Posts tagged ‘Nest Record Scheme’

National Nest Box Week 2017

14 February marks the start of the 20th annual National Nest Box Week, organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Putting up a nest box or two during the week can provide not only a nesting site for a number of species but, if you also spend a little bit of time monitoring the outcome of your occupied boxes, even just one box, you could also make a valuable contribution to the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme.

Many of us will have at least one nest box in our gardens and, if we’re lucky enough to have it occupied, we delight in watching the adult birds tirelessly feeding their young. Best of all is seeing newly fledged chicks from the box and feeling that you have helped nature in some way. Thanks to the support of the Glamorgan Bird Club (GBC) I’ve been able to take this one step further and erect several nest boxes in areas outside my own garden.


Erecting nest boxes near Radyr (Photo: DJJ)

Coinciding with National Nest Box Week, GBC holds a nest box making session at Kenfig NNR every February using timber kindly donated by Topstak. The Club donates these boxes to various bodies including local schools, Welsh children’s hospice Tŷ Hafan and, since 2014, it has kindly given a number of boxes to me. These boxes, in addition to those donated by RSPB Cymru, have enabled me to establish a small ‘nest box scheme’ in Coryton and Radyr near Cardiff.

GBC will be holding a Nest Box Making Workshop at Kenfig NNR on Saturday, 18 February at 9 a.m. If you want to build a box for your back garden or you already have, or want to create your own, nest box scheme why not go along?

I’m delighted to say that birds clearly admire the GBC’s and RSPB’s carpentry skills with the last three years having the following occupancy rates: 14 of 15 boxes (2014); 15 of 16 (2015) and 23 of 24 (2016). As you’d expect, the occupants are almost always Blue or Great Tits, although a Nuthatch did fledge 6 young from a box in Coryton in 2016.

I monitor each box for the Nest Record Scheme (NRS) which gathers vital information on the breeding success of Britain’s birds, always adhering to the Scheme’s strict Code of Conduct to ensure that I do not affect the outcome of the nest. This means that I visit each box c.4-6 times a season to ascertain its history: whether it was successful or not (and, if it was unsuccessful, at what stage did it fail); the date on which the first egg was laid in each box; the maximum clutch size; the maximum number of chicks hatched and the number of chicks fledged.


A healthy brood of Blue Tits (Photo: DJJ)

Even though I’ve only been monitoring these boxes for three years, the information gathered is fascinating. I’ve extracted some of the data for Blue Tit and placed them in the table below. (*A “successful nest” is one which fledged at least on juvenile).

Blue Tit
Occupied boxes
Successful nests*
Earliest egg date
Total no. of eggs
Av. no. of eggs per box
Total number of pulli
Total number fledged
Av. no. fledged per nest
7 April
10 April
14 April


Even from such a small sample, it appears that Blue Tits have had some challenging breeding seasons locally between 2014-16. The species only has one brood a year (rarely 2) and lays on average 8-10 eggs. As you can see, the egg totals in my boxes in 2014-15 are within that average range, but numbers in most nests were below average in 2016. What is worrying is that the fledging rate is so low: an average of only 4.3 juvs in 2016. One thing I have noticed is that there is a very fine line between success and failure. Just a day or two of wet weather at the wrong time can lead to significant chick mortality and nest failure. I saw this happen in 2014 and again in 2016 and it’s remarkable how my records at a local level were replicated across the UK.

The BTO’s preliminary report on the 2016 breeding season shows that, during the critical period when several bird species were nesting, temperatures were low and rainfall high, affecting the availability of the caterpillars and grubs they rely on to feed their chicks. The number of chicks produced by Blue Tits nationally in 2016 was down by 31% relative to the five-year average (2011–15).

Why not give it a go?

Monitoring these nestboxes for the NRS has been absolutely fascinating. It has added a new dimension to my birding and given me a real insight into the lives of Blue and Great Tits. Fingers crossed, I’ll be able to do it for many years and be able to learn so much more from comparing my records over a longer period of time. I’d recommend to all birders marking National Nest Box Week by erecting a nest box or two and monitoring them, no matter what your skill level. The BTO really does need the records from your nest boxes. You don’t have to visit them 4-6 times in a season. Even records from two visits provide the BTO with useful data.  If you’re interested, please visit for more information or get in touch with me. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Dan Jenkins-Jones

February 12, 2017 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

BTO Nest Record Scheme Taster Day, Rudry Common, Sunday May 8th

Have you ever considered becoming a BTO nest recorder but felt unsure about how to get started?

