of-year assessment, the true scale of the birds' plight has been revealed.The cold winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 had a devastating effect on the species, and the wet June of 2012 killed many nesting owls. March this year was the second-coldest on record, and led to a high mortality rate in adult barn owls.
The Barn Owl was voted Britain's favourite farmland bird in 2007, the barn owl has occupied a central place in the nation's folklore. In parts of northern England it is good luck to see an owl. However, in other parts it is associated with death.In this country, a third of all barn owl young end up dead at the side of roads or on railway lines. There are now also concerns that the proposed high speed train line between London and the Midlands could have a serious impact on the bird population.
According to an environmental audit carried out in 2010 for HS2, the company behind the project, the new railway line would "result in the loss of all breeding populations of barn owls within 1.5km of the proposed scheme".An even more significant – but so far unquantified – threat is the widespread use of pesticides. The Barn Owl Trust said that the bodies of 91% of the birds that had been found dead had contained rat poison, which has heightened fears that the use of rodenticides is having a serious impact on the birds' mortality rates. Well one thing is for sure as long as I have the materials and good health I will not stop constructing Barn Owl nest boxes until there is a huge improvement on Barn Owl`s as a whole. My nest boxes will be in place and ready for when they eventually do return back into our area.
Above video`s show well managed Barn Owl Projects
17 Ionawr/17 January 2015
Following yesterdays excellent workload it has pushed me on to complete bits and pieces Iv`e needed to finish and to make room in my workshop for next weeks delivery of new ply from Statley Albion.As you can see below in my images I have a good stock of nest boxes with 4 Little Owl nest boxes, 2 Big Barn Owl and 1 Tawny Owl nest box ready for fitting. I also have 20 standard size nest boxes and 1 Big Barn Owl nest box down at a farm in Cwmbran stored in preperation to be fitted.
I had to take four nest boxes down when visiting my local woodland due to being extremely wet or damaged from Woodpecker attacks. What I will do now is basically dry them out and give them a good clean. I`ll then decide whether or not to keep them or bin them. If they are worth salvaging I will do what is needed to return them into service. Image below show ywo salvaged nest boxes awaiting attention.
16 Ionawr/16 January 2015
Today I met a new conservation project volunteer for the first time. Ray Williams pictured opposite holding a flask is a retired Sgt Major from my old regiment the Royal Artillery. Ray is actually from a regiment within the Royal Artillery called 7RHA which stands for 7th Royal Horse Artillery. 7RHA are the Airbourne regt to the Royal Artillery and a tough bunch of soldiers. Many ex Para`s that I have come across are tough disciplined men and Ray Williams is no exception.
We actually had a very productive day with both of us contributing to the nest box clean out. I thought that the two of us would be able to get my local nest box colony cleaned out and we sure did manage to
get all 80 + nest boxes in a good condition and ready for this years breeding season. We popped back to my house for a quick cuppa after the clean up with the aim of returning to the nest box colony to do a little repair, and replace a few damaged boxes.
As you can see in the above image I was rather shocked to see a few nest boxes full with stinking water. Unfortunately we have suffered some pretty awful weather of late with extremely strong winds and very heavy rain. Because of this one or two nest boxes filled with water where the rain had flowed down the bark and somehow made it`s way into the nest box.
It`s only fair for me to mention how much of a great help Ray was and at the age of 67 he sure is a megga fit individual. Like my dad Ray could quite easily jump over my head and it is a testiment to him for keeping himself in such a fine condition. Ray was extremely keen whilst helping today and even mentioned how much he enjoyed himself. He even complimented us with regards to what our aims and objectives are and hinted that he is available for a few months leading up to Spring. That`s brilliant news for my project as a whole and I really look forward to working with Ray again on monday morning.
We are approaching Spring and it`s the time of year where my Project starts to get really hectic. I still have 3 Big Barn Owl nest boxes to erect another Tawny Owl, 5 Little Owl and at least 70 standard size nest boxes need erecting as soon as possible. Luckily we now have Ray who has already proved to be a great help and I am confident we have a good chance of erecting all nest boxes I have in store although I still have numerous nest boxes which need cleaning out. There is also a number nest boxes with Woodpecker damage that need urget repair work also. I used the word urget because some of the damaged nest boxes are my Redstart boxes.
