08 July 2015

Nest with the best

Over 250 keen NRS participants have attended BTO nest recording courses since veteran recorder and volunteer tutor Tony Davis ran the pilot in 2008. This year, thanks to BTO Scotland and recorders Colin Davison and Gilian Dinsmore, the regular weekend courses in Norfolk and Surrey were joined by a brand new afternoon workshop at Scotland's Big Nature Festival.

Punchbowl pipits

Five weeks ago nine more keen recorders met Tony at the Devil's Punchbowl in Hindhead, Surrey, to spend a weekend increasing their nest finding knowledge. Saturday was spent learning to find warbler and finch nests in gorse at a nearby heath, and looking for Skylark nests at Butser Hill. Then on Sunday the group descended into the Punchbowl itself and soon found what appeared to be two Tree Pipit territories either side of the main path. The next hour was spent practicing watching nesting activity unobtrusively, which for wary Tree Pipits often means at least 50 metres back! One pair turned out to be feeding fledged chicks and an hour spent on the other territory proved inconclusive—at least for the target species. After standing in the same spot for 20 minutes, attendee Colin became aware of a Robin stealthily taking food into a patch of gorse immediately behind him. The bird was watched carefully for two more visits, the 'hotspot' was searched, and a nest found containing four young. Nest number 15 out of 25 found over the whole weekend—plenty for Tony to follow up!

Top: Colin Wilson searches for a Robin nest after watching an adult carrying food. Bottom: Trainee Teifion Thomas rings a brood of Robins from another nest, while ringer Colin Wilson supervises

Scotland's Big Nature Festival

The weekend before the Surrey course, Scotland's Big Nature Festival played host to its first ever nest recording workshop, thanks in part to a local volunteer who couldn't actually be there on the day. Keen for the workshop to include an outdoor demo where people could be shown nests and how recorders safely monitor them, BTO Scotland realised that one of the country's top nest recorders, Colin Davison, lived near the venue. When they contacting him about helping, Colin said that he was working that day but would try to find a few nests in advanceand then promptly located 12!

Top: veteran nest recorder Colin Davison pointing out the location of a Chiffchaff nest. Bottom: Ben Darvill takes people on a bird song tour as part of BTO Scotland's roster of events at the 2015 Big Nature Festival
The workshop was very well attended and began with talks from Mark Wilson (BTO Scotland) on why Scotland needs more nest recorders and another local recorder (and Reed Warbler expert) Gillian Dinsmore on her experiences getting started. Mark and Gillian then announced the outdoor demo and were delighted when 30 keen members of the public stepped forward. Folk were divided into groups and taken on carefully planned tours of Colin's nests, which included some in cover (Blackcap with eggs, Robin with chicks), some on the ground (Skylark and Meadow Pipit, both with eggs), and a Blue Tit nest in an unbelievably narrow crack on the wall of one of the observation hides. It was great to see so many people interested, especially given the pressing need for more recorders in Scotland, and needless to say plenty of NRS starter packs were given out. Both Colin and Gillian have pledged their support for future workshopshopefully Colin will be able to attend the next one!

Interested in going on a nest recording course? Please see here.

A huge thanks to volunteers Tony Davis, Colin Davison and Gillian Dinsmore for making this years' courses/workshops possible, and a huge thanks to BTO Scotland staff Ben Darvill and Mark Wilson, and BTO Thetford staff Mike Toms, Hazel Evans and Debbie Todd. And of course thank you to all the course and workshop attendees!

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