Poor old Gilbert is getting restless. Despite the fact that there is more interest in wildlife than ever before, it seems that most of the so-called conservation organisations are losing interest in species. Instead they prefer to babble on about landscape scale conservation and ecosystem services (whatever they are). Could this be because most of their staff don't have any knowledge about species if they don't have four legs?
This is my attempt to encourage an interest in good old-fashioned natural history.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Mainly nesting

Normally at this time of year I would have spent the last 6 weeks doing lots of nest finding. No, Gilbert hasn't resorted to activities of yesteryear, these nests are found to contribute to the BTO's Nest Record Scheme and to enable the ringing of the nestlings. This year everything has been so delayed that I've only really started in the last 10 days or so. As usual, most of my attention is focussed on Wood Warblers in the New Forest but the first nest that I found that actually had contents was a Grey Wagtail that had young which were nearly old enough to fledge.

The nest was ridiculously poorly hidden so it is pleasing that the young managed to fledge the day after these photo's were taken.

Last weekend I helped run a nest finding course for the BTO. Normally we hold the course a week later but we had to switch this year because one of the other course leaders needed to hold his course this weekend. Normally that wouldn't have been a problem but this year......

In 2012 we found nearly 50 nests over the two days, the result this year was 16 and many of those were still being built. On Sunday we spent 10 hours in the field for just one Whitethroat and one Woodpigeon, both with eggs. I suspect that many species are delaying nesting due to food shortages but there is also a problem with lack of vegetation growth to provide cover for the nests. Chffchaff nests are normally well hidden but the one below was visible from several yards away (the nests are domed so what you can see is the entrance hole).

The frustration on Sunday was alleviated somewhat by looking at other things such as the Early Purple Orchids on Butser Hill and a very cold Green Hairstreak which could be picked up and placed in a better position for photography.

The biggest surprise came in the afternoon while we were searching the hedgerows along the road up to Butser when a shout went up of 'Black Stork!'. Sure enough there was a Black Stork soaring over us. No photo because I was running down the road to tell other members of the group.

On Tuesday evening I dashed round all the Wood Warbler nests in the New Forest that I'd found so far (all in the process of being built) to see if any had eggs yet. Including the two new nests that I found during the evening, I now have 8 nests; one is still empty (and a bit concerned that the female may be dead because the male was back in full song), 3 had two eggs, 2 had four eggs and two had complete clutches of 6 eggs and were being incubated.

Normally I vomit when I see tv programmes where the animals have been named (especially when you know that the named animal is probably several dozen different animals) but when Alice worked with me last year on the Wood Warblers, she bullied me into accepting names for each pair / nest and I have to admit that it makes it easier to know which pair is being referred to. At least most of the names weren't people's names (although anyone who knows a bit about the ecology of Wood Warblers will be able to guess how 'Ryan Giggs' came to be named!). So I will continue to name the nests this year as this blog becomes rather obsessed with Wood Warblers over the next few weeks.

The nest above is 'Ford nest' and is relatively well hidden (for a Wood Warbler) under the dead bracken in the centre of the picture. The one below is 'Fir twig tent' and is really exposed. Logic suggests that it has little chance of success but I will be starting to install nest cameras tomorrow so that I know what happens.


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