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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.


Latest update: 5th July 2024

Since the last update the five young Kestrels have fledged from nest box LB3. They were observed in the vicinity of the nest during two of the weekly monitoring visits following fledging. On the first visit, a quick visit to confirm that they had all successfully fledged, revealed that Stock Doves had already moved in and laid a single egg. The photograph shows one of the young Kestrels in a nearby tree, during the second visit after fledging. Stock Doves, like all doves and pigeons, nearly always lay two eggs, but single eggs are not uncommon. The egg in nest box LB3 should be due to hatch in the next few days.


Stock Doves have also taken over nest box LB1, following the fledging of the Tawny Owls. However, they did wait a few weeks before doing so. The nest in LB1 contains three eggs, which is not that common. All three of the young have now hatched and are still covered in a golden down. It will be interesting to see how this larger than usual family get on.

To view a PDF file – click here.



Saturday 1st June 2024

This week the last of the small nest boxes were checked to see if the remainder of the Blue and Great Tits managed to fledge successfully. Despite the unsettled weather, the last four nests were successful. Now that all of the nests in the small nest boxes have been completed, we can conduct a preliminary analysis to see how 2024 has compared to previous years. The data for the Blue and Great Tit nest boxes shows that overall, the number of birds that fledged from them was over 85% of the number of eggs that were laid in them. This represents the highest level of productivity since 2017, and the second highest since we started monitoring the nest boxes in 2007. Another way to assess the productivity of the nest boxes is to look at the average number of fledglings produced per nest box. This takes into account the take-up rate of the nest boxes in addition to the success of the individual nests. This year, there was a little over 7.76 fledglings per nest box, which was the highest since 2018 and the fourth highest to date. Overall, 2024 has been a very productive breeding season for the Blue and Great Tits at Stanwick Lakes, despite the often dull and wet weather.

In the large nest boxes, it was time to ring the young Kestrels in nest box LB3. All five of them had survived and the smallest, whilst still smaller than its siblings, was fit and healthy and making good progress. They should be ready to fledge in just over a week. At first they will just climb on to the roof of the nest box and then into the branches of the nearby trees. They will gradually move further from the nest box and become independent of their parents after a month.

After a few weeks of having squirrels in some of the other large nest boxes, some stock dove feathers were found in some of them. As we move into summer, we enter the main breeding season of the pigeons and doves. Hopefully, this is a sign that Stock Doves will be taking over the large nest boxes for a breeding season that could last into early October. Over the next few weeks we will provide updates on how the Stock Doves are doing but, with their longer breeding cycle, the updates will be a little less frequent.

To view a PDF file – click here.

Saturday 25th May 2024

This week, the main activity has been the checking of the nests, where the young were ringed two weeks ago, to see how many of them had fledged. Most of the young appeared to have fledged successfully, with no remains or bird rings found in the majority of the nest boxes. The one exception was nest box 1, in which the majority of the brood was found to have died just before they were ready to fledge. Whilst it is likely that all of the brood may have died, the rings of only five of the seven birds that were ringed were found in the nest box, so there is a chance that two may have survived. In addition to the unsuitable weather conditions, which can make feeding large broods difficult, the sudden loss of a brood can also occur if one of the parents is lost, such as to illness or even to a bird of prey. Despite the sad loss of nest box 1, the number of birds that are believed to have fledged from the nest boxes has now reached 258. This is quite high, especially given the unsettled weather that we have experienced this spring, and there are still four more families of tits to fledge.

The number of fledglings also includes the five young Tawny Owls from nest boxes LB1 and LB4. This makes 2024 the most successful year of Tawny Owls since the nest boxes have been in operation at Stanwick lakes. The young Kestrels are also doing well in nest box LB3. All five of them are growing well, although there is sill one that is obviously smaller than the others. We hope to ring the young Kestrels next week. The success of the Tawny Owls and Kestrels is probably due to availability of small  mammals, their main prey. When the number of small mammals is low, the owls and Kestrels often switch to include small birds in their diet. However, this year there have been no feathers in the large nest boxes, but plenty of evidence that they have been feeding on mice and voles.

To view a PDF file – click here.

Saturday 18th May 2024

This week the last of the young Blue and Great Tits from the nest boxes at Stanwick Lakes were ringed, and some of the Blue Tits from nest box 12 are shown in the photograph. Of the 294 that hatched, 288 have been ringed. This is a very high percentage, especially given the often unsettled weather that we have been experiencing this spring. There is also still a chance that the Blue Tit in next box 3 may hatch her very small clutch. A Blue Tit was also seen in nest box 14, so there is also a chance that there could be a late clutch laid in that nest box. Blue Tits rarely lay genuine second clutches, so this would likely be a replacement clutch following a nesting attempt that may have failed elsewhere. This week we have also been checking the nest boxes where the young Blue and Great Tits were ringed two weeks ago. There was no evidence that any had failed to fledge, which brings the current total that have fledged to 108. This number should go up dramatically next week, when we check the nest boxes that we ringed last week.

The big news from the large nest boxes was that all five of the Kestrel eggs in nest box LB3 have hatched. The Tawny Owl nests were not checked this week. Unfortunately, three Grey Squirrels had taken up residence in nest box LB2. By removing their drey, it is hoped to keep the nest box available for Stock Doves, which have a very long breeding season and will carry on well after most of the other birds have finished for the year.