The BTO’s Nest Record Scheme (NRS) gathers vital information on the breeding success of Britain’s birds by asking volunteers to find and follow the progress of individual birds’ nests. There are currently only around a dozen active nest recorders in the whole of Glamorgan and we’re looking to recruit more volunteers locally to contribute to this important scheme.

A Nest Record Scheme Taster Day for new volunteers will be held at Rudry between 8am and 3pm on Sunday, May 8th. The day will be run by Trevor Fletcher (Rudry Common Trust), Wayne Morris and Dan Jenkins-Jones (Mid & South Glamorgan BTO Regional Representative and Assistant Rep). The day will provide an introduction to monitoring nests, how to follow the all-important NRS Code of Conduct to ensure that you’re monitoring does not influence the outcome of nests, as well as a few hours in the field for some supported practice searching for a variety of different species’ nests. The aim is to increase the number of birders in Glamorgan contributing to this valuable survey over the coming years. There will be a charge of £10 per person to cover costs.

Meadow Pipit Nest 2015 b

Meadow Pipit nest (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)

Anyone can be a nest recorder.  It will add a new dimension to your birding, you’ll be making an important contribution to our knowledge of birds and it is personally very rewarding. For more information about the Scheme, please visit

We’ve also written short articles about the Nest Record Scheme on this blog over the last few years – articles which will hopefully give you some further personal insight about the experiences of taking part in the Scheme:

If you’re interested in attending please contact Dan Jenkins-Jones at / (029) 2062 1394 as soon as possible for more information.

March 28, 2016 at 3:26 pm 6 comments

The 2014 BTO Nest Record Scheme Season in Glamorgan

I’m delighted to say the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme (NRS) is growing in popularity in Glamorgan.  This Scheme gathers vital information on the breeding success of Britain’s birds by asking volunteers to find and follow the progress of individual birds’ nests. Anyone can be a nest recorder, and by carefully following the NRS Code of Conduct, monitoring does not influence a nest’s outcome.   Some people submit only one or two records a year while others find and monitor nests of a whole range of species. Even the Blackbird or Blue Tit nest in your garden can provide valuable data for conservationists.

In 2014, the NRS’s 75th anniversary, 18 volunteers submitted nest records from Glamorgan – up from 11 volunteers in 2013. Between them they submitted a total of 781 records for 48 species (2013: 421 records for 51 species).

Song Thrush Nest (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)

Song Thrush Nest (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)

There were some notable nest records in 2014: both Cuckoo and Kittiwake were new species for the Glamorgan NRS database, the latter bursting on the scene with a total of no fewer than 91 records during the year; the 10 nest records for Barn Owl and 3 records for Great Crested Grebe almost trebled the number of records received from Glamorgan for these species in the entire history of the Scheme, and the 4 House Martin records doubled the number or records on the Glamorgan database.

Glamorgan Nest Record Totals 2014

(Species marked * are BTO Priority Species / species marked with a ‘+’ are on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and require a licence to be obtained before monitoring).

Blue Tit 232
Great Tit 149
Kittiwake* 91
Swallow 65
Blackbird* 45
Song Thrush* 25
Nuthatch 22
Pied Flycatcher* 22
Coot 12
Barn Owl + 10
Wren* 8
House Sparrow 7
Redstart* 7
Robin 6
Woodpigeon 6
Dipper* 5
Linnet* 5
Long-tailed Tit 5
Canada Goose 4
Dunnock* 4
Goldfinch 4
House Martin 4
Willow Warbler* 4
Blackcap 3
Great Crested Grebe 3
Mute Swan* 3
Tawny Owl 3
Treecreeper 3
Chaffinch* 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker 2
Meadow Pipit* 2
Tree Pipit 2
Bullfinch 1
Buzzard 1
Chiffchaff 1
Coal Tit 1
Collared Dove 1
Cuckoo 1
Goldcrest 1
Goshawk + 1
Grey Wagtail* 1
Magpie* 1
Reed Bunting* 1
Reed Warbler 1
Skylark* 1
Spotted Flycatcher* 1
Stonechat 1
Swift 1

For more information about nest recording and how you can take part please visit the BTO’s Nest Recording webpages. You can also search for all Glamorgan’s nest records between 2007-14 by going to Online Nesting Reports page.

November 1, 2015 at 4:38 pm 1 comment

“I’ve got an endoscope, and I’m not afraid to use it!” – Tales of a BTO Nest Record Scheme training weekend

I’ve been birding for a long old time, 35 years in fact. During that time I’ve gone on a few twitches, I’ve been on birding trips all over the UK and I’ve enjoyed taking part in several BTO surveys. But, over the last few days, I’ve been bitten by a new bug which has added a totally new dimension to my birding . . . over the Bank Holiday weekend I became a ‘nester’.