Thankfully I have been fortunate enough to spot numerous Mistle Thrush lately in my local area. This amber listed species of Thrush seems to be declining in numbers for some strange reason. Our most common Thrush is the Song Thrush and this is slightly smaller to it`s cousin. This is a newspaper report on this beautiful bird.
The mistle thrush is fast disappearing from the UK's gardens, wildlife experts warned today as they urged people to take part in an annual survey to collect information about bird species.
Results from the RSPB's annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey have shown that mistle thrushes are now being seen in fewer than half the number of gardens they were spotted in 10 years ago.
The RSPB is urging the public to take part in this year's survey, which takes place this weekend, to help gather important information on how mistle thrushes and other garden bird species are faring.
The event, described by the conservation charity as the world's biggest wildlife survey, is now in its 34th year. Since starting in 1979 it has helped highlight dramatic declines in some garden birds.
Starling numbers have fallen from an average of 15 per garden in 1979 to just three in 2012, while house sparrow numbers have fallen by two-thirds in the same period, although the two species are still the most commonly seen. The event, described by the conservation charity as the world's biggest wildlife survey, is now in its 34th year. Since starting in 1979 it has helped highlight dramatic declines in some garden birds. Starling numbers have
fallen from an average of 15 per garden in 1979 to just three in 2012, while house sparrow numbers have fallen by two-thirds in the same period, although the two species are still the most commonly seen.Unfortunately for the thrush it has a competitor for this unusual crop since we have built up many superstitions about it not least regarding fertility, safety, prosperity and a sophisticated equivalent for the 'kiss me quick' hat. Mistletoe is now becoming less common and, in the future, we will no doubt be left to wonder how the mistle thrush acquired its name.
12 Ionawr/12 January 2015
In some parts of the country, where mistletoe has always been uncommon, the mistle thrush is known by a different name, the 'holm thrush'. The word 'holm' is derived from the Old English word 'holen' meaning holly and indicates another of the mistle thrush's favourite foods, the holly berry.
The mistle thrush begins nesting much earlier than most of our resident species and it may be heard singing, to establish its territory, in the middle of winter - a peculiarity which has led to the bird being known as 'the stormcock'.
It has been shown that individuals who defend a natural supply of food during the winter are more likely to have a successful breeding season than those that don't. Put simply, a cock bird singing above a fully laden holly tree is more likely to attract a partner than one who isn't.
11 Ionawr/11 January 2015
At this time of the year, the summer migrants of the UK are long gone, having flown south to warmer climes in which to spend the winter months. In turn, birds from further north seek shelter in the UK from harsh the winters and unforgiving conditions in the their breeding grounds. The Waxwing, about which this blog post is written, is one of those species (although it is a lack of food rather than a lack of warmth, which drives them west). Waxwings breed in Scandinavia, but some cross the North Sea to overwinter in the UK each year.Usually sightings are restricted to small numbers of birds along the east coast, however, when food resources are too small to sustain them in their breeding grounds we witness irruptive migration.
The bad weather in Scandinavia often sees the failure of the berry crop upon which the Waxwings usually feed. This inturn forces many thousands of birds to migrate in search of food, and for years they have been making their way west across the UK. Back in January 2010 the birds finally reached South Wales and I was able to photograph them less 20 miles away from my house.
The birds were reported at a local retail park smack bang in the middle of Cardiff City Centre (due in part to the number of people who spotted the birds, and of course the high abundance of berry trees). I got my first sighting of the Waxwings, after hearing their distinctive high pitch trill in the trees overhead. As it was a busy Saturday morning many people were there to see the birds so Andrew Symonds and I decided not to stay for long after both capturing enough quality images.
10 Ionawr/10 January 2015
Unfortunately for the past two years I have not seen or heard of any Brambling visiting my local patch. Three years ago I was lucky enough to photograph this beatiful bird and was even lucky enough to get really close and take some decent images or at least good enough images with the budget Camera and lens I had at the time. I thought I would show you a few images I captured and give you the run down on this stunning little bird courtesy of the BTO website.
This boldly-marked relative of the Chaffinch is a winter visitor to Britain (though a handful of pairs may breed here) arriving in varying numbers depending upon the availability of beech mast. When they do put in an appearance, Bramblings are a wonderful addition to our winter bird community.
