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Nest Box Scheme 2023

by | Mar 24, 2023

It’s bird nesting season!
Our nest boxes are monitored regularly, and updates will feature here. We aim to provide our wonderful nest box sponsors information about the breeding activity talking place on nature reserve at Stanwick Lakes specifically there next boxes we have placed, monitor, clean and care for. Each update will include a table of what species of bird has built their nest in each box, if eggs have been laid and how many chicks have hatched and fledged. along with any highlights.

Latest update: 6th October

The last of the Stock Doves have now fledged from the nest boxes, so this final update provides the totals for the 2023 season.

All five of the active Stock Dove nests in the previous update successfully raised at least one fledgling. The Stock Doves in nest box LB1 even laid a further clutch of two eggs, more than two weeks before the youngster from the previous nesting attempt fledged. After the previous youngster had left the nest box, the eggs were found to be deserted and one of them was broken, possibly by the youngster as it exercised its wings prior to fledging.

Of the 379 eggs that were laid in the nest boxes, 286 young birds were assumed to have fledged successfully. This was the highest annual number of young to have fledged from the monitored nests at Stanwick Lakes. This was partly due to a higher-than-average overall productivity, with over 75%, of the eggs laid developing into young that were assumed to have gone on to fledge. There was also a high take up of the nest boxes, with nesting attempts in all of the nest boxes, which led to the Blue and Great Tits producing a higher-than-average number of fledglings per nest box.

 6th October report in PDF form.


Previous update: 18th August

Since the last nest box update the Kestrels have fledged and Stock Doves have taken up residence in all of the large nest boxes. The Stock Doves that took over nest box LB1, following the failure of the Jackdaws, hatched one of their two eggs, which later went on to fledge successfully.

The photograph shows the wing of that young Stock Dove being examined, when it was ringed, to check its developmental stage through the state of the primary flight feathers. Stock Doves can be very productive at this time of year, as they try to cram in as many breeding attempts as possible before the weather turns cold in the autumn. As is typical for this species, they started incubating  their next clutch of eggs before the youngster from the previous brood had fledged, resulting in two active nests by the same birds in one nest box. The first of the eggs from the latest clutch has now hatched.

There has been a long gap since the Tawny Owls’ nesting attempt in nest box LB2. However, following a few weeks of adult Stock Doves spending time in the nest box, they are now incubating an egg.

Almost as soon as the young Kestrels left nest box LB3, Stock Doves took up residence. They laid a typical clutch of two eggs, which both hatched. That brood has now been ringed and the photograph shows them just after ringing and just before they were returned to the nest.


Following the failed nesting attempt by Stock Doves in nest box LB4, they have now laid the first egg of another nesting attempt.

And finally, following an earlier nesting attempt in nest box LB5, that was usurped by squirrels, there is now a more successful nest in which both of the eggs have just hatched.

If all goes well, we should be ringing the young Stock Doves in nest boxes LB1 and LB5 nest week.

18th August report in PDF format.

Previous update: 1st July

The young Kestrels could be seen looking out of the nest box this week. They would normally be expected to have fledged by now and, indeed, the larger of the two may have been out of the nest box and returned for the food being delivered to its smaller sibling. The difference in size is now less noticeable, but the smaller of the two is still showing some down on the head. It is expected that they will both have fledged by next weekend.

In nest box LB1 the Stock Doves are still incubating their clutch of two eggs. Stock Doves were also in nest box LB2, but there are still no eggs in that nest box. Meanwhile, Grey Squirrels had taken up residence in nest box LB4.

9th July report in PDF format.

Previous update: 1st July

This week the young Great Tits successfully fledged from the nest box H, and this brings the nesting activities in the small nest boxes to an end for another year.

However, there is still lots of activity around the large nest boxes. The young Kestrels can be seen looking out of nest box LB3, and it is believed that they are both still there.

