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Bird nests and spring flowers

Posted: Sunday 7th June 2015 by CoedPendugwmDiaries

female Pied Flycatcher on nest copyright Tamasine Strettonfemale Pied Flycatcher on nest copyright Tamasine Stretton

May was a busy month for me, mostly chasing butterflies whenever the sun shone (which wasn't very often!), however, I did manage a couple of visits to Coed Pendugwm. May/June is the busiest time for many of the inhabitants of the wood too.

dormouse nest boxes in Bluebell woodland copyright Tamasine StrettonNo dormice were found during the May dormouse box survey, but there were still surprises! Several boxes were packed full of ivy berries. This is the work of either Wood Mice or Yellow-necked Mice; whenever there is an abundance of food, they cache what they can in specific locations. I have found hazelnuts, beech masts, acorns and even bluebell flowerheads cached in dormouse boxes before, but ivy berries was new. It seems to have had deadly consequences for two poor mammals though; in one box a dead shrew and in another a dead mouse. Both were on top of a big pile of ivy berries. Since shrews don't eat berries, I can only assume they succumbed to fumes from the fermenting berries! Not to be wasted, the dead mammals were attended by sexton beetles, doing their best to bury the evidence.

ivy berries in dormouse box & sexton beetle copyright Tamasine Stretton

The main occupants of all the nest boxes in May were birds, 26 nests in all; Blue Tits, Great Tits and Pied Flycatchers. These species all readily take to boxes and the Trust uses them to monitor the health of the Pied Flycatcher population, both within the reserve and also nationally, as the data is submitted to the British Trust for Ornithology's Nest Record Scheme.

Blue Tit nests copyright Tamasine Stretton

For the last two years, I have assisted County Bird Recorder and local bird ringer, Mike Haigh, to put rings on as many Pied Flycatchers as we can. This seems to be a good year for Pied Flycatchers and we have managed to ring 7 adult females, 1 adult male and 43 chicks, so far.

ringing Pied Flycatcher chick copyright Tamasine Stretton

Rings allow us to recognise individuals and consequently we can learn a lot about what happens to these birds during their lives. Rings caused us to discover where the birds went in the winter, how long they live and their nesting preferences and much more. Coed Pendugwm is part of a much wider study in to these wonderful birds and I hope to see some returning birds next year.

Pied Flycatcher chicks ringed & safely back in nest copyright Tamasine Stretton

Mottled Umber caterpillar at Coed Pendugwm copyright Tamasine StrettonWhat makes these woods such a great place to raise a family? Good nesting sites and an abundant source of food. Pied Flycatchers feed primarily on flying insects (as the name suggests!), but the tits rely on caterpillars at this time of year, to feed their young. Caterpillars like this Mottled Umber, a common species of moth, primarily found in woodland. This one looped its way onto me during one of my visits, allowing me to snap a picture for idenitifcation by Peter Williams, the County Moth Recorder.

Of course, it is not just fauna which delights the senses at this time of year. The spring flowers can be breathtaking, particularly the carpets of Bluebells, which are now past their peak. On the 24th May, I recorded 18 different plants flowering on the woodland floor. They will soon be over for another year as the trees capture all the sunlight!

Bluebell in flower at Coed Pendugwm copyright Tamasine StrettonYellow Archangel at Coed Pendugwm copyright Tamasine Stretton

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