Although similar in size and shape, the Brambling can be instantly distinguished from the Chaffinch by its white rump, orange-buff colouration, flecked flanks and lack of white on the outer tail feathers. Male Bramblings are more strongly marked than both females and immatures. Confusion with Chaffinch may occur if the bird is not seen well, when the wing pattern can be suggestive of Chaffinch. Both the flight call, and the sound of a roosting flock are distinctive.
Bramblings are migrants, wintering south of the breeding range and in varying numbers depending upon the availability of beech mast. It is only really in poor mast years, with bad winter weather that any number can be seen feeding in British gardens.Most of those reaching Britain come from Fennoscandia, arriving via the Continent to avoid crossing the large expanse of the North Sea. While Chaffinches will exploit beech mast if it occurs locally, Bramblings very clearly move to find beech mast.
9 Ionawr/9 January 2015
Next week I start my after school club in Coed Eva Primary School. I will also be working in Blenheim Road Community School in the afternoon which will be handy as I can go straight to the one school after the other.
The main build in Coed Eva school will be hedgehog nest boxes. The school grounds are quite large and there is scope for at least 3 nest boxes.The hedgehog got its name because of its peculiar foraging habits. They root through hedges and other undergrowth in search of their favourite food - small creatures such as insects, worms, centipedes, snails, mice, frogs, and snakes. As it moves through the hedges it emits pig-like grunts — thus, the name hedgehog. The hedgehog is nocturnal, coming out at night and spending the day sleeping in a nest under bushes or thick shrubs.Their coats are thick and spiny, providing them with a formidable defence against predators such as the fox. When they feel alarmed or intimidated, they will curl up into a spiny ball to protect its vulnerable stomach.
Above video gives excellent information about the Hedgehog
They have about 5000 spines. Each spine lasts about a year then drops out and a replacement grows. The spines are hollow and springy with a flexible neck and they are erected by muscles. At the base there is a smooth ball which bends on impact. There may be up to 500 fleas on one hedgehog but the specific hedgehog flea (known as Archaepsylla erinacei) rarely bites humans. They also have a habit when stimulated by a strong smell or taste to self-anoint – this means they cover their prickles in foamy saliva. No-one is certain why it does this.While hunting for food, they rely primarily upon their senses of hearing and smell because their eyesight is weak though their eyes are adapted for night-time vision.
They have a particularly long, extending snout beyond the front of their mouth which they use to help them forage for food.The diet of a hedgehog has claimed it the reputation as being the ‘gardener’s friend’ as it includes so many ‘pests’. Frequently food put out for dogs and cats in town and city gardens also provides a meal for them and it is certainly a good way to encourage one into your own garden.
Hedgehogs are usually solitary, usually pairing up only to mate.When they mate they often make loud snuffling noises. The male circles the female, sometimes for hours, to persuade her to mate. They will separate thereafter and the male takes no part in rearing the family.The young are born in litters ranging from one to eleven. They remain with their mothers for only four to seven weeks before heading out on their own. Among the predators females must guard against
other male hedgehogs, which will sometimes prey upon the young of their species. Hedgehog mothers have also been known to eat their young if the nest is disturbed, though they sometimes simply move them to a new nest.Baby hedgehogs are born blind after 32 days and their spines are soft. However a late litter born in September seldom survive their first winter. The young are suckled by their mother until they are able to hunt for themselves. After about four weeks, the mother will take the young out on their first foraging trip and after ten days, the family will separate.
European hedgehogs in the UK hibernate throughout winter. They feed as much as possible during the autumn and in around October build its nests of leaves and grass in which to hibernate. There are 15 species of hedgehog.Hedgehogs in cold climes hibernate over the winter. In warmer climates such as deserts they sleep through heat and drought in a similar process called aestivation. In more temperate areas they remain active all year.Hedgehogs are the only British mammal with spines. When threatened they will roll into a tight ball, with the spines providing sharp protection from predators. Young hedgehogs are born with soft spines under the skin to protect mum, with a second set of spines emerging within days. One peculiarity to all hedgehogs is the way they cover their spines in foamy saliva, the reason why they do this remains a mystery although it has been suggested it might be a sexual attractant, or be used
to reduce parasites, or as additional protection. Hedgehogs aren't fussy when it comes to food: worms, slugs, frogs and even bird eggs can be taken during a two kilometre nightly forage, a resistance to adder venom can also put this snake on the menu.
