Earlier this year the Thursday volunteers spent a few sessions getting the reserve's nest boxes ready for this year's breeding season. This involved taking down damaged boxes, repairing them and putting these and new boxes up. As we have something like 100 boxes located around the reserve we also took grid references of all the boxes so that we could relocate them all. The majority of the boxes are designed for blue tits and great tits but we also have robin, treecreeper, owl, and sparrow boxes along with a number of bat boxes.
For the last 8 days I have spent time with Steve Downing, who is a licensed bird ringer. He looked into some of the boxes and ringed chicks where appropriate. Unless you have a license, it is illegal to open nest boxes during the breeding season or to handle wild birds. The window of opportunity to ring small birds is quite small. The chicks must have most of their feathers developed but still be in the nest. This opportunity only lasts a few days. Last week we found around 65 boxes with approximately 90-95% occupied but none of the chicks were ready for ringing. Since then we have ringed approximately 80 chicks. The brood size varied from 7 to 11 chicks per nest, With the good weather we have had in the last couple of weeks this shows an excellent return and bodes well for a very good breeding season for these small birds this year.
Hopefully we will manage to get a lot more chicks ringed in the coming weeks. Each of the rings has an individual identification number stamped on it along with a telephone number. Should anyone find a dead bird with a ring attached then they should make a note of this number and ring the telephone number. If there are any obvious clues as to the cause of death then this should be passed on. This allows the British Trust for Ornithology to gather information on how long birds live for, how far they move from their birthplace and causes of death so that scientists can see trends and develop strategies for improving survival rates.