In 2019, we had two initiatives to monitor our birds. Firstly, the nestbox population was restored and enhanced with the aid of the 1st Theydon Garnon Cubs, who made and donated a magnificent twelve new tit nestboxes; and secondly, a breeding survey conducted of singing males.

Blue Tit nest with eggs
Blue Tit nest with chicks

Nestboxes

The nestboxes provided by the Cubs were put up a little late, in April, so it was encouraging that despite this half of the new boxes were occupied. Indeed, one box was seen being prospected less than an hour after being put up, and by the next day nest building had already started.

There were eleven previously erected nestboxes that were able to be renovated for continued use, and these were unsurprisingly more popular, with ten of these occupied. Unfortunately one of these boxes was taken away by unknown vandals at the eggs stage.

Of the remaining fifteen occupied boxes, three were occupied by Great Tits, all successful, and twelve by Blue Tits, of which ten were successful. Not too much should be read into the fact that most boxes contained Blue Tits: this is due to most boxes having holes too small for Great Tits to enter.

The successful broods were ringed – 81 Blue Tits and 19 Great Tits.

A newly ringed Great Tit chick

The popularity of these nestboxes – and especially those put up late – reflects the fact that there are relatively few mature trees at Swaines Green and so a scarcity of natural holes for the substantial tit population the woods can otherwise hold. We have high hopes that next year, the newer nestboxes will have been prospected by the local birds over the late winter and early spring and hence occupancy rates will be higher.

Breeding survey

The breeding survey was conducted by making several visits and mapping the locations of singing males and other individual sightings, so as to be able to plot likely territories. The results are indicative rather than definitive, and of course a singing male doesn’t necessarily translate into chicks reared, but it gives an idea of what Swaines Green is currently supporting by way of breeding birds. These results are listed by species as follows.

Moorhen

One pair raised a single chick at the pond.

Woodpigeon

It can be hard to assess Woodpigeons, partly as they are so mobile and partly because they can breed at almost any time of year, certainly well into the autumn. However, the five singing males recorded is likely to be an underestimate.

Collared Dove

Singing males were noted in three locations but once only in each case. It is more likely that these bred just off site in the gardens nearby.

Jay

Not formally surveyed, but present throughout and it is likely at least two pairs were present.

Magpie

Not formally surveyed. Their bulky nests are easy to see in winter, but much less so with the leaves on the trees; however, this is an abundant bird at Swaines Green, and it is likely that at least three or four pairs bred.

Carrion Crow

Not formally surveyed, and nests are hard to see high in trees amongst foliage, but another common bird likely to have bred.

Long-tailed Tit

Probably at least one pair bred.

Chiffchaff

Seven singing males.

Blackcap

Six singing males.

Whitethroat

1 singing male (and one, perhaps two more just off site near Bolt Cellar Lane).

Lesser Whitethroat

One singing male.

Wren

Fourteen singing males.

Blackbird

Eight singing males.

Song Thrush

Four singing males.

Robin

Twelve singing males.

Dunnock

Six singing males.

Bullfinch

Two singing males.

Greenfinch

Two singing males.

Linnet

Probably five pairs on site, with a further 3-4 pairs along Bolt Cellar Lane.

Goldfinch

At least one pair likely to have bred.

House Sparrow

Hard to survey, being colonial in behaviour. There were regularly up to a dozen birds in the bushes around Lovelocks Meadow, but it is hard to know if they bred in the depths of the scrub there or in the adjacent houses and gardens.

Also recorded

These species were recorded on site during the April to June period but probably did not breed at Swaines Green:

Mallard, Buzzard, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Swallow, Jackdaw, Starling, Chaffinch.

In most cases, this probably reflects the lack of suitable nest locations – for example, there are few old trees with larger holes. The Chaffinch is slightly surprising, being common during the winter, but seemingly not evident during late spring and early summer.

Breeding birds survey 2019

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