Below images show my finished Hedgehog Mansion
8 Ionawr/8 January 2015
Over the past month or so I have been witnessing huge numbers of Redwing flying over my House in Pontypool South Wales. Everywhere I drive in my local vacinity I can see Redwing in pretty much most fields all looking for food.
The main reason these wonderful Thrush`s actually visit us from Scandinavia is for out berry crop and this summer has once again produced a bumper crop of berries and fruit. We have been fortunate to have two excellent summers in a row with nice warm temperatures and enough rain for fruit trees to produce bumper crops. Opposite is a short video produced by the British Trust for Ornithology(\(\(BTO) and it is designed for the British public to be able to identify a Redwing and another visiting Thrush called the Fieldfare. The Fieldfare is a large Thrush probably slightly bigger than our native Mistle Thrush and again a winter visitor from Scandinavia.The Redwing is a small thrush which visits the UK in the winter to feast on berry-laden bushes in hedgerows, woodland, parks and gardens. Redwings
migrate here at night - on clear evenings listen out for their 'tseep' call overhead. They can often be spotted in flocks with Fieldfares, moving from bush to bush looking for food. Apples and berry-producing bushes like Hawthorn may attract Redwings into the garden. Redwings are dark brown above and white below, with a black-streaked breast and orange-red flanks and underwing. Redwings have a very smart face pattern, with a white eyebrow stripe and dark brown cheeks. Similar to the Song Thrush, but for the white eyebrow stripe and red patch under the wing.
Under 20 pairs of Redwing nest in the UK, making this bird a breeding rarity and a Red List species in the Birds of Conservation Concern review. To help protect our breeding birds, The Wildlife Trusts are working closely with farmers and landowners to promote wildlife-friendly practices. We are working towards a 'Living Landscape': a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country,
which are good for both wildlife and people. You can support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.
On a winter walk you may come across a bush, or several bushes, from which birds begin to fly, then more and more appear until you find it hard to believe they could all have been in the bush in the first place! These birds are Redwings, a very common bird in the Blackwater Valley and most of Britain in winter. They first appear in October and are often heard passing over at night distinguished by their soft calls.
The Redwing is a member of the thrush family and is about the same size as a Song Thrush, perhaps a little slighter in shape but darker in colour. The distinctive red underwing, also visible on the breast sides with the wings folded, plus the white line above the eye gives the bird away, as well as its gregarious habits, which is in contrast to the more solitary Song Thrush. Most of our winter Redwing come from Siberia and there the population is enormous, with Russia, Norway and Sweden maybe holding over a million birds while Finland has well over two million. The British winter population has been estimated at about 750,000 birds with a westerly/south-westerly bias. If you found a breeding Redwing you would be very lucky as only a few score pairs breed in this country, mainly in the Highlands of Scotland.
7 Ionawr/7 January 2015
I have been a very busy boy today and managed to apply a final coat of masonry paint to one of my large Barn Owl nest box. The image opposite shows the nest box upside down which I always do when applying any paint or indeed concrete. This particular Barn Owl box is destined for one of my Monmouthshire farms near Cwmbran. We actually made a second visit to the farm yesterday to basically find a suitable tree and also work out how many nest boxes we will actually erect at this site in total. It looks certain that we have enough room for 20-30 standard size Tit boxes and of course a Little Owl, Barn Owl and a Tawny Owl nest box which has already been installed during out first visit.
The image of the Barn Owl nest box and the Hedgehog nest boxes both upside in the images do not do them justice. Both nest boxes are coated with a Light Pale Green masonry paint which does not show in the images due to the light. The Hedgehog nest box has a long tunnel leading into the main body of the box and then I have a sererate nesting chamber obviously ste aside and out of any draft. Hedgehogs prefer a tunnel leading into nest boxes so it is essential to add one.
5 Ionawr/5 January 2015
Today I spent a few hours in my workshop finishing off nest boxes that were needing repairs. I had to put new felt on some of my nest boxes that had been erect for a few years. These were taken down last November and hopefully will be put back where they came from.sometime this week or maybe next week. I also managed to give a new Barn Owl nest box a coat of concrete and tomorrow will finish it off with a coat of light pastal green masonry paint. This will also be erect hopefully this week as I have a few volunteers who are keen to help out.
