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Bashed bird boxes
buffed up, woodpeckers acquitted

by Brian Lavers

A mixture of indolence and forgetfulness resulted in the Pierrepont bird nestboxes being subjected to their annual clearout in January rather than during the previous and more usual November.

A total of 39 ‘small hole’ boxes were checked in the Tankersford and Wey woods. All these have a mixture of one inch and one and a quarter inch diameter entrance holes and in 2012 most were home to a mixture of Blue and Great Tits, although three had each accommodated a successful brood of Nuthatches.

Despite being installed only four or five years previously many of the boxes are showing clear signs of deterioration, illustrating how rapidly even reasonably well protected softwood deteriorates in damp woodland. Obviously, next year will require some much more serious repair work.

Hole enlargement courtesy of grey squirrels — damage to a nest box at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm.

Hole enlargement courtesy of Grey Squirrels.

In addition to the slow ravages of nature a couple of boxes required re-installation after having fallen off or been knocked off the tree on which they were mounted and three had had their entrance hole greatly enlarged. When this entrance hole attack had been first noticed previously on other boxes I had blamed Great Spotted Woodpeckers but am now convinced that it is a further example of destruction wrought by the Grey Squirrel pest.

When I first accused the Woodpeckers, Phil Opie — a volunteer at the Trust’s Margaret Wood property — was adamant I was pointing the accusatory finger in the wrong direction and related instances of the damage wrought by Grey Squirrels on his boxes. Further investigation reveals that Phil was spot on, the Woodpeckers are innocent! All three boxes were repaired by replacing the front or by applying a patch.

In 2010 Spotted Flycatchers nested in Tankersford, in a recess in the exterior wall of the old Guide hut. We were disappointed when there was no sign of them in 2011 or, so I thought, in 2012 but while clearing the nestboxes this time I found an empty nest in an adjacent recess of the hut; something of an embarrassment given the fact that I had often passed the spot during 2012. I will be more vigilant in 2013!

A spotted flycatcher's nest in the exterior wall of the old Guide hut at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm.

2012’s Spotted Flycatcher nest in the exterior wall of the old Guide hut and next to the compartment (on the right) that housed the 2010 nest.