The FoPV Bird Surveyors have been in discussion with Matt the SCC Ranger for the Porter Valley about erecting some bird boxes in the valley. We are aiming to improve breeding success for small woodland birds in the face of a shortage of natural nesting holes. One species we are particularly hoping to help are pied flycatchers (see picture). The striking black and white male birds arrive in April from West Africa, ahead of the brown and white females, and are known to pass through the valley but to our knowledge, have not stopped to nest.
One of the reasons why is that suitable nest holes in trees are already taken by the time they reach our shores. Birds like woodpeckers, parakeets, nuthatches, great tits, blue tits and coal tits will already have occupied available holes during March. So by putting up the nest boxes now, we hope they should still be empty when the pied flycatchers arrive. However, if any of the non-migratory species start late or raise another brood, and choose one of the boxes, all well and good.
The boxes have been made by one of the surveyors using a design from RSPB/British Trust for Ornithology. The boxes have steel plates around the entrance holes to discourage access and predation of nestlings by squirrels and woodpeckers. Following advice from the SCC Ecology Unit, special aluminium nails are being used to attach the boxes, as this metal is not toxic to trees.
Locations are not being listed as disturbance is also a factor in reducing breeding success.
The boxes will be monitored by the FOPV bird surveyors following the British Trust for Ornithology Nest Record Scheme Code of Conduct. However, if you come across a box with birds entering and want to stay and watch, please stand quietly at least 10 metres or twenty steps away. Remember birds may be brooding inside or watching you from an unseen perch nearby.
Fingers crossed for a successful breeding season!