March Nests

It feels like March has flown by and while last year we were in the grasp of the Beast from the East, this year the warm weather of February has continued.

In March 2018 we were building snowmen, walking on squeaky snow and braving sub-zero temperatures, while the natural world seemed only to be just stirring from its winter slumber. Fast forward (and it seems fast forward REALLY quickly!) to 2019 and it feels like Spring has already well and truly sprung. Even at the beginning of March I was catching myself thinking it was much further into the year.

March has been a blur of warm, sunny skies, delicate white and pink blossom and beautiful vibrant flowers. Best of all the birds have really started to kick off with their nesting, and while earlier nesting species like long-tailed tit are not much advanced than usual, many of the later nesting species have got going much quicker compared to last year.

I find myself scanning hedgerows, ivy covered trees and spiky bramble bushes as I pass, hoping for a tell-tale sign that there is a nest hidden away. Of course, it is much easier at this time of year as the available habitat for building a secret nest is limited, as the foliage has only started to green up and bush out.

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The river in Thetford, plenty of nesting habitat in that ivy!

Still I am amazed that hidden in these places are beautifully woven and crafted nests, lined with the softest hair and feathers. Of course some birds seem to put more effort in than others, a collared dove might lay a few bare twigs together while the long-tailed tit goes the whole hog creating a wonderful, architectural masterpiece of a moss, lichen and spider web ball filled with as many as 1500 soft feathers! Then cradled within are some of the most beautifully coloured eggs; from brilliant blue of dunnock and song thrush eggs, the creamy white with light reddish brown speckling of robin eggs and the light greenish blue and light brown speckled eggs of blackbirds.

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Long-tailed tit nest

As a nest recorder I am in a privileged position to get a glimpse into this secretive part of a bird’s world. Now as we move into the early part of April I have half a dozen active nests, with blackbird, robin and dunnock all incubating eggs. Over the next couple of weeks, I will revisit these nests to check their progress, hopefully ring the chicks that hatch and record their outcome. All this data will then be submitted to the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme, contributing to our understanding of breeding success of Britain’s birds.

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