Stock Doves have now taken over nest box LB1, following the failed nesting attempt by the Jackdaws. They are incubating two eggs, which is the normal clutch size for pigeons and doves. Stock Doves were also seen leaving LB2 and some were in the vicinity of LB5, but no new eggs have been laid in those nest boxes as yet. The Stock Doves in nest box LB4 have now incubated their single egg for the full duration but, unfortunately, it was infertile. Stock Doves have a very long breeding season, which could last until the weather turns colder in October. During that time, they will try to cram in as many nesting attempts as possible, often laying the next clutch of eggs before the previous brood has fledged, so the breeding season is far from over and there are still many chances of success for this species.

Sponsored Nestboxes 23 – 1st July in PDF format.

Previous update: 24th June

This week the young Kestrels from next box LB3 were ringed. Of the four that hatched, only two had survived. However, they both seemed healthy and the smaller of the two was particularly feisty. They should spend a further two or so weeks in the nest box before they fledge; the larger females taking a couple of days longer to fledge than the males. At first they will just climb on to the roof of the nest box and nearby branches. Over the following week or so they will move further from the nest box, but will be reliant on their parents for food for a further month.

Elsewhere in the large nest boxes, the Stock Doves are still incubating the single egg in nest box LB4. A pair of Stock Doves were also seen leaving nest box LB1, but they have not yet commenced egg laying.

The mixed brood of Blue and Great Tits in nest box 25 has now fledged. This only leaves the second brood of Great Tits in nest box H still to fledge.

View the 24th June update in PDF format.

Previous update: 17th June

This week saw the last of the young tits from the nest boxes being ringed, with the ringing of the second brood of Great Tits from nest box H (see photo). Over the last two weeks, all of the small nest boxes have been checked for second broods but, with the exception of nest box H, none were found. This is probably as a result of the relatively late breeding season, due to the colder weather in March and April. With most of the nests also being successful, most of the adults will have been busy feeding their fledglings and there would have been little need for replacement clutches following failures. Now that the young tits have fledged, the adults will be commencing their annual moult to replace their plumage, which will have become worn and damaged as a result of the breeding activities. Indeed, an adult male Blue Tit caught this week at Stanwick Lakes, as part of a national bird ringing project, had already started its annual moult, which will continue until early autumn. This will ensure that it has efficient, fully functioning plumage before winter.

In the large nest boxes, the Stock Doves in LB4 are still incubating their single egg.

View the 17th June update in PDF format.

Previous update: 10th June

This week nest boxes 5, 13, 18 and 24 were checked to see if the young Blue and Great Tits had fledged successfully. They had all fledged successfully from nest boxes 5, 18 and 24 but, unfortunately, four had died in nest box 13. One of the young had died just before fledging and was sitting on top of the other three that had died. This suggests that the other four youngsters from that box may have made it at least that far and gone on to fledge successfully. The last of the first round of Blue and Great Tits were ringed. This was the brood in nest box 25 and, as has been suspected for the last few weeks, it turned out to be another mixed brood, comprised of three Great Tits and two Blue Tits, see photo.

The small nest boxes that had the earlier broods were also checked for possible second broods, but none were found, except for the one that had already been observed in nest box H.

Meanwhile, in the large nest boxes the Kestrels have now hatched. There are four young and both parents were at the nest. In nest box LB4, and just over a week since the last Tawny Owl fledged, Stock Doves have moved in and laid their first egg.

View the 10th June update in PDF format.



Previous update: 3rd June

The nest box monitoring this week has mainly involved looking at empty nests, which is good news. After the young birds have been ringed, a follow-up visit is made once they should  have left the nest to see if they fledged successfully. A sign that they have fledged is that the nest has been completely flattened by the brood of chicks, with no sign of the neat little cup that once contained the eggs and chicks. The nest often also contains a few droppings and perhaps pieces of the sheaths of the feather quills, from the growing chicks, which disintegrate as the feathers emerge from them.

The nests are also checked for the remains, or bird rings, of any birds that may have failed to fledge. Of the 150 Blue and Great Tits ringed a fortnight ago, there were no signs that any of them failed to fledge successfully. Even the unringed runt from nest box 21 appears to have fledged.

