WVBS Churchyard Nest Box Project

 

First Year Report from Ray Gribble

The WVBS set up a project to erect nest boxes in churchyards in the WVBS recording area. This has involved getting permission from the relevant parochial church councils then assessing the habitat in the churchyard and surrounding area to determine what nest boxes would be suitable to erect. In most churchyards we put up 2 Tit boxes plus others such as small open fronted boxes for Spotted Flycatcher / Robin; Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Little Owl and Kestrel depending on the habitat. NB All boxes are attached to trees, not to the church itself. The team involved, so far, are  Alec Waller (who made the boxes), Richard Norris, Steve Chapman, Bernie Marsham, Liz Bridge and Ray Gribble.

Funding

WVBS have subsidised the project by paying for some of the materials and overheads. The nest boxes are costing WVBS only £2 each.

Year 1 Results

A total of 103 boxes were erected comprising of 35 Tit, 22 Open-front, 6 Tawny Owl, 16 Barn Owl, 12 Little Owl, 11 Kestrel and 1 Treecreeper box.  All of these were monitored by visiting at least once each during the breeding season. Of the 35 Tit boxes 22 were occupied by Blue or Great Tits and 13 succeeded to fledging stage but 9 failed. No open-fronted box was occupied. Although there are only Robin, Wren and Spotted Flycatcher that are likely to take to openfronted boxes it is still disappointing. The larger boxes failed to attract their intended species, except for Little Owl. Two successfully fledged from one box and one from another. The latter had 2 chicks but 1 died apparently from starvation. Two adult females and 3 chicks were ringed. 20 of the other large boxes were occupied by Jackdaws and Stock Doves. Eleven nests occupied by Jackdaws had a very poor survival rate. For instance one Barn Owl box  had 6 eggs on   1st May and only two young on the 30th May. A final visit  about a month later resulted in an empty nest. Whether the 2 young fledged is unknown but unlikely by the state of the nest. Out of the 11 boxes only 10 Jackdaw chicks were ringed.

Stock Doves fared slightly better, mainly because they are multi-brooded unlike the previously mentioned species which started nesting in the atrocious conditions of Spring 2013. 17 nestlings were ringed from 9 nestboxes.

47 Nest Records have been entered into the BTO’s IPMR software ready for submission.

Although the results are somewhat disappointing they are in agreement with other recorders. Barn Owls have had their worst breeding season for years. The same is similar for Tawny Owls and Kestrels. Little Owls have not suffered to the same degree as they are not dependent on Voles but take many invertebrates. The cold spring caused widespread failure of both Great and Blue Tits this year.

 It is recognised that a nest site has to be provided that is more favourable to the species than those already available. When populations are decreasing, as is the case for most of the species targeted, this is particularly difficult to achieve. After a successful season when the adults are “evicting” their young from the home territories the chances are going to be much better.

Further Actions

The team will meet to discuss learning points and what can be improved for the 2014 breeding season. Topics will include:

Complete the cleaning of existing boxes for next season.

The siting and design of boxes.

Designing a better recording sheet.

Whether to enlarge the project, and if so, whether to continue it in churchyards or “target” territories where species are seen.

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