Breeding Birds

Saturday, May 25th 2019

For the Swaledale Ringing Team it is the busiest time of the year as there are over 500 nest boxes to check and monitor. Some of these are large boxes designed for raptors and so far several have been found to have Tawny Owls nesting in them. These are one of the first owls to breed. This young owlet is one of many to be ringed this year although there are significantly less than in previous years which could be due to a food shortage.

Barn Owls are also ringed on various sites. Their young hatch later than the Tawny owls and so hopefully photographs of these will follow soon. Kestrel prefer the large boxes with an open front and their young hatch before the Barn Owls. 

Inevitably, some of the remaining boxes are home to Jackdaws who adorn their homes with the most peculiar of items. In the past playing cards and cigarette ends have been discovered in amongst the twigs and sheep wool. However, this year, one of the boxes at Foxglove contained the top part of a smoke grenade! These are the chicks from this interesting nest which featured on an earlier blog just as they were hatching.

In the smaller boxes some of the birds have already fledged whilst others are still too small to be ringed such as this clutch of Blue Tit chicks that were checked today.

The nest boxes are sited all over the reserve; staff and volunteers have been to every corner in search of them! It can be quite an adventure going off the beaten track but the sights are amazing and well worth the effort!

Open nests are surveyed too where possible and a highlight is a local Dipper nest. These chicks were ringed before being carefully returned to their mossy abode beneath a bridge.

The information about all of these nests is passed on to the BTO who collect all of the data. However, the main study of breeding birds is the CES (Constant Effort Sites) bird ringing programe. It was the third day of this for 2019 and as expected the mist nets were quiet with most birds still on eggs or young. The main species ringed today were Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. The first juvenile Chaffinch of the year was caught and ringed. The day was a success thanks to the bird ringers and scribe and to the volunteers who prepared the net rides by mowing and strimming and filling bird feeders. 

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