On Saturday 7th December 2013 we conducted our annual bird box check and clean out (a little earlier this winter). We discovered that most of the boxes had been used, mostly by great tit and blue tit but possibly also the nuthatch, a bird which likes to line the hole of some bird boxes with a mud lining to reduce the size of the hole and deter larger predators from gaining entry.
Above you can see the variety of materials that tits use to create their nests. Mosses, dog hair, wool, grasses and even the bright yellow tennis ball ‘hair’ is used. The nests are often well stocked with fleas, and one nest in particular was positively thriving with them.
Chris brings his ladder every year to help with the job. Helmets are a priority for anyone under the ladder as the lids of the boxes can cause serious injury if they hit you on the head.
One of the boxes was attached to a large poplar that came down in October’s storm. We managed to find it, underneath the tree. Obviously we joked that it was the weight of the box that proved the final straw for the tree. It would also appear that one of our owl boxes has disappeared. Tawny owls are yet to breed at One Tree Hill whilst we have been surveying but residents nearby regularly hear them calling, and the birds are known to breed in Nunhead Cemetery, at Sydenham Hill Wood and in the wooded parkland and open greens around Dulwich.
On Saturday we spotted a sparrowhawk flying low through the woodland, with a flock of long-tailed tits trilling in harmony to warn of its approach. A flock of parakeets then arrived to disturb the hungry hawk.