Keith Offord, Rhug’s ornithologist, uses National Nestbox Week to give us an update on Rhug’s bird boxes…
The existing nest box scheme in the woodlands and gardens of Rhug Hall and surrounding land was expanded last year with an additional 18 boxes including some very specialised designs for species such as Dipper, Treecreeper and Barn Owl. There is now a total of 53 boxes in the scheme of which 22 (40%) were occupied last year. Particularly pleasing was the 25% proportion of these used by Pied Flycatcher which is a hole-nesting migrant travelling all the way to the UK from West Africa in the spring.
It has been shown that the offspring of such birds have immense fidelity to their nesting areas and return to breed there in following years. The additional boxes have allowed for a gradual expansion of the population.
The management of the nest box scheme not only involves regular repairs but also the annual removal of old nesting material and eradication of parasites such as bird fleas which otherwise affect the survival chances of the young birds.
All the boxes have been positioned at shoulder height and face between north and south east, the most favourable direction to avoid prevailing weather and over-heating. The design incorporates an easily removeable lid which is secured with wire loops and a protective metal plate around the nest hole to prevent squirrels chewing them open.
Barn Owl boxes were put up with the help of David Pooler the keeper, in suitable buildings and an external one on a large tree. It usually takes a while for some of these more specialised designs to be occupied and some species are a little more cautious so we must be patient.
A big thanks must go to John and Janice Dale and Chris (the gardener) and David for all their contributions.