Wayne and I had booked on to a BTO Nest Recording Scheme training course and last Friday evening (May 3rd) we met up with 6 other trainees at the BTO’s HQ at Thetford in Norfolk. Over the next couple of days our trainers (Dave Leech, Carl Barimore and Mike Toms from the BTO) passed on a whole load of fascinating tips about how to track down a variety of species (some of whom can be a real challenge) as well as the simple tools of the trade you need to go nesting.

The tools of the trade: a stick, a mirror-on-a-stick and a pair of bins. (Note: a glamorous assistant is not required).

The tools of the trade: a stick, a mirror-on-a-stick and a pair of bins. (Note: a glamorous assistant is not required).

First of all of course, it was impressed upon us that the welfare of birds should always come first and that BTO nest recording is based on a Code of Conduct, which is a protocol designed to ensure that monitoring a nest does not influence its outcome.

Next up were the tools of the trade. The good news is that you don’t need many: a stick to ‘tap’ vegetation in your search for birds; a mirror-on-a-stick is useful to look into nests above head height,  a notebook to record your data and a pair of bins. And that’s pretty much all you need.

A fine example of 'arsing' - watching a Willow Warbler back to its nest.

A fine example of ‘arsing’ – watching a Willow Warbler back to its nest.

There are a variety of ways of finding your nest. It very much depends on your target species. In a nutshell though, the methods split into two ways of working: ‘arsing’ and ‘legging’. ‘Arsing’ involves sitting on your . . . erm, arse, and watching birds back to the nest as they carry nesting material or food. Having nailed the vicinity of the nest you can then ‘hot search’ for it.

‘Legging’ invariably involves a lot of sticking your head into bushes

‘Legging’ invariably involves a lot of sticking your head into bushes

‘Legging’ calls for a bit more action, where you actively search for nests (‘cold searching’), narrowing your odds by searching in suitable habitat. So, no matter what type of birder you are, there’s a method of nesting to suit you. In reality of course, you end up doing a bit of both.

Excitedly wielding an endoscope, Dave and Mike look into a Treecreeper's nest. Endoscopes aren't an essential bit of kit, but useful for hole nesters.

Excitedly wielding an endoscope, Dave and Mike look into a Treecreeper’s nest. Endoscopes aren’t an essential bit of kit, but useful for hole nesters.

Dave, Carl and Mike were clearly passionate about NRS and were brilliant trainers. With their help we managed to find the nests of a nice variety of birds: Dunnock, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Jackdaw, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Wren, Long-tailed Tit, Greylag Goose, Coot, Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Red-legged Partridge & Pheasant. The highlights were finding a Treecreeper and a Woodlark nest (Dave Leech had a Schedule 1 licence to go looking for the latter) but, personally speaking, learning how to use Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers intriguing off nest behaviour to find their nests was the most rewarding experience. To find out what I mean, you’ll have to become a Nest Recorder!

A work of art as well as being excellently camouflaged  . . . a Chiffchaff's nest.

A work of art as well as being excellently camouflaged . . . a Chiffchaff’s nest.

So why should you volunteer to contribute your records to the NRS? ‘Nesting’ has become a bit of a dying art in the UK since legislation was quite rightly passed in 1954 to make it illegal to take the eggs of most wild birds. But, tracking the fortunes of birds’ nesting attempts is vital to collect data which are used to produce trends in breeding performance. These data help identify species that may be declining because of problems at the nesting stage. After years of decline there’s been a recent upturn in the number of nest records being submitted to the BTO. But far more are needed and there’s a real ‘call to arms’ for more people to take up nesting, particularly here in Wales where more nest data are desperately needed.

Subtle or what? A Willow Warbler's nest.

Subtle or what? A Willow Warbler’s nest.

Anyone can be a nest recorder and it’s entirely up to you how much time you want to dedicate to the Scheme. Some people watch a single nest box in their back garden, while others spend hundreds of hours finding and monitoring nests in the wider countryside.

Of course, you don’t have to take part in a training weekend to take part in NRS. You can learn a lot about nesting through trial and error, and most birders will have a good knowledge of which areas of habitat will host particular species of nesting birds. If you think you might be interested in taking part please visit the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme website. Or you’re more than welcome to contact either Wayne or myself for an informal chat. We’d be delighted to hear from you.

May 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm 5 comments


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