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Home > Nature » News  >  It’s Nesting Season at Stanwick Lakes!

It’s Nesting Season at Stanwick Lakes!

by | Mar 26, 2024

It’s bird nesting season!

The 2024 season has begun. Our nest boxes are monitored regularly (under license), 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 the next boxes we have placed, monitor, clean and care for. We’ll provide insights into which bird species have made their homes in our boxes, whether eggs have been laid, the number of chicks that have hatched and fledged, and any exciting highlights along the way.

Saturday 13th April 2024

The number of eggs is now going up very quickly. We have now had 163 eggs in the nest boxes at Stanwick Lakes. The Blue and Great Tits are now mainly into the egg laying stage. However, incubation has already commenced in the earliest nests, and nests are still being built in the later ones. We have some large clutches, with a Great Tit incubating 11 eggs and Blue Tits  with 12 and 14 eggs. These clutches are larger than normal, but not exceptionally so. Last week it was reported that there was an egg in a rather rudimentary nest in nest box H. This week, there was no sign of the egg and a substantial amount of the material had been added to line the nest. It is possible that the original egg is hidden in the nest lining. This could have arisen by the nest box being taken over by a more dominant pair of birds, or the original egg may have been laid too early, before the nest was complete. It should also be noted that the egg count for nest box 27 is only an approximate count. The female Great Tit did not want to leave the nest but, as she stepped up, at least 11 eggs could be seen under her.

The large nest box, LB1, is also proving to be a bit of a mystery. On the first visit when the nest was active, the female Tawny Owl had one egg. Two weeks later she had four eggs, which should have indicated that the clutch was complete and incubation should have started. The latest visit was timed to be about a week after the first egg should have hatched. Hence, it was quite a surprise to find just one newly hatched owlet and four unhatched eggs. This indicates that there has been irregularity in the egg laying.  If an additional egg was laid after the clutch was complete, it could be that only the last egg has hatched. If, however, there was a gap between the first egg and the second, the remainder of the eggs could still hatch. The eggs look dark, indicating that embryos have been developing in them, and one shows some small cracks that could be due to the commencement of hatching. Hopefully we will get some more owlets in this nest, but only time will tell. There were also three dead Wood Mice in LB1, which indicates that the male owl is having no problem providing for his family whilst the female is committed to looking after the young.

The Kestrel eggs have now been laid in nest box LB3. The eggs were cold, so the female may not yet have completed the clutch.

The Tawny Owls in nest box LB4 were not checked this week because the eggs should be close to hatching.

A few more twigs have been taken into nest box LB2. There are also a few large feathers in there. With the addition of the feathers, this looks more like the work of Jackdaws than Grey Squirrels, but we will have to wait and see how it develops.

To view a PDF file – click here.

Saturday 6th April 2024

Nest box monitoring is done under license and following BTO guidelines. Photos kindly provided by © Sharon Ingram.

There is now some nesting activity in all of the Blue and Great Tit nest boxes. The earlier nesting attempts are now well into egg laying, but some of the later nests are only just commencing nest building.

A dead Blue Tit, which showed obvious signs of being attacked, was found in nest box 11. It had previously been ringed (ring number ANP8379) at Stanwick Lakes on the 10th October 2021 during a winter ringing session. It was subsequently caught three more times during the winter of 2021/2. It was last caught on New Years day this year and the duration between being ringed and found in the nest box was 2 years and 178 days. Nest box 11 was the nest box which had the Wood Mouse nest in it at the start of the breeding season. Following the removal of the Wood Mouse nest, it is probably the case that a pair of Blue Tits and a pair of Great Tits showed interest in the nest box. However, both species will aggressively defend their nest site and Great Tits are known to kill their smaller cousins in such encounters.

There has been further nest building in the small open-fronted nest boxes intended for Robins and Wrens. Half of these nest boxes are now occupied, but they all seem to be being used by either Blue or Great Tits.

Large nest box LB1 was not checked this week as the first egg should be getting close to hatching, which is a sensitive time for Tawny Owls. The Tawny Owls in nest box LB4 were checked to get a count of the total number of eggs laid. Unfortunately, the number of eggs in that nest box had decreased from three to two. Fragments of egg shell were noticed in the corner of the nest box, so it is likely that an egg may have been broken during an encounter with an intruder, such as a Grey Squirrel. A pair of Kestrels were seen in the vicinity of nest box LB3, so it is looking very likely that we should expect the first egg in that box over the next few weeks. There is a bit of a mystery in nest box LB2; most of the composted bark, used to provide a lining for the owls to lay their eggs on, had been removed. There were also a few short twigs in the nest box. From previous experience, it is suspected that this is the work of Jackdaws, but only time will tell if that conclusion is true.

To view a PDF file – click here.


Friday 29th March 2024

Nest box H.

This week has seen a lot of nest building. There has now been some nest building activity in all of the Blue Tit nest boxes. The first two Blue Tit eggs were also found in nest box 24, which is one of the more sheltered nest boxes on the east side of the site. Blue Tits usually commence egg laying from early April, with the majority commencing in mid-April, making these exceptionally early. These eggs were cold and hidden in the lining of the nest. This is because the female lays an egg a day and will not start to incubate the eggs until the clutch is complete, or almost complete. As a Blue Tit may lay around ten eggs, she covers the eggs with the lining of the nest when she leaves them, to give the impression to any nest predators that the nest is empty. Once the clutch is complete, the eggs will remain uncovered whilst she is away for the nest, which indicates that incubation has commenced.

There has also been more nest building activity in the Great Tit nest boxes, but at this stage it is not clear whether it is by Blue Tits or Great Tits. The larger entrance holes of the Great Tit nest boxes allow access to both Blue and Great Tits and Blue Tits often nest in them. However, the larger Great Tits may usurp the Blue Tits and take over their nests. Only time will tell who will be the eventual owner of these nest boxes. There  has also been some nest building in the open-fronted nest boxes designed for Robins and Wrens, but it is suspected that they are being used by Blue or Great Tits.

The Tawny Owls were not checked this week. Due to their longer breeding cycle, sufficient data can be collected without checking them every week. A female Kestrel was seen sitting in nest box LB3, which is a very positive sign, even though eggs are not expected for a few more weeks.

To view a PDF file – click here.

Friday 22nd March 2024
Spring has definitely arrived with nest building in progress and the first eggs of the year recorded. The Great Tit nest boxes were still largely empty, but building had commenced in many of the Blue Tit nest boxes. Nest building was still in the early stages in the Blue Tit nest boxes on the western side of the site, but they had progressed further on the more sheltered eastern side. The most advanced nests were fully built and just required the lining to be completed. A surprise in nest box 11 was the discovery of two Wood Mice, which goes to show how agile and what excellent climbing skills these small rodents have!


An adult Kestrel was seen in the vicinity of large nest box LB3. This is the nest box that is usually used by the Kestrels and, with the recent decline in the activity of Grey Squirrels in that nest box, it is looking promising again this year. The Tawny Owls also look to be having a good year with two nesting pairs. The Tawny Owl nest in LB1 has a larger than average clutch of four eggs, which could be an indication of a healthy population of small mammals in the vicinity of that nest box. The Tawny  Owls had a single egg in LB1 two weeks ago, which indicated that that clutch is now complete and incubation is underway. The Tawny Owls in LB4 had a more average clutch of three eggs. However, Grey Squirrels were still using that nest box a week ago and, as they usually lay eggs at two day intervals, the clutch, if not already complete, should now be nearing completion.

To view a PDF file – click here.

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