Did you know, we have just over 300 nest boxes at Ynys-hir for our small birds? In the past few weeks we’ve been busy cleaning out all boxes and mending any problems before the birds start surveying for potential nest sites in the coming weeks. Raising a brood of chicks can leave a box looking (and smelling) pretty bad so we give the birds a helping hand by removing any old nest material from the previous year, this helps keep the vast amount of fleas and parasites away from any young vulnerable chicks.
The target species we’re hoping to attract is pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), but we also get a fair amount of blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) and great tit (Parus major) too. The pied flycatcher is a long-distance migrant, travelling all the way from sub-Saharan Africa to spend the spring and summer with us. Sadly their numbers are declining fast but mid-west Wales is a hotspot for these birds and Ynys-hir is no exception. Pied flycatchers breed here every year and studies have shown that these birds are very faithful to their breeding sites, often returning year after year to raise a brood in the same woodland or even the same nestbox- that’s pretty impressive!
Our interns and conservation volunteers have been working hard in the woodland over the winter to remove sections of bramble (in some places by hand!) to reduce vegetation grow-back in the spring and summer. Having clear areas of understorey to forage is vital for pied flycatcher as they increase their intake of caterpillars and other leaf-munching bugs to feed their chicks. More boxes have been installed in these areas of management so we can monitor the effects (if any) on the pied flycatcher breeding population.
This year we’re also adding 10 new boxes along the red trail for redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus). These birds are spring migrants too and like to nest in rot holes and open cavities but will happily take to artificial boxes provided the hole is big enough (at least 42mm). Their nests look very similar to pied flycatcher, a cup woven from grass and leaves but then furnished with a layer of soft feathers whereas flycatchers leave theirs bare.
National Nest Box Week takes place every year in the second full week of February, this year it’s the 14th-21st February. Why not get into the spirit at RSPB Ynys-hir by making a nest box on Wednesday 21st February 1-3pm Nestbox’s £5 per kit.