The young Tawny Owl from nest box LB4, which was too small to ring when its sibling was ringed, also appears to have fledged successfully during the last week. All that was left in that nest box was the leg of a crow!

The male Kestrel, nest box LB3, was seen driving a Buzzard out of its nesting territory. Larger birds have longer nesting cycles. The activity of the male suggested that the nest was still active. As the eggs would not have hatched, the nest was not checked this week to keep disturbance to a minimum.

View/download the 3rd June report in PDF format.

Previous update: 28th May

We start off this week’s update with the sad news that the young Tawny Owl in net box LB2 failed to fledge. The young owl had well developed flight feathers when it died, meaning that it was on the verge of leaving the nest box. Young Tawny owls leave the nest early to climb around in the branches of the trees. They are unable to fly at this stage and it will take another week or so until they can. This early type of fledging is known as “branching”. There was much happier news from the nest box LB4. When the Tawny Owls were to be ringed in that nest box, there were two that were very different in size. The smaller one was too small to be ringed and it was thought that its chances of survival were quite slim. On checking the nest box this week, it looks as though the larger of the two owlets had fledged but, surprisingly, the younger one was in the nest box and still being provisioned with food (see photo). Hopefully the second young owlet will leave the nest box very soon to join its sibling.

With a lot of the young in the small nest boxes being ringed last week, many of the them could not be checked this week, for fear of initiating premature fledging. However, 33 more young Blue and Great Tits were ringed from another four nest boxes. Some of the nest boxes, where the young were ringed two weeks ago, were checked and all showed signs that the young had fledged successfully. In nest box H, not only had the young fledged, but Great Tits had started a second brood. With favourable weather forecast for the week ahead, lots of young Blue and Great Tits should be fledging this week and we hope to have lots of good news to share next time.

View/download the 28th May report in PDF format.


Previous update: 20th May

This week has been exceptionally busy for the bird ringers, who have ringed 73 young Blue tits and 77 young Great Tits from the nest boxes. The figures show that sometimes the number of young in the nest is lower than the number of eggs laid. This is because it is quite common for one or two eggs to fail to hatch. Blue and Great Tits also start incubating the eggs when the penultimate or even antepenultimate egg is laid. This leads to one of two of the eggs hatching a day or so later than the others. The young from the later hatching eggs often struggle to compete with their larger siblings for food and, as a consequence, may die before they reach the age at which they can be ringed. Sometimes it results in one or two young not being ringed because they are too small to take a ring when the rest of the brood is ringed.

After the young have been ringed, they are returned to their nests, and the nest boxes are usually not checked again until after they have fledged. This is because disturbance of large young can trigger premature fledging. After they should have fledged, the nests will be checked again to see how many have successfully fledged.

This week has also seen the first fledging from the nest boxes, with all 15 successfully fledging from nest box 22. But it has also been sad to see the complete loss of the brood in nest box 10. All 12 of the young were still in the nest box, indicating that they had all died at the same time. They were also well grown, and freshly dead, indicating that they had probably died the day before the weekly check. The loss of a brood could be caused by a number of things, including the loss of one of the parents.

We also have an  apology from our ringer for miscounting the number of eggs in nest box 16! This was further compounded by the female refusing to leave the nest last week, resulting in an approximate count of at least seven young. The good news is that we have one more young Great Tit than we were expecting.

When it came to the ringing of the young from nest box 30, it became clear that we had a mixed brood of six Great Tits and two Blue Tits. This sometimes occurs when Blue Tits start nesting in Great Tit nest boxes. The smaller Blue Tits are sometimes usurped by the larger Great Tits, who may then lay their own eggs in a nest that already contains a few Blue Tit eggs. Sometimes the smaller Blue Tits fail to compete for food against their larger nest mates and fail to survive. However, the Blue tits in nest box 30 looked as healthy and as well developed as the Great Tits, so hopefully they will all fledge successfully.

Unfortunately, two of the nests in the large nest boxes had also failed. The Jackdaw nest was empty, suggesting that the young had been predated, possibly by squirrels. Whist over in LB5, the Stock Doves had been usurped by squirrels, who had started to build a drey in the nest box. On a brighter note, the Kestrels have now completed their clutch and have four eggs, as shown in the photo.


