Once again I conducted a nest box survey at Sharphill Wood this spring. This comprised 9 site visits between 11th April (when a few nests had been started) and 9th June (when the final nest had completed). My thanks to Zdena, Jan, Rosemary, Bill, Simon and Norman, who assisted me on one or more visits, and to Chris du Feu for his much appreciated mentoring and encouragement.
This year there were only 21 tit boxes to check, since one had been broken when its tree fell, two had been retrieved from fallen or felled trees for re-installation in the autumn, and one was inaccessible because of debris from tree felling. There were the 4 treecreeper boxes to check too, but once again these had not been used. As usual, about 25 older tit boxes could not be checked because the lids are fixed, but casual observations suggest that some of these have been used.
Eight boxes produced chicks, but clutch sizes were generally very small and a lot of chicks did not survive. Of four great tit boxes, two failed and the other two produced only one fledged chick each. The four successful blue tit boxes produced 6, 5, 3,and 2 fledged chicks. A few other boxes had partially or fully built nests that were abandoned without any eggs being laid. All observations have been entered into the British Trust for Ornithology Nest Record Scheme database.
I am advised that the poor success this year has been seen elsewhere in the region, and may be linked to colder weather in early May and a general lack of caterpillars, the staple diet of young tits.
John work party coordinator