The usage survey done during the last 12 months clearly showed just how well the woodland is appreciated by the villagers (and their dogs). However, there is another, completely different population of creatures which do not just use the woodland – to them it is their home. Some of these are evident but not visible (the moles that push up the molehills, for instance) and others are, at this time of year, largely invisible (for instance, the insects, spiders, worms, slugs, snails, etc. that live in the brash piles and bug hotels. However, some of our residents are clearly in evidence for much of the year – they are our birds.
The woodland has had bird boxes (to help facilitate breeding and thereby increase the bird population) for most of its existence. The wooden boxes of the early days soon proved to be no defence against the depredations of hungry squirrels and so the Trust began to install nest boxes made of 'Woodcrete' – a material made up of wood chips and cement – that is sufficiently hard to defeat even the teeth of squirrels. Such high-quality boxes are expensive and it is thanks to the many Tarvin folk who have sponsored their purchase that we have been able to buy as many as we have. At present, we have 53 of the Woodcrete boxes. There are just three wooden boxes remaining – purportedly for the use of a pair of woodpeckers, of owls and of kestrels.
Pete Maiden, that man of many parts, is our Bird Box Co-ordinator and he and John Price survey and clean all of the boxes each autumn. They have yet again checked all 56 of our boxes and discovered that, once again this year, the three wooden boxes were not occupied. To the best of my knowledge, these had never been used, other than by the occasional squirrel, and they have now fallen into such a stare of disrepair that we will probably soon remove them. The Woodcrete boxes may be expensive, but they do last! This year, 50 of the 53 Woodcrete boxes have been used, which is an occupation of over 94% – a rate of uptake which is the best we have achieved thus far. The birds occupying them were 15 pairs of Great Tits, 32 pairs of Blue Tits and, 'oh, frabjous day', there were three pairs of nuthatches this year! When the survey was last done in 2019, there were just two pairs of nuthatches (up from 1 pair in 2018) and it is immensely pleasing to discover that they are finding our woodland to their taste!
It is always said that unsolicited testimonials are the sincerest of recommendations. That the birds who call our woodland their 'home' should make such use of the bird boxes that Tarvin villagers have sponsored is, in my view, the very best of testimonials for what we are doing. It is all very well winning Green Flags (and we have now won our twelfth consecutive one) but the absolutely unbiased endorsement from the creatures which have made our woodland their home is the best mark of approbation that we could possibly receive!
I have been asked to pass on an important message from Pete Maiden:
"It is very interesting to go through the nest boxes and see how many of them have been used by which birds. But while it is good to know that our boxes are being used, that isn't the real reason that we go through the boxes each year. When we empty the nest box, we take out the old nest, which can harbour bugs and diseases that could damage the next season's baby birds. Our birds need the best possible chance of breeding successfully and so we must provide them with a good, clean nest box to use each year.
If you have nest boxes in your garden, it is important that your boxes are emptied before next spring, so that, next year, your baby birds will have the chance to grow up to be fit and healthy."