View/download the 13th May report in PDF format.


Previous update: 13th May

Great Tits ringed and returned to nest box H.

It has been another busy week in the nest boxes, with lots of Blue and Great Tits hatching and 69 birds ringed. The ringed birds included the nine young Great Tits in nest box H, shown in the photo, which was taken after they were returned to their nest box. Unfortunately, it is not all good news – with the loss of another nest. The young Great Tit in nest box 23 died and the other eggs failed to hatch. However, Blue and Great Tits were seen disputing ownership of the nest box, so a further nesting attempt is possible.

Jackdaws in nest box LB1 have started to hatch.

Meanwhile, in the large nest boxes, the Jackdaws in nest box LB1 have started to hatch, with three newly hatched young and possibly two more to come. Whilst over in nest box LB5, a pair of Stock Doves have laid their first egg. The female Kestrel was seen looking out of nest box LB3, but that nest was not checked. Hopefully, it will be checked next week, to record the clutch size.

Next week looks like it will be another busy week, with over 100 young birds to ring.

View/download the 13th May report in PDF format.


Previous update: 6th May

After a brief, precautionary pause, due to reports of Avian Flu in Black Headed Gulls, we return to our nest box monitoring:

The birds have been busy since the last update. There are more eggs, some of which are now hatching, and the first of the young have now been ringed. Unfortunately, we have also seen the failure of two nests, in nest box 6 and nest box C. A broken egg was found in nest box 6 and an unknown number of crushed eggs was found in nest box C. These loses would have been due to either predation or territorial disputes. Nest box 6, being a hole-entrance Woodcrete box, would have excluded all but the smallest of nest mammalian predators, such as Field Mice or Weasels. Both of these nests appeared to belong to Great tits, so it is likely that they may try again by laying replacement clutches. The other nest of note is in nest box 18, which contained a Great Tit trying her best to incubate a very large clutch of 17 eggs. This large clutch is almost certainly the result of two females laying in the same nest. This may explain why the nest in nearby nest box E has not been completed.

The young Blue Tits were ringed in nest box 22. The parents have been doing an excellent job in hatching all 15 of the eggs and rearing them to this stage without any obvious runts.

In the large nest boxes, there are now five eggs in the Jackdaw nest in nest box LB1. We have also had our first Kestrel egg laid in nest box LB3. This week the young Tawny Owls from nest boxes LB2 and LB4 were ringed. The owlet from LB2 should be ready to leave the nest in a little over a week. It will then spend a further week climbing around in the branches of the trees, before being ready for its first flight. Of the three owlets that hatched in LB4, only two remained. There was a large difference in size between the two remaining owlets. The largest was large enough to ring, but the smaller owlet was too small to safely take a ring. Unfortunately, the outlook for the small owlet does not look good, as it will become increasingly difficult for it to compete with its larger sibling for food.


As long-lived birds, Tawny Owls do not need to raise large numbers of offspring each year and, as such, focus their efforts on raising a small number of quality young. Hence, raising two healthy young from the two nesting attempts at Stanwick Lakes will make 2023 a very successful year for this species.

View/download the 6th May report in PDF format.


Previous update: 21st April

The birds using the small nest boxes have been very busy this week, with something now happening in all of the boxes. In nest boxes 8 and B, nests have been built and egg laying has commenced in just one week. These nests appear to belong to Great Tits, which have a habit of  doing the bare minimum and building quite rudimentary nests when they need to catch up. There has been no progress in nest box 24 and the eggs in nest box 5 were buried quite deeply when, if laying had finished, incubation should have started. It is suspected the cold, unsettled weather may have caused the Blue tits to abandon these nesting attempts. However, there is still time for them to try again.

The Tawny Owls have now hatched in the large boxes LB2 and LB4. Unfortunately, only one of the eggs hatched in LB2. The young owlet in LB2, which appears to be approaching one week old, seems to be very well cared for, with eight young rats cached in the corners of the nest box. All three of the eggs hatched in LB4. Owls hatch asynchronously, and the ages of the those in LB4 ranged from newly hatched to three-four days old.

