Getting to know your nesting neighbours

Many of us, I’m sure, over the last few weeks, have seen birds carrying nest material or even food for those early broods of chicks. It’s a fantastic sight, isn’t it? This spring, in my garden in Cardiff, I’ve been lucky enough to have a pair of Dunnocks and Blackbirds nesting. I usually have Blue Tits nesting in my garden too but, although a pair comes to my feeders every day, they have chosen not to use my nestbox this year. It appears I have been gazumped by my next-door neighbours and their new box.

With my usual birding excursions ruled out this spring due to the Covid-19 social restrictions, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spending more time than usual watching these nesting birds going about their business. I have also been closely monitoring the progress of their breeding attempts. I try to establish whether a nest was successful or not. Carefully visiting the nest at different stages, I record the contents. For example, how many eggs, how many chicks, and how many chicks fledged – and I submit this information to BTO.

Helping to build a picture of breeding success

Monitoring the fortunes of birds nesting in our gardens like this helps build up a picture of bird breeding success and what may be affecting it. Many species we have nesting in our gardens also nest in the wider countryside and monitoring them can help build a picture of how they’re faring in different habitats.

The good news is that by following a Code of Conduct it is possible for every one of us – beginner or experienced birdwatchers – to enjoy a privileged and intimate insight into the lives of birds, and to help the BTO build up this picture, without impacting the nesting attempt.

Nesting Neighbours

To help gather and record this information, the BTO has recently launched a garden-based project called Nesting Neighbours. If you have one or more pairs of birds nesting in your garden, please consider taking part in this enjoyable and very rewarding project.

A healthy brood of Blue Tits (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)

Unless it’s in a box, it all starts of course with finding a nest of course. This involves watching the behaviour of birds in your garden and is an interesting exercise in itself; have you seen a Robin carrying moss or a Blackbird with worms? Piece together the clues and, following the Code of Conduct at all times, search for the nest and, once you’re successful, you’re ready to start.

Whether you have Blue Tits in a nestbox, a Blackbird in a hedge or Robins in some ivy, all you need to do is check the nest at regular intervals and then send your records online to the BTO.

Monitoring both successful and unsuccessful nests

It’s wonderful when a nest is successful and we see the fledged juveniles being fed by their parents. But as we all know, a lot of nests are unsuccessful due to predation, bad weather, or unfertile eggs.  It’s essential we know about these nests too so, if you take part, please follow the breeding attempts through the season and let BTO know what happens, whatever the outcome. Finally, please try to keep an eye out until at least August. Birds like Robin, Blackbird, and Collared Dove will often have two or even three nests over the spring and summer.

For more information, please visit the Nesting Neighbours website. Seeing as they’ve tempted the local pair of Blue Tits over to their side of the fence, I’m off to have a word with my own neighbours to get them registered for the project.

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