To view a PDF file – click here.


Saturday 4th May 2024

This has been another busy week, with 154 young birds from the nest boxes ringed. These included the last two Tawny Owls, those from nest box LB4. These were a nice, balanced pair of near equal size, so hopefully they will both be successful. This busy weekend has seen most of the young Blue and Great tits ringed, with just four nests left for next week, unless the very small clutch in nest box three hatches. This now brings the total number of young birds ringed to 265, in just two weeks.


The mystery nest in large nest box LB2 has been rearranged again. Having looked like Grey Squirrels had added green twigs to it last week, it has now been squashed down. There are a few Stock Dove feathers in the nest box now and a broken Stock Dove egg was found on the ground under the nest box. This nest box will now be left to see if Stock Doves will take it over.

To view a PDF file – click here.


Saturday 4th May 2024

It has been a very busy week for the nest box monitoring, with the visit taking over five and a half hours. In total, 111 young birds were ringed under licence from the British Trust for Ornithology. Ringing involves removing the young birds from their nests and putting them in soft, cloth bags so that they can be safely brought down the ladder. They are then fitted with a metal ring that is stamped with a unique number. This is done using special pliers. The ringing data, including the ring numbers, are sent to the British Trust for Ornithology, were they are entered onto a national database, which allows the birds movements to be traced if it is encountered elsewhere. If the bird is subsequently reencountered at Stanwick Lakes, being able to identify it as an individual by its ring number, allows us to study such things as longevity and survival. After ringing, the young birds were carefully returned to their nests, where they will continue to be cared for by their parents.

29 young Great Tits and 79 young Blue Tits were ringed. They will remain in their nest boxes for a further week to ten days. Those nest boxes will not be checked next week, due to the risk of causing them to fledge prematurely. A further check will be made, the week after that, to determine how many fledged successfully. Three young Tawny Owls from nest box LB1 were also ringed. The largest of the Tawny Owls should also be ready to leave the nest in around a week to ten days. However, it won’t be able to fly until about a further week after that. It will spend the first week climbing around the branches of the trees, in what is referred to as branching. The young owls will be dependent on the parents for around three months after leaving the nest box and will be tolerated in their parents breeding territory until October/November. To give the smallest owlet time to fledge, that nest box will not be checked for a couple of weeks.

There was a surprise find in nest box 4. As well as the young Great Tits and the unhatched eggs, there was also a dead Blue Tit. The Blue Tit showed obvious signs that it had been attacked and the body was pushed into the side of the nest. Presumably this was an inquisitive Blue Tit that had been caught in the act of visiting someone else’s nest box.

Having been stalled for a few weeks, the contents of large nest box LB2 had been slightly rearranged and some fresh sticks with leaves have been added. It suspected that the possible Jackdaw nest has now been taken over by Grey Squirrels.

There were about 150 young birds that should be ready for ringing next week, including two more Tawny Owls. So it looks like another busy week ahead!

To view a PDF file – click here.


Thursday 25th April 2024

The small nest boxes are continuing to make good progress. Although the rate of egg laying is starting to slow down, as most of the Blue and Great Tit clutches are now complete, the eggs of the most advanced nests are starting to hatch. So far, 54 Blue Tits and 20 Great tits have hatched. These young tits are very small now, but grow quickly and should be large enough to ring next week.

Notwithstanding the fact that egg laying is yet to commence in nest box 14, preliminary analysis of the data from the Blue and Great Tit nest boxes suggests that the breeding season this year has been the earliest since we started monitoring nest boxes at Stanwick Lakes in 2007. The average first egg date of the Blue Tits was only three days earlier than the previous earliest season, which was in 2017, but it was 12 days earlier than the average between 2007 and 2023. Similarly, the average first egg date of the Great Tits was only one day earlier than that of 2011, which was the previous earliest season, but it was nine days earlier than the average.

The Kestrels, nesting in nest box LB3, have now completed their clutch and have five eggs. These should hatch in around two weeks time.


The Tawny Owls have now hatched. The pair nesting in nest box LB4 have two small owlets that are of a similar size. However, the nest in nest box LB1, which appeared to have some irregularities in the egg laying, now has four young owlets, spanning a considerable range in size, and an unhatched egg. It will be interesting to see how this large brood of owlets progresses. If there is a plentiful supply of food, most of them could be successful but, if there is a shortage of food, some of the smaller owlets may struggle to compete with their larger siblings.

To view a PDF file – click here.

Saturday 19th April 2024

This week has seen a lot of egg laying in the small nest boxes. There is now just one small nest box that has not been occupied, nest box C. All of the other small nest boxes now contain eggs, with the exception of nest box 14, which has a lined nest but no eggs. The egg counts in nest boxes 16 and 21 were approximate because the female Great Tits were reluctant to leave the nest. The counts for those nest boxes were just the eggs that could be glimpsed under the female and therefore represent a minimum. However, there has now been a minimum of 314 eggs laid in the nest boxes at Stanwick Lakes this year. If all goes well, the first Blue Tits should be hatching by next week.

Only one of the large nest boxes, LB2, was checked this week. Unfortunately, there had been little or no progress in that nest box. Although nest box LB3 was not visited, when viewed from a distance, the female Kestrel cold be seen incubating the eggs. That nest will be visited next week to a determine the size of the completed clutch.

To view a PDF file – click here.


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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