In large box LB1, the Jackdaws have laid their first egg.

View/download the 21st April report in PDF format.


Previous updates: 14th April:

It was a bit of a challenge today, trying to complete a monitoring visit between the April showers. There has been steady progress in the small nest boxes, especially those on the more sheltered eastern side of the site and in those boxes ready for egg laying to commence. Progress was a little slower in the boxes where nest building was not so advanced.

It looks as though the Blue Tit in nest box 22 has now commenced incubating her large clutch of 14 eggs. Whist this is larger than the average clutch for Blue Tits, which is eight to ten, it is not that unusual, especially when females start laying eggs in their neighbours’ nests. However, with favourable weather and a good supply of food, there is no reason why most of the young should not be raised to fledging.

– 14th April Report (in PDF format)


7th April 2023

This week has seen a lot of nest building in the Blue and Great Tit nest boxes. There are still eggs in just one of the small nest boxes, nest box 22. However, many of the nest are now complete, so more eggs are anticipated next week. Nest building has also started in two of the small open-fronted nest boxes.

There are two Tawny Owl nests in the large nest boxes. This is only the second year that we have had two active Tawny Owl nests in the nest boxes. There is also some activity in the other large hole-entrance nest box, but not by owls. The composted bark used to line the bottom of the nest boxes has been painstakingly removed twice this spring. A nest of small twigs, coarse grass, bark and sheep’s wool is now being built. This looks suspiciously like the work of Jackdaws. If it  is a Jackdaw’s nest, it will be the first in the Stanwick Lakes nest boxes since the first large nest boxes were first put up in 2008.  A female Kestrel (see photo) was seen in the vicinity of one of the Kestrel nest boxes, LB3. A shallow depression had also been scrapped out in the nest box. Whilst it is still early days, it is starting to look promising for another Kestrel nest this year.

– 7th April Report (in PDF format)

2nd April 2023

A nest box update for this week; slightly later than usual due to the wet weather (and the safety of the volunteers). This is just the second year that we have had two nesting attempts by Tawny Owls on site!

– 2nd April Report (in PDF format)


24th March 2023

This week saw the first full monitoring visit for the nest boxes at Stanwick Lakes. The nesting activities are a little behind where they were this time last year, but it is still very early in the breeding season. There was no nesting in the Great Tit nest boxes, but there were nests being built in a few of the Blue Tit nest boxes. This is not unusual, as the Blue Tits usually make a start slightly ahead of the Great Tits. As we often see, the nesting activities in nest box 22  was well ahead of the rest, with a fully built nest that only requires lining prior to egg laying. In addition to the nests that were recorded as being more than a quarter built, there was also a number of Blue Tit nest boxes that contained a tiny piece of moss. Hopefully, with some dry, calm weather, these nests will make some progress and there will be a lot more to report next week. The remains of a female Great Tit (ring number TW81860) were found in nest box 21. She had been ringed at Stanwick Lakes during her first winter on the 10th October 2021. She had subsequently been retrapped at Stanwick Lakes on the 20th November 2021 and the 26th February 2022. The duration between being ringed and recovered was 530 days (1 year and 165 days). She had probably died whilst roosting in the nest box during the cold weather and, whilst it is very unfortunate to lose her, other Great Tits have probably already claimed the nest box and there is still a very good chance that it will be used this year. Tawny Owls are very sensitive to disturbance during the early stages of nesting. Due to either known or suspected breeding activities by owls, two of the large nest boxes were not checked this week. Updates for these nest boxes will be provided in a week or two, when the owls will be further into their breeding attempt.

– 24th March Report (in PDF format)


A big thank you to those who have supported this project already this season:

Dougie and Danny Dormer   |   Susan Kingsford   |   Bob Simpson   |   Miriam Daniels   |   Gemma Potter   |   Wendy Latimer   |   Helen Heritage   |   Zoe Walker   |   Caroline Wray   |   Bill Barke   |   Frances Bilby

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