25 January 2013

How do you like your eggs? Frozen

The start of each year sees some pretty intense competition between BTO staff – who will be first to see a rarity on the Nunnery Lakes (generally Nick Moran), who will have the highest list at the end of January (Nick, again), who will catch the most Siskins (Allison Kew, with Greg Conway or Graham Austin a close second), etc, etc. From my point of view, the greatest accolade is the first active nest found of the year and it’s fair to say that I’m usually in the running, poking about in gorse from the end of February for nascent Long-tailed Tit nests or scouring the rivers and reedbeds for early Mallard and Moorhen clutches. The ideal target species would be Crossbill, our earliest breeding songbird, were it not for the fact that to nests right at the top of tall pine trees and I don’t exactly have the best head for heights (or the physique for climbing, these days).

Spot the nest

This year, however, I have been kicked into touch by BTO Press Officer Paul Stancliffe, who located the first Thetford nest of 2013 before I’ve even started looking. On 19th January, amidst the snow covered wastelands of the town centre, Paul spotted a Collared Dove sitting on a nest lodged at the top of a telegraph pole. The bird was still sitting the next day, and on the 22nd he was able to see into the uncovered nest from his upstairs bedroom window, glimpsing the top of at least one egg. It is now the 24th and the bird is still incubating in the sub-zero temperatures.

First nest record of the year for Thetford

Collared Doves are extremely opportunistic breeders. Data from the Nest Record Scheme show that nesting has been recorded in all months of the year (sample size c. 4,200 records). The peak month in terms of clutch initiation (the laying of the first egg) is April (Figure 1), and the main season is typically from March to July. This is earlier than Woodpigeon which again can be found nesting in most months, but exhibits a peak in laying between July and September.

Figure 1

The current cold snap doesn’t really seem to present much of an opportunity, however, and I fear that the outcome of this attempt is unlikely to be positive. We shall continue monitoring their progress to find out.

Dave Leech

1 comment:

  1. Mistle Thrush are often v early. I recorded 3 young leaving the nest near my office in Cardiff Bay on Feb 9th one year.