Over the last couple of weeks, eggs have suddenly started appearing in homes across the UK. If you're interested in the chocolate variety, the backs of cupboards and tops of wardrobes are probably the best places to look. But the BTO would rather you were checking your nest boxes for real eggs, as part of Nest Box Challenge!
Brood of Blue Tits (Photo: Richard Castell/BTO)
It may seem that spring has only just started, but many garden birds are already well on the way to becoming proud parents, as Viv Greenough, Nest Box Challenge Organiser at the BTO, explains: "The first Robin chicks of the year were recorded by a Nest Box Challenge participant in Essex on 30th March, so by Easter Day they'll almost be ready to leave home. As usual, Blue Tits are about a month behind — the first egg was reported from Maidenhead, Berkshire on 31st March."
Now into its third year, Nest Box Challenge has been a great success, with over 18,000 boxes registered so far. The information collected gives us a valuable insight into the breeding success of birds in built-up areas. "Areas of human habitation are an increasingly valuable resource to breeding birds," said Dr Dave Leech, Head of the BTO's Nest Record Scheme. "To be able to predict the effects of increasing urbanisation on populations, we need to know a lot more about which species can cope with living around people and how well they fare compared with those nesting in undeveloped areas of the countryside."
"Everyone with a nest box in their garden can take part in Nest Box Challenge," says Viv, "so why not spend this Easter getting a taste of bird research as well as chocolate?"
NBC is a free online survey where people can register their nest boxes and submit their observations online (www.bto.org/nbc). When participants register their boxes to the scheme, they are asked to provide simple information about their gardens and nest boxes. Then, as the season progresses, each observer will be able to report on which species move in and whether their birds breed successfully. This will provide important information on whether boxes are more successful in different types of gardens, whether different species use nest boxes in different areas of the country, how much later nest building starts in the north of Britain than in the south, etc.
It is quite safe for the birds if you look into nest boxes, but care needs to be taken; please see the guidance notes on the BTO website.