Last evening I put out an sos on facebook asking local people if they knew of any land in Torfaen where I could possibly erect nest boxes. Well the response was increddible and I now have 8 new sites in the pipe line. I have also spoken to the farmer where my Redstart and Pied nest boxes are situated and asked if I could possibly expand my colony to other parts of his farm. It was a great response from Peter, he was very keen for more nest boxes to be erct around his land and he also mentioned that one of his neighbours has asked if it would be possible for my project to erect nest boxes on their land also. So as you can see I am going to be very busy although I must say very excited too.
4 Ionawr/4 January 2015
I often write about the Pied Flycatcher via my website. This is not a coincidence, rather a pure love for this tiny little bird. I first fell in love with this species about 5 years ago whilst visiting a friends nest box site in Powys mid Wales. Since then I always get extremely excited around March time while anticipating their return.
Opposite shows a map of the Pied Flycatchers European nesting breeding range, in red. The green indicates it`s wintering grounds mainly in mid west Africa. As you can see like many other summer visitor`s to the Uk it has miles to fly when returning to the Uk. Pied flycatchers range across most of Europe and into Russia. They winter in southern Europe and West Africa. In the UK, their breeding areas are concentrated in Wales and north-west England. The birds are not recorded as breeding in south-east England.
Flycatchers get their family name from their method of catching insects on the wing. The birds choose a prominent perch from which they make rapid forays after their insect prey.
Pied flycatchers arrive in the UK in April and establish their nests in tree holes or nest boxes. The nest can be anywhere between one and fifteen metres above the ground. Up to eight pale greeny-blue eggs are
laid and both sexes carry out the job of incubation. The eggs hatch after 13 days and the chicks are fed by the parent birds for another two weeks, before the young leave the nest. The birds start their return migration in October. In the UK, pied flycatchers are usually found in upland open mixed deciduous woodland, but are particularly fond of mature oak woods as these trees tend to support rich insect populations.
Above map show the Pied Flycatcher breeding grounds Above image is a Female Pied Flycatcher
The males have a striking plumage consisting of a white underside and black back, black head mask and black primary wing feathers. There is a noticeable white patch on the upper wing and a less conspicuous one on the forehead at the base of the upper part of the bill. Females have a brown back and head mask, while the upper wings and tail are darker grey-brown. The underside is more buff in colour than the striking white of the male. Juvenile birds have similar markings to the female. The birds can vary somewhat in their plumage depending on the local race of the species. There is a closely related bird found in central Europe, Asia Minor and North West Africa called the collared flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis). They are very similar in appearance to the pied flycatcher and, where the two species’ ranges overlap, hybrids have been known to occur. The call of the pied flycatcher is a sharp, metallic-sounding ‘pik-pik-pik’ and the song is a melodious high-pitched warble.
The pied flycatcher is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). Receives general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (as mended) in the UK. Listed as a species of conservation concern under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Green list (low conservation concern).
Pied`s have an uncertain status in the UK. Having extended their British range since the 1940s, their populations are now thought to be stable. However, figures are uncertain as their preferred breeding habitat is not sufficiently well monitored for an accurate population census to be carried out. The initial increase in the population was thought to be the result of more nestboxes being made available, but the bird’s numbers show a slight downward trend based on figures from Welsh sites.The pied flycatcher is a species that appears to be managing to maintain its numbers but which might also prove to be vulnerable. The birds are regular users of nestboxes where these are provided, but they also show a tendency to suffer egg and chick losses due to adverse weather conditions. Where information is available on bird numbers, the populations seem to be fairly stable. However, their upland breeding sites are not being monitored with sufficient regularity to enable an accurate census of the species to take place. As it stands, the bird is currently listed as a species of conservation concern.
1 Ionawr/1 January 2015
So then, here it is, 2015 or at least the start of it. Now I am getting rather excited at the prospect of another warm Spring and another bumper return in terms of nest numbers. Will the Spring weather be favourable for our nesting birds as it was for the past two Springs or will it be like 2010 very cold with snow on the ground up until the end of April. Well fingers crossed it will remain mild up until the start of Spring and hopefully wam up even more and stay dry. I keep pinching myself at the thought of surpassing last years Pied Flycatcher numbers although realistically if I manage double figures I will be happy. If I am fortunate enough to get passed the magic number of 15 I will be ecstatic. Anyway I am getting carried away with myself here so I will leave you with two clips I took of me finishing a few roofs on 20 nest boxes I have been constructing over the past few days or so.