The classic image of a bird’s nest, seen in every child’s nature book, is of an open structure built in the fork of a tree, but over a third of the species that nest at Blean do so in tree holes, while the majority of the remainder build in dense scrub or close to the ground.In view of the added protection afforded by hole-nesting, it is no surprise that so many woodland species should have opted for that location. However, in woods like Blean, where the great majority of trees are fairly young (less than 200 years old!), there often aren’t enough holes to go round. The other day, cautiously approaching some persistent cackling, I discovered that a jackdaw and stock dove were disputing ownership of a desirable tree hole. To say that they were having a “face-off” would definitely be putting it too strongly, and it almost seemed to be a question of the jackdaw languidly telling the stock dove “No, really, I don’t mind if you take this lovely home away from me: please feel free.” So laid-back were these two birds that I simply didn’t have time to stay and witness the outcome of this gentlemanly tussle.
One bird that falls into the category of hole-nester is a recent colonist, so new, in fact, that we don’t yet have conclusive proof of breeding. That bird is the mandarin duck, whose faintly ridiculous finery I have attempted to describe in the past (please look it up for yourself, rather than be obliged to read my totally inadequate word-picture). We tend to think of ducks as denizens of lakes and marshes, nesting on the ground in the shelter of a clump of rushes, but a few species spend much of their lives in woods. The mandarin is one such bird, and it chooses to nest in tree holes, so its chicks have to launch themselves from their birthplace when just a few hours old, their first contact with dry land being cushioned by their fluffy bodies. Recent sightings of a pair of these birds circling over the wood suggest that, at the very least, they are thinking of nesting here, but simply seeing them is considerably easier than tracking down a nest, so It may be a few more years before we are able to add mandarin to the definitive list of Blean Woods breeding species.
Details of the first two spring walks are given below. All walks cost £5 for adult non-members, and £3 for members. Children under 16 free. All walks set off from the Blean Woods car park in Rough Common CT2 9DD. Walks must be booked by phoning 01227 464898 or else by emailing email@example.com.
Sunday 7th May 5.00 – 7.00am
Nightingale Walk and Moth Trapping
A member of the team will lead you through our different habitats, listening out for the songs and calls of woodland species, including our very special nightingales. This will be followed by a look at what mini-monsters we’ve caught in the moth trap!
Saturday 27th May 8.15 – 10.00pm
Join us for a night-time walk to find our most mysterious woodland bird, the nightjar. The warden team and local volunteers will be leading walks through the woods, listening out for the tell-tale churring call. Along the way we will also be looking for bats and if we’re lucky, a glow worm or two!