Congratulations to the pair of Mute Swans on Sherborne Water for hatching nine cygnets – quite a large brood – and then for seeing all nine through to near-adult size: this is much more unusual.
More worrying from Sherborne, though, is the complete lack of Willow Tit sightings. This is usually one of the few reliable sites in Gloucestershire outside the Forest of Dean for this red-listed species. None have been recorded here since before Christmas.
There have been a couple of recent Willow Tit surveys in the Forest of Dean. Ben Macdonald and Lewis Thomson attempted to identify territories and breeding success in 2010 and 2011, and Nick Christian and Rob Husbands have started a longer-term study including colour-ringing and the provision of nest-boxes.
An independent suggestion led to several NCOS members putting up some nest-boxes at Sherborne with permission from the landowners. The boxes are a short distance from the Willow Tits’ usual territories, and are packed either with wood-shavings or polyurethane foam: the birds insist on digging out a new chamber each breeding attempt.
We aim to investigate whether the species will move the short distance and excavate the boxes, and general factors affecting the breeding of Willow Tits at this site.