Tuesday 24 May 2016

Nest boxes and PSS 22/05/2016

On Saturday morning, with the weather looking a little bit hit and miss, John and I headed over to the Glens of Antrim to check out our latest next box scheme.  There are a total of 75 boxes, of which 15 are open faced.  The boxes have been purposefully placed in clusters of five to ensure vacant boxes are available to potential migrants from Africa looking to set up home.  With this in mind and being the first year of the scheme, we weren't expecting uptake to be that great. 

Blue Tit

We managed to find all 75 boxes, which is a good start, but I had mapped them with using a GPS and if you find one, you know there are 4 others close by!  The boxes are generally separated into the lower woodland and upper woodland, with a difference in height of some c75 metres.  In the lower wood we found 3 of the 30 nest boxes occupied, all with Great Tits - 5 eggs, 4 eggs and 3 one day old chicks.  In the upper woodland Blue Tits were a little more prevalent with three occupied nests with 10 eggs, 8 eggs and 8 eggs.  There were a further two Great Tit nests, both with 5 eggs.  In general the occupied nests were well spread, with the exception of two Blue Tit occupied boxes in the same tight cluster. 

Example of boxes and placement

We didn't hear any of the target species in the woodland but we did locate five Spotted Flycatcher territories with 9 birds noted.  All the nests in the woodland are very late and I would suggest they are probably at least 16 days behind that of the nest at Portstewart Strand below.  I may pay another visit in the first week of June and see if there is any change!

More information on the project is available on this previous post - http://causewaycoastrg.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/springs-around-corner.html

A view down the lower glen, with the conical Ailsa Craig visible in the centre and Sanda Island to the left

On Sunday morning I opted to make the most of the fine conditions and headed down to Portstewart Strand.  I wasn't overly optimistic, being in the lull between the end of migration and the first juveniles appearing, so I gave myself another couple of hours in bed.  Conditions were very sunny, so I stuck to the net rides amongst the scrub, which are now in full leaf and create a bit of cover. 


The birding was pretty decent as I added four new species for the year, two of those site ticks.  The new birds for the site were a drake Garganey and a female Scaup.  Given the time of year, I spent a bit of time attempting to turn the Scaup (Greater) into a Lesser Scaup... but not this time.  The other new birds for the year were a Little Egret and a female Whitethroat that appeared in the nets mid-morning.  Both species are pretty uncommon in the estuary with just one record of each last year involving 3 and 2 birds respectively. 

Scaup ♀ (I'll get a proper camera eventually...)

The ringing was limited with only sixteen new birds ringed plus a couple of retraps.  Included in the new birds were 9 well developed Blue Tit chicks from one of the four nest boxes on the site.  As mentioned before the Whitethroat was a nice catch and it was the first for the site.

Portstewart Strand 22/05/2016                                 

                                   New       Retraps          
Blackbird                    1                1                                                                 
Blackcap                     1
Blue Tit                       9               
Bullfinch                     1                1               
Dunnock                     1                1              
Lesser Redpoll           1
Song Thrush               1
Whitethroat                1
Total                          16                3             

We are approaching the busy summer season when a few of the seasonal projects kick into gear.  The Sand Martin colonies first visit will be coming up mid June with further visits at the start of July and the final visit in mid July.  Storm Petrel season starts in July, running through to the end of August.  The Sandwich/Common Tern colony will be visited at the start of June to count nests/eggs with follow up visits a few weeks apart to ring the chicks.  The autumn will also see a few attempts at catching roosting Swallows in the estuary.  The remainder of the next boxes will be visited and revisited if necessary.  All that plus our general mist netting will keep us busy right through until autumn migration when our focus will once again return to Portstewart Strand. 
Helpers are always welcome so give us a shout if you are interested. 

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