Swaines Green’s current resident bird expert, Roger Emmens, reports on the nestboxes that have been put up around the reserve, and how the Cubs helped us provide some more.

Swaines Green is an area of former agricultural land in the process of being reclaimed by Nature. This means that there is dense young woodland growing up, but few mature trees. The younger trees have not yet developed the holes and cavities that hole-nesting birds, especially tits, need to breed successfully. Some years ago, therefore, around 25 nestboxes were put up around Swaines Green, but sadly fell into disrepair. So far eleven of these have been restored to habitable status and this work is ongoing.

Fortunately, 1st Theydon Garnon Cubs heard that we were looking for new nestboxes to boost those remaining from before, and were very keen to help. So, with the guidance of their leaders John Castleman and Chris Gurry, they built 12 new nestboxes for us.

So I was pleased to go along to meet them and to be presented with these boxes. They are a lovely bunch of kids, cheery and enthusiastic, and they have built some fine boxes that are very robust and should last for years. Each one was signed by the cubs who made it, so we’ll keep them informed about their boxes.


After giving each one a lick of preservative, I have put them up around Swaines Green and we hope the local tits will find them just the ticket. If you spot a nestbox whilst wandering round Swaines Green, then you will see it has a code written on it. If the code is TG1 to TG12, then this is a box constructed by the Theydon Garnon Cubs.

Less than thirty minutes after putting one box up – TG11 if you happen to find it – I saw two Great Tits looking it over. They seemed to be saying, “Look, dear, it must have just come onto the market! Looks like vacant possession. What do you think of it?” And then the very next day, I took another look, and there was a Blue Tit carrying nest material into the same box! Presumably the Great Tits turned it down.

And just two weeks after being put up, I can report that box number TG3 contained a nest and eight Blue Tit eggs! That won’t be the complete clutch – tits often lay as many as a dozen or more eggs, but they normally only have one brood a year.

At time of writing, more than half of all our nestboxes have nests and eggs. I will be monitoring their progress and in due course, ringing the nestlings, probably during the second half of May. I’ll put some more information about the breeding season at Swaines Green on this website later in the summer. Or you can come and ask me about them at the AGM!

We hope to get some larger nestboxes in the Autumn, suitable for larger birds such as Tawny Owls, Jackdaws and Stock Doves. Watch this space for more news!

Theydon Garnon Cubs help with Swaines Green nestboxes

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