… I have little to report. There were a few visitors, but not many, the Lower Test Trust volunteer team were in finishing a repair job to the “river dipping bridge” they’d started on Wednesday and tidying up some old and (since they did such a cracking job of laying the hedge along Ellingham Drove a few years ago!) now redundant fencing and there were birds about, but nothing particularly notable other than the cuckoo which was persistently calling from around Ivy Lake all day, the large numbers of swallows and martins that remain over Ibsley Water and the relatively large number of swifts that were over Ivy. The common terns have laid claim to three of the four rafts, but at the moment a pair of black headed gulls is maintaining their hold of the fourth.
Brenda, one of our regular bird ringers had previously arranged with Bob to monitor (the many!) nest boxes around the south side of the nature reserve. Unfortunately she was alone when she arrived to do so today which put me in something of a difficult position as the Trusts health and safety policies requires that ladder work is accompanied in case of slips or falls. Fortunately, with no groups in, this gave me the excuse to leave my computer and get out to enjoy the nature reserve (without a group!) for a little while.
Thirty boxes that had been previously identified as being in use (all by either blue or great tits) were checked and of these a few (3 or 4) appeared to have been abandoned, a couple had clutches that were still in the process of being laid, many were being brooded and a few had hatched. Two of the adult female blue tits found sitting on the nest were ringed and just one box (the last checked as it happens) had chicks (or “pulli”) in large enough to ring – which all four of the young great tits were (see photo’s below). Brenda was pleased to find this last brood at this stage having anticipated far more being ready for ringing based on the checks she made a week previous.
We can only think that the recent poor weather has reduced the amount of food available and hopefully the slight improvement will mean that the parent birds will fare better at finding caterpillars and other insects for their young so they can make up the weight and sustain all of them. Several broods had lost one or two chicks since the last check, including that containing the brood of a size to be ringed, and this will only increase if the wet weather continues. Having said that, although it is nice to think that all of “Brenda’s birds” will do well, in terms of the monitoring process, information on failed attempts and chick mortality is